Designer Nathan Nankervis’ Favourite Works Of His Career So Far, & How To Kick Start Yours

As part of our partnership with AustralianSuper we’re creating a whole heap of inspiring content alongside industry figures who know how to help you get your next project off the ground. In today’s entry, acclaimed designer and illustrator Nathan Nankervis, tells us all about his favourite campaigns he’s worked on so far, and what they taught him about the industry and his career.

I’ve worked on a fair few projects over my 5 years as an illustrator and designer. Each project presenting new challenges and experiences, which not only help me grow as an artist but as a person. Each assignment has a special place in my heart for one reason or another. The enjoyment of a project for me, isn’t based on the size of the client or the freedom of the brief, but in the trials and tribulations overcame and the skills learnt as a result.

Every client and brief is different, their needs as well as their objectives vary, so it’s inevitable that I am forced out of my comfort zone on a regular basis. Not only is this a scary feeling, it’s one that as a creative you need to learn to live with and in turn find a way to love.

One of my most recent projects and one that I am really proud of is my work with Heineken. In celebrating twenty years of Australian Open sponsorship, Heineken asked me to illustrate the inside patterns of their trilby hats. The hats were handed out at their Beer Garden on Heineken Saturday at the Australian Open. I was working remotely from Amsterdam at the time of the project, so the clients and my time zone were pretty much opposite.

One of Nathan’s design pieces for Heineken.

Heineken is a big and busy company so the turn around time between drafts was almost daily. Everyday I’d get up and go to Amsterdam’s central Bibliotheek, which is a beautiful state of the art library. I’d write to-do-lists daily and manage my time so I was able to get my work done as well as tick of the touristy things I wanted to do. I’d set alarms for when I needed to send the drafts off and bought an international sim so I always reachable and had access to my emails. I ended up completing the work on time with no hiccups and was extremely proud of the result.

Reflecting on the project it really opened my eyes. It was the perfect experiment to show myself that I can actually work from anywhere in the world, which is important as I’ve always seen myself working overseas in the future. It was also a really significant project for me as it’s one the biggest clients I’ve had to date.

The final product of Nathan’s work with Heineken.

I like to look at it as a milestone for how far I’ve come in my career. I can’t help but reflect upon the times I didn’t have any clients and had to make up jobs to work on. The icing on the cake was that I was back home in Australia to see my designs on the heads of thousands of people at one of the biggest sporting events in the world.

Another stand out favourite would be my work for Bonds. To celebrate their 100th birthday, Bonds approached 5 typographers and me to create a typographic feature wall in Melbourne Central in Victoria. I not only had very little experience with typography, but my work would be alongside 5 other amazingly talented typographers who specialise in the field. Inevitably I was doubtful in my skills and whether I was the right person for the job. However it was too good of an opportunity to turn down.

Nathan’s design work for Bonds.

As I’m not a typographer my first approach to tackle the brief was going off what I had seen of typographic walls. I attempted some calligraphy and other hand drawn types too,only to realise that it didn’t work for me. The light bulb moment came after many attempts to fit the typographer stereotype I thought Bonds was after.

My innate response to any illustration is to anthropomorphise things (or as I like to call it chucking googly eyes on things). I sketched up the word I was given in simple block writing and begun making characters out of the letters. It wasn’t exactly calligraphy but it worked.

The lesson here is to always trust yourself and your instincts. Don’t try and be something you’re not. Being a creative is a very lonely pursuit. You have to constantly fight self-doubt on a day-to-day basis, which is extremely difficult. But if you can highlight and recognise when it arises, you can make a conscious effort to push through.

The final artwork in Melbourne.

What I take away from both projects is not only a new skill set, but a new confidence in taking on the unknown. Intentionally giving yourself that little push off the cliff and trusting yourself to fly is daunting but vital in the creative industry. In order to prosper in any creative pursuit you need to continuously grow with your work. In order to grow you need to do things you haven’t done before. If you keep doing the same things you’ve been doing you can only achieve the same outcomes you’ve been achieving.


Nathan Nankervis is a Melbourne based designer and illustrator and you can find out more about him on his website here.

If you’re just starting out in your career, a few right moves early on can help set you up for life. For more stories in our AustralianSuper KickStart series head here, or go to AustralianSuper.

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