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Nancy McCabe Talks Design, Coffee Shops and the Bigger Picture

You'll love this designer's varied aesthetic.

Nancy McCabe Designs

Livingly's Inspiring Artist series asks talented women of all creative mediums to share their work and how they live life beautifully.

Inspiring Artist: Ana Zaja Petrak

I first discovered Nancy McCabe's work when I came across the gorgeous No Ocean scarves she designed. I loved the combination of geometric and organic shapes. They were beautiful and modern—truly wearable pieces art. I soon learned the Chicago designer is a master of many mediums, from textiles to wall art, invitations to logos. And a successful businesswoman to boot. So I took the opportunity to ask her about her projects, her inspirations and her favorite places.

No Ocean Scarf designed by Nancy McCabe
No Ocean Scarf designed by Nancy McCabe

How would you describe your artwork?

It depends on what I’m creating. For my surface designs, I like to play with over-sized graphics that are very illustrative and bright. However, in my print design, I lean more towards clean, modern and minimalist design, really paying attention to detail. It’s nice being able to go from one extreme to the other; I never feel like I’m doing the same thing over and over again.

Is there one medium you enjoy the most?

My background is in print design, so I think it will always have a special place in my heart. I love seeing my designs out in the physical world. Everything is shifting to be digital and moves so quickly that is nice to be able take your time with a project. Print design involves picking the right paper and checking colors to actually holding the piece in your hands or hanging it on a wall.

Watercolor Typographic Map by Nancy Mccabe
Watercolor Typographic Map by Nancy Mccabe

Do you have a favorite design or project from the past? What makes it special to you?

My favorite design project and probably my most successful, is my Typographic Maps series. I created the world map for a typographic art show here in Chicago, called Typeforce. I wanted to create a world map for quite some time and when I heard about the show, I decided creating a world map out of only type would be a fun challenge. I like that it can still function as an informative map yet still be a bit abstract.

Wedding Invitations by Nancy Mccabe
Wedding Invitations by Nancy Mccabe

What are you most proud of?

I would have to say, the fact that I have developed organizational and business skills enabling me to now freelance and have my own business.

Where is your favorite place?

I love coffee shops—they are my favorite places to work! Whenever I travel, I love to find the best coffee spot in the neighborhood. You really get a sense of the community there. I find coffee shops have a beautiful interior design that has been amazing to witness throughout the past few years. They are always so open and bright. The smell of coffee and the certain ritual encompassing each shop is something I’ve always enjoyed.

My problem is I get inspired by too many things and at times I have trouble keeping all my ideas in check.

–Nancy McCabe

What's the most played song in your music library?

Most played ever?! My guess would be Gimme Shelter.

Who or what inspires you?

Boring answer, but almost anything. There are the big things like traveling, to small mundane things like light hitting a rain splattered window. My problem is I get inspired by too many things and at times I have trouble keeping all my ideas in check.

Invitation + Quarterly Publication by Nancy McCabe
Invitation + Quarterly Publication by Nancy McCabe

What does living beautifully mean to you?

I think it means being true to yourself and also taking the time to shift the focus from yourself to something bigger and more important, whatever that is to each person.

Shop Nancy's designs here

Typographic Map by Nancy McCabe
Typographic Map by Nancy McCabe