This interview is part of the City of Philadelphia’s Most Diverse Tech Hub initiative. Campus Philly is featuring the “Philly stories” of Black and Brown tech founders, entrepreneurs, and young professionals who are making an impact in the region, demonstrating why the Philadelphia region IS the most diverse tech hub.
Nadira Green-Roberts is a self-taught, freelance graphic designer specializing in visual communication and brand identity. She is also a Visual Designer for Learning and Development at Comcast. Nadira’s goal is to continue to build positive individual, community, and professional impacts through intentional design and personal connection.
Tell us about yourself! Where did you grow up, where did you go to college, and what was your major?
I grew up in Philly. I went to a few different community and state colleges with majors ranging from Accounting/International Business to Early Childhood Education. I ultimately decided that college wasn’t a part of my learning and development story at that time. Attending and graduating from college was something I thought I wanted to do, but looking back on it, I viewed it as the next “right” step in life instead of the next best step for me. Education, both traditional and non-traditional, is still one of my most important and active priorities. Continuing to practice self-learning is my current focus while completing a degree program is a future goal.
When did you first realize you wanted to pursue a career in graphic design?
My first introduction to what graphic design consisted of was during a high school presentation led by the Art Institute of Philadelphia. Before then, thanks to MySpace, I had been unknowingly involved in graphic design. That period in my life allowed me to learn and teach myself some basic to not-so-basic HTML and coding, a little bit of Photoshop, and the fundamentals of quality and comment-worthy layout design.
Fast forward to the summer before my senior year of high school, when I interned at an architectural firm. Through this opportunity, I was able to more deeply explore Adobe Photoshop and Dreamweaver to create an interactive concept design for the big screen at the WHYY building. Following that experience, I got more into graphic design during my senior year yearbook class where I put together a few page spreads that my classmates, art teacher, and I felt great about.
During my freshman year in college, my grandmother asked me to create a logo for her personal training business. I had never done this before and was able to create an awesome logo that she still uses today. These handful of occurrences were all different firsts in my process of realizing my interest and ability in graphic design.
Working for Comcast, one of the largest companies in the Philadelphia region, is the goal of so many students and grads. What’s a typical week like as a Visual Designer for Learning and Development at Comcast?
Generally, my week consists of meetings on various topics like how to brand new, or update existing, learning products, along with visual/branding research, and creating graphic assets that can aid in learning.
Graphic designers can work in many different industries. What made you decide to combine your passion for graphic design with a career in the tech industry?
When I read what the position would require, I knew it would challenge and stretch me in ways I had not been in my freelance career. My time at Comcast has shown me that I’m more capable than my previous scope allowed me to see.
Do you have any time management tips for those working a full-time job and also pursuing freelance work?
Write everything down, even the small stuff. If you have a big project, break it down into smaller tasks. Always overestimate the time you need to do or complete something.
What was the most exciting project you’ve worked on in your career?
Personal: I love learning about people, their stories, and their creative process, so in 2016, I created a series called “Urban Artisans: The ACE List.” Urban Artisans: The ACE list is a visual collection of Artists, Creators, and Entrepreneurs from around the city. The purpose of this project was to put a spotlight on all creators, from the well-known to the underground; to gain a deeper look into the minds, hearts, and art of the creatives that Philly has to offer. I haven’t worked on this since 2019 or so, but it’s a project I would love to continue making.
Freelance: I was able to collaborate with someone from high school to design an amazing activity workbook for preschoolers. This project was very meaningful to me. I love receiving pictures and videos of kids and parents interacting with and using this book.
I’m a part of this great Slack community called Where Are the Black Designers?. They post resources, host workshops and networking opportunities, and share articles about trends or things happening within the designer community. I also love finding new inspiration, tools, tips, and tricks that I can use, so I’m always on Behance and YouTube. I try to stay tapped into the trends and waves happening, but not to the point of becoming overwhelmed or over-influenced. I think it’s important to strongly keep my perspective and style while still being an informed designer.
If you were to offer ONE piece of advice to college students and recent grads interested in pursuing a career in design + tech, what would it be?
If you can, find what you like to repeatedly create, not just what you’re good at. Make sure your focus is on that when you’re looking for jobs and opportunities. For me, I thought being a graphic designer meant that I had to be great at everything, so anything that came my way, I accepted. Then I found myself constantly doing the same types of projects that I didn’t even enjoy. Once I had that shift, I only started accepting freelance opportunities and applying to positions whose descriptions fit my specific interests.
If you currently like doing everything, that’s fine too. At some point, the distinction between what you do and don’t like will become very clear. If you’re able to quickly and easily figure that out, great. And if you’re not, also great. Don’t force it because it will gradually come to you.
I think figuring out (or creating) that niche/specialization/avenue/lane that you want to occupy and learning as much as you can about that makes the process more satisfying. Plus, if it shifts or changes along the way, that’s great too. It’s not about staying in one lane forever, but more about recognizing your genuine interests and deciding to nurture and focus on them until it’s time to pivot. I believe it will keep the experience enjoyable—not saying it’ll always be fun, easy, or stress-free, but it’ll keep you consistently interested and invested.