Nicole Cousins on working with Collins and creating designs out of diversity

The project perhaps landed so well because of how earnestly it grew from Nicole’s heart. “At the time I made it I was a senior at school and my own mental health was not the best,” she tells us. “I am the first to graduate from college in my family, so I wanted to do well.” As a first-generation Jamaican-American, Nicole tapped into her unsettled disposition at university and constantly thought about bettering her “own mental health,” by which she became part of her own audience. “Being in any creative field, overworking and burnout can be likely. Ireti Chocolate was my first project about taking care of oneself, something I can now admit that I overlooked at times to get my work done.”

Now, Nicole continues to make brilliant work with Collins, pushing the envelope of inspiration and execution. “I am a person who likes thinking about impossible ‘what if’s’ and, ‘what else could be dones?’” she adds. “Which can be dangerous, but it means that I am open to more and more ideas.” Still, the designer is trying to figure out her visual language even to this day. “I do draw, so I like using my hands, and I do like the tactileness of analogue processes,” she says. “I am also very playful and enjoy having my eye bounce around.”

For now, she’s continuing to take inspirational cues from her neighbourhood in Brooklyn, “the structures, the people, and even my own family all inspire me,” Nicole explains. “We have all been told to look at narrow, expected, historic references in design, but I like challenging that. It is empowering to see work by people who look like me or have a different story to tell that is not typically featured in design.”