Alumni Spotlight: Joe Nicholson

Graceland alum Joe Nicholson `97

When Joe Nicholson ’97 graduated from college, the market was tight. He chose to attend Graceland because of the Commercial Design major offered, proximity to home, small class sizes and soccer program.

“Graceland had the area of study that was exactly what I wanted. I knew from the time I was in middle school that I wanted to go into commercial graphic design. One of my middle school teachers encouraged my artistic and technical abilities, and I was very involved in graphic design in high school with the newspaper.”

Joe bonded with one in particular instructor at Graceland, Wayne Allison, who foresaw his potential and pushed him to discover his capabilities giving him the confidence he needed. After working one semester in the cafeteria, Joe accepted a student worker position in the Publications Production Center, now the CMC, where he mentored under Steve Edwards and the creative media team, receiving real world knowledge not taught in the classroom. That experience became invaluable to his professional development.

Upon completing his degree, Joe took a job at a graphic pre-press site where he oversaw the proper production of film before it was sent off to a print company. The technical aspect of his position gained him knowledge in an area most graphic designers never get. He was able to marry his creative talent with a technical ability making him more marketable to the company and future employers. In just six months, Joe moved into a designer role, and after a couple years, a client of the firm offered him a house designer position with their firm. Joe later found a graphic designer and production manager position at an advertising firm where he redefined and streamlined their production process, increasing productivity and profit margin with efficiency. Within a year, the retiring owner offered Joe the option to take over the ad agency, but he turned it down. He had always had a passion to start his own business.

So, Joe jumped. He discovered he is a serial entrepreneur, and being a creative has really helped. Joe started his own firm, 0-32 Design Group, and within two years had over 300 clients. Three years ago, he sold the agency to his business partner and moved to northwest Iowa, where life is a little slower, to enjoy his young family.

Today, Joe is Director for Sales and Marketing at Iowa-based manufacturing company, Byron Originals, Inc., which sells goods all over the world. His primary focus is on the international market, larger domestic accounts and manufacturing partners from a sales perspective. His vast list of responsibilities includes heading up all creative design; outsourcing websites, brochures and direct mail; running all the trade shows; and managing a team of sales people.

Joe’s advice is “Love what you do, or don’t do it. Give everything you have to your work, but always keep an eye open for the next step. Keep your networks open.”