Graphic Artist India Nabarro Talks Working with Butter.ATL, Imposter Syndrome, and Going from Freelancing to Corporate

While in college, a lot of us had already come up with a plan of how our lives were going to be post-graduation, in our careers, financially, and personally. However, it doesn’t always happen that way, and adjustments are needed along the way. Even though our plans may not work out how we saw them initially, sometimes we run into special opportunities that are better aligned with our journey. For Graphic Artist, India Nabarro, this was her journey as an undeclared major trying to figure out what she wanted to do in life. All it took was one special graphic design class in college to lead her to doing work for one of the most prominent social media pages in Atlanta.

What made you want to get into graphic design for a career?

I’ve been artistic my entire life, and my parents always wanted me to go into the arts. Before majoring in graphic design, I actually started off as a Business major at Georgia State University, but that went horribly. I was basically playing around until my Junior year when I went as an undeclared major. I was signing up to take an elective course and on the list was a graphic design class with a professor named Professor Snape (ode to Harry Potter fans). So, I had to take his class just for bragging rights. But I actually really loved the class and thought it was super cool. So, that’s how I got into graphic design—I stuck with it all throughout college and it took me two years after that to graduate.

photo provided by India Nabarro

Do you feel like attending college and getting a degree for graphic design prepared you for going full-time, or was it more outside experience?

A lot of people ask me this question and in my opinion, I feel like you definitely don’t need a college education for graphic design. However, for someone like me, I needed the guidance and the community around me to help me become a better designer. On the other hand, I do know a lot of people who are successful designers that didn’t go to college for it, started learning it on their own and became entrepreneurs. They’re successful in their own right, but I definitely needed to go to school for it. 

How would you describe your design style? What is your specialty? 

When I design, I tend to gravitate towards bright colors, more goofier designs. I really like juxtaposing things that are more political with something else that’s more down and dirty. I like to bring different vibes and cultures together and try to make things that’s unexpected and funny. The philosophy of “Nothing really matters–We’re just here for a good time, not a long time.” is really perpetuated in my work.

As for my specialty, I wouldn’t say I have one but most of my work is for social media. When I was graduating, I would always get approached with, “hey, you’re young, you know how to work social media, can you make some cool stuff for Instagram?” After that, I kind of got stuck in social media content, which I’m not mad about, but it definitely wasn’t something I thought I would end up doing. I really wanted to do product design and three-dimensional work.

After graduating from Georgia State, did you go right into working full-time?

I actually started working with The Slug Agency my senior year of college, and that was a huge deal for me. I heard of a few of their events in Atlanta around that time and really liked their team. They reminded me of those super cool indie kids back in high school. So when they put out that they were hiring for a designer, I applied and got in. I was super excited and  felt really validated by that. I started doing freelance for a couple of months with them. After graduation, I was still making good money freelancing so I decided to just continue doing that until I found a good full-time position that I would enjoy doing everyday. I loved the freedom of freelancing though–being my own boss and running my own shit was awesome. 

photo by India Nabarro for @butter.atl

Butter.ATL on Instagram has become one of the most prominent social media pages for all things Atlanta. What was the story of how you joined the team as their graphic artist? 

I got in touch with Butter.ATL through The Slug Agency. The Founder of Slug (Brittany Bosco) got an invite to Hotel Clermont’s official opening three-to-four years ago. Bosco couldn’t make the event, so I went for her to collect content for a recap. I created this collage piece of the event, posted it on my Instagram and put the location tag for Clermont Lounge. I remember putting something in the caption like, “Hotel Clermont is cool, but don’t worry nothing has changed at the Clermont Lounge–the dirty, nasty, strip club on the basement floor.” If you’re not familiar, Hotel Clermont is very bourgeois and gentrified. At the bottom of it is the nastiest bar of all time with strippers that are 50-years-old and up.

So I included that in my caption and apparently my boss now for Butter was searching on Instagram looking for a new designer for the team. He was looking through the tags for Clermont Lounge because that was going to be a topic they were going to be discussing for content. He found the post that I did, loved the caption, and thought it was very authentic Atlanta and not super uptight. After that, we talked in-person about me freelancing for Butter.ATL. I did that for about four months and was asked to join the team full-time from there. 

How has it been working with them so far?

It’s been great working with Butter, I love it. In the beginning, I was kind of feeling like ‘Damn, I’m doing social content again. This is pretty much what I’m going to do all the time.’ But Butter has also given me opportunities to do graphics for events, installations, and before Covid-19 of course, we got invited to come to different places. Overall, it’s been really interesting to learn more about social content, social strategy, what works and what doesn’t, and how to get the best engagement. I’ve gained very valuable information too, just to have in general for anywhere I go next after Butter. It’s definitely helped me become a better graphic artist as well.

photo via @indianabarro on Instagram, art installation for Red Bull Treehouse

What would you say is the most rewarding and most challenging with being a graphic artist?

The most rewarding is definitely making content, posting it online, and seeing so many people interact with it. Seeing anyone interact and love what I make is the greatest feeling of all time. Recently, I saw a friend of a friend repost something that I did to her Instagram story and I was so psyched because I didn’t even know that she knew me. On the other hand, one of the most challenging is being sensitive about my work. So when people don’t like something I make, I immediately just want to cry. It’s so crazy.

Have you ever experienced Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome is definitely something I still deal with a lot, especially in the beginning of my career. When I was freelancing, it was less noticeable because you have clients coming to you and you’re already validated. They’re already aware of your work, they love it, and they want you to personalize your work how they want it for them. Once I started working at Dagger Agency, which owns Butter.ATL, you’re around a bunch of creatives who have been doing this for 10+ years. They’re using all of this jargon that I didn’t learn in school. I’m not just working on the design side anymore, I work with marketing as well.

Sometimes I feel like a dumb teenager because they know so much more than I do. They’re so much more serious than I am and I’m not sure why I’m not like that. However, this is also something that everyone tells me they struggle with as well. So, I guess it’s an insecurity that you just have to deal with. Sometimes I feel like I’m the baddest b*tch in the world, but most of the time I’m just like I’m faking it and y’all don’t even know it. 

Have you gone through any creative blocks before? If so, how do you get through them?

A couple of months ago I was going through a crazy burnout. When you’re in college, everything is so exciting and fun, and I remember thinking I could never burnout; I love doing this. I’m having 16-hour days and it’s such a rush. But a couple of months ago, I felt really bad. I didn’t know if I was just getting old or just tired of what I was doing. I wasn’t having any good ideas and everything I did was half-assed. That’s the worst feeling–making work that’s not representative of your actual ability. So whenever I’m burned out like that or don’t have any ideas, I just stop working for a second. I try to do something else or think about something else.

I’ll also stop taking clients for a little while, but it’s such an anxiety trigger because you’re like if I stop this momentum I’m on, it’s over. However, it’s not true, it just makes you a little more pickier of what you can actually handle. I used to just be a “Yes Man”; anything you wanted I would do it, even when I knew I actually couldn’t. 

photo by India Nabarro for @butter.atl

What has been your favorite project to work on so far in your career?

October 2019, we had a big pop-up event with Butter at Peter Street Station in Atlanta; which is like this really cool, Black-owned, art facility in Castleberry Hill. It was called “Ode to ATL”, and a lot of big name movers and shakers in the city helped bring it together. It reminded you of the 29 Rooms installation, but just one big room full of photo ops you could do. I was able to make something cool that I was proud of. It was authentic to me and it was about Atlanta. Having a lot of people show up and take pictures with your work and be really excited about it is again, the most rewarding thing I could ever ask for. 

Where do you see yourself in the future as a graphic artist?

(laughs) Ohhh, what a terrifying question! I feel like growing up, I always had a five-year plan and some idea of what I wanted to do. But as I went on, I kind of just let it go and not be so uptight with it. Five years from now, I’ll be 30 years old, which is crazy to think about. I’ll be making $100,000 a year. There will be people under me who I’m able to help, as well as learn from because they’ll be younger. I’ll be making fun work that I’ll be excited about and will make other people excited too. Other than that, I don’t know any specifics of what I’ll be doing. 

For college students right now who are trying to get their feet wet and getting their degree in graphic design, what advice would you give them?

My best advice for college students would be make work that you want to be doing when you get out of school. For example, If you’re really passionate about animation, figure out what kind of animation you like. Find what your true authentic style is and what feels like an accurate representation of yourself. Fill your portfolio up with work that is true to you. Also, keep your expectations low for the real world. In college, I was all about design having a meaning and there’s so much more behind it, and there is, but in the real world it’s more so ‘better done than perfect’. What works, works. I’ve noticed with creating Instagram content that I want to make everything really beautiful all the time. However, memes perform better than any illustration. So, don’t get too tied up in your work. I know I’m really sensitive with mine and I totally understand, but it’s not always art. Sometimes it is just getting something done.