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Meet Nina Cristobal of Nina Cee Studio

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nina Cristobal.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My journey to creating Nina Cee Studio was a long-winded one. It’s one that started almost eleven years ago when I moved to LA for college. At UCLA, I studied economics and global studies, and while my pragmatic side told me to stick with pursuing a career in business, my natural instincts gravitated towards immersing myself in the fearlessly creative communities of LA. So, I negotiated a little compromise with myself: I would stick to business-oriented roles but would take these roles only in companies that thrived off of that fearless creativity I fell in love with.

Over the course of about half of a decade, I learned the ropes of customer experience, account management, and operations with fashion companies, and eventually, I transitioned over to the world of tech startups and corporate catering. I became comfortable with being a “business-minded” professional, but the cost of that comfort was suppressing my creative intuition — and ultimately, removing an essential element of the whole picture of my passions.

Comfort turned into a plateauing, and plateauing turned into restlessness… so much that, in 2017, I decided to finally crack open the pressure cooker and allow my creative intuition to run wild. I quit my job, moved back to my hometown of San Diego, enrolled in a full-time graphic and web design program, and opened myself to the possibility of solving problems as a “creative.” That’s when I began toying with the idea of building a creative workspace to track my design journey, and from that, Nina Cee Studio was born.

Nina Cee Studio is a culmination of my experiences living in LA and working in the fashion industry and startup culture, pressure cooked and served to you with a healthy side of freshly-steamed motivation to pursue your passions. At its core, it is my digital sketchbook of ideas and creative exploration, but it’s also quickly becoming a platform for me to connect with people who are looking to find their inner passion that inspires their day-to-day (kind of like I did in my early professional days) and turn it into something visually real with graphic design, copywriting and brand strategy assistance. I hope to help generate enough positive energy to fuel a happier, more diversified society.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Embarking on a professional journey as personal as this one has led me down roads that are far from smooth… and it’s not over yet! But having the opportunity to be really honest with my skill set and passions and allowing those to take their natural course makes it all worth it.

Before I decided to embark on this course, one of the biggest challenges for me was picturing myself moving out of LA. I had found so much of my professional and personal identity in being an “Angeleno” and knowing how to navigate such a dizzying, beautifully chaotic place. But after careful thought, I realized that what I loved the most about living in the city was not necessarily the summers of free concerts, the amazing food, the never-ending influx of art and community — although all of those elements are pretty spectacular reasons to love it — it was the lessons it taught me. It was the agency, guts, and creatively-motivated grit it raised me to have to say goodbye to it on my own terms when I was ready. And having that kind of honesty allows me to take the spirit of LA wherever I go.

Once I came to terms with that, another struggle I encountered (and still encounter on a regular basis) is articulating what it means to be what I like to call an “in-betweener” — someone who lives right smack dab in the middle of the bridge connecting business and creativity. I’ve always struggled with indecision and choosing to be wholly associated with the “business” team and the “creative” team. I’m constantly flipping between wanting to focus on business strategy and wanting to dive head-first into the hands-on creative work. But I’m learning to embrace that “in-betweener” quality as a strength. It helps me find points of connection in a collection of seemingly-disjointed thoughts, and ultimately, it helps me better understand the full picture to deliver results that are original, practical, and accessible.

Finally, from a prospecting perspective (say that five times fast), really trying to figure out what my “core specialty” is can be a challenge. But thankfully, I’ve been pretty good about being intentional with meeting different people and paying attention to the courses my conversations with them take. That’s led me to meet some pretty incredible people who have some neat ideas they’ve let me help out with. At the core of everything I do, I really just want to do the things I love doing — telling stories through graphic design, copywriting, and brand strategy — to help people start passion projects that fuel their happiness. And being able to listen has really helped me return to that core when I lose sight of that.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Nina Cee Studio – what should we know?
Nina Cee Studio is a passion project I built to bring other people’s passion projects to life, with the hope that doing so will generate enough positive energy to fuel a happier, more diversified society. At its core, it is a digital journal where I track my design journey, but it’s also quickly becoming a platform for me to connect with people who are looking to find their inner passion that inspires their day-to-day (kind of like I did in my early professional days) and turn it into something visually real. I help people embrace their side hustles by listening to their brilliant ideas, asking questions about their ideas to get to the core of their overarching purpose, and bringing visual articulation to that with assistance in graphic design work, copywriting, and brand strategy.

What I’m most proud of in building this project is the opportunity it gives me to help people see their passion projects come to life. Thinking of this as a passion project of my own puts me in a mindset that allows me to exercise full agency in determining the project type, scale, and dynamic. During my account management days, my favorite part of the job was being able to advocate for “little guy” vendors; this is like that to the nth degree! I’m sure this will slightly evolve with time because that’s how life is, but I’m enjoying the pace it’s currently going. For now, I like being a one-woman, friendly neighborhood creative agency!

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I think what’s been most valuable to the growth of this project is the ability to listen and be an advocate for clients and their purpose. Being able to pick up on the little details and subtleties of the conversation and translate those details into a thoughtful design.

Not only showing you do your research, but sharing what you’ve learned with your client, enjoying the learning process, and sharing your enthusiasm with the person you’re helping. I have a friend who is passionate about uplifting her community and celebrating the beauty she sees in it, and she asked me to design a few graphics to make t-shirts celebrating the community. I’d only visited a portion of this community once or twice before in my life and wasn’t too familiar with it.

So I made sure to read articles from local newspapers, follow local community organizations, and find old historical photos from the area to guide my design work. It was a fun process that I could share with my friend, and the tees came out so great that one tee design was selected to be sold at the community’s visitor center!

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