Phoenix is brimming with creativity. And every other year, we put the spotlight on 100 of the city's creative forces. Leading up to the release of this year's Best of Phoenix issue, we're profiling 100 more. Welcome to the 2014 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today: 99. Niki Blaker.
You could call Niki Blaker's move to Phoenix a happy accident.
"I moved to Phoenix in 2006 from Maryland," says Blaker, who's now the president of AIGA Arizona. "I was tired of the traffic and cloudy weather on the east coast, so I threw a dart on a map and landed in Phoenix."
While her pals back in Maryland think she's crazy for not only enduring but admittedly loving Arizona's summer temperatures, she's keeping plenty busy. Currently the designer is in transition and gearing up to join digital marketing firm LaneTerralever as an art director and wrapping up her time as a design strategist at Tempe design firm Forty.
Blaker is also working as director of Phoenix Design Week, which she co-directed last year with former PDW director Mark Dudlik. She says that although she has some big shoes to fill, she's glad to have help from her fellow AIGA Arizona board members and volunteers.
"This is the first time I've undertaken organizing an event this size," she says. "So it's safe to say from now until October, all my projects are going to revolve around AIGA Arizona and putting together the Phoenix Design Week conference. Can't wait to see it all come together!"
I came to Phoenix with no expectations, no friends, and absolutely no clue of what the future had in store for me. I ended up finding the love of my life, the best friends I could ever ask for, great jobs that helped me grow as a designer, and one of the friendliest design communities on earth.
I design because I love creating memorable and positive experiences for people. Whether that's making something as small as a bank deposit more enjoyable, to designing deep experiences that impact the environment around us.
I'm most productive when I have a big chunk of "maker time" where I can put my headphones on, listen to music, and get lost in designing something meaningful. I love working into the night when everything is still and feeling like I'm the only person in the world.
My (digital) inspiration wall is full of design articles, process articles, design resources, work from designers I admire, along with a huge collection of typefaces, photography, and illustrations. You could say I'm a digital hoarder. I also have a photographic memory when it comes to online resources - if you asked me to recall "that site with the article from that designer..." I will very likely be able to spout off the URL.
I've learned most from my parents. They were Greek immigrants that came to this country with nothing and ended up having a successful restaurant business that was locally treasured. They taught me to work hard, never compromise my values, always give credit where it's due, and above all else, treat others kindly.
Good work should always be passionate. It should tell a story that moves you and provokes you to take action.
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The Phoenix creative scene could use more alliances with business and local government leaders. Our design community is wonderful and quick to support peers, but I think we could improve at reaching out to government and business leaders and educate them on the talent and insight we have to offer. If we can figure out how to bridge that gap, perhaps we can reduce instances where businesses look outside of the state for creative work.
See the 2014 edition of 100 Creatives: