An interview with Nancy Deal, designer woman sitting and smiling intently at camera

Since we interviewed one of our principals, David, last month, it only seems right that we spotlight Deal Design’s other principal, Nancy Deal. In this exclusive interview, we chat about her path to graphic design, the simultaneous beauty and struggle of being a woman and running a business alongside her husband, and how she stays inspired.

What first led you to explore graphic design as a career?

For me, it was a path of creativity. Before I was in design, I was in dance, and that wasn’t going anywhere for me. I had a back injury, so I was searching for creative outlets, and I went to Laguna Pageant of the Masters. There were all these beautiful exhibits and artists, and one of them happened to be an art school.

For some reason, I just decided to take a leap. I’m going, “I’m not a painter, I’m not a drawer, but let’s see what they do.” And that’s really how it all started. I just kept finding my way, kept trying things. “Maybe I can paint. Nope, can’t paint.” “Maybe I can draw. Nope can’t draw.” “Oh, I can do photography, not bad at that. Oh, I’m really pretty good at design.” Those meshed together with choreography and music and everything I’ve done. So it was a good match.

What inspires your creativity?

Actually, everything inspires my creativity. I can go to the grocery store, I can be driving and just [get inspired by] the landscape. Pinterest is great for creativity, not for finding answers but, it’s like flipping through a magazine for me. I love going to the bookstore with a coffee and going to the Design section or the magazines and not buying anything, just flipping through [them]. I’m constantly kind of keeping a diary of images and things in my head. And when they repeat, I know I’m supposed to do something with them, and that’s going to be my next design project.

What is the most memorable project you have worked on at Deal Design?

There have been many of them. My best design projects were my kids. *Laughs* To tell you the truth, that was a big consideration for me when I was trying to pick out a career path — how could I be a mom and have a career? I kind of stepped in and out of the role of designer depending on what was going on in our home life, but it was a really good match to allow me to be the kind of mom that I wanted to be, which was to inspire these little spirits that were brought into my life. So for me, that was probably my biggest design project, or how I looked at it, was raising these little souls. 

But, here at the agency, there have been some really satisfying [projects], then there have been artistic [ones], and then there have been [some in which] the client just grew. So they kind of have different categories for me because it’s not all about money and success. It’s about the place we were in as we were designing it, if that makes sense. 

One of my most memorable [projects] was Yamaha guitars — we set up a tent in the agency and the kids slept there and played while David and I worked crazy hours to try to turn it. It’s a happy, fun memory because we all participated together. 

Some of my most satisfying [projects] have been skincare lines. [They were] not necessarily super visible, though some are extremely successful now; back in the day, they weren’t when we were working on them. It’s really satisfying. 

Other than that, it’s more about getting to know the client and how appreciative they are for your work. Relationships are really important to me. We have a client we’ve worked with for going on 15 years now, and we still comment on each other’s social. That’s always fun, to have those kinds of relationships.

Do you have any business, career, or design role models?

For some reason, Twitter’s turned into my [way of] following design, and [I follow] a lot of women. So [my role models are] more social groups. I love the social media aspect because they don’t have to be famous to be interesting, and that’s what’s so fun. It doesn’t have to be on the cover of a famous magazine or a book — I just love seeing people’s work. 

If I were to name somebody that I’m just in awe of still, which is why I was so excited that Adobe Max has her, it’s Annie Leibovitz, a famous photographer [who] has done amazing work. I’ve loved her work — black and white especially. All her images are just gorgeous. Which is why I kind of have to go to Adobe Max now! I’ve been following her forever! 

And then artist-wise, it’s so funny, David and I have the same [role model] — Rauschenburg is probably our number one, which is why we still love going to MoMA in LA and seeing his work. We’ve seen it over and over and over, but it’s just really cool work.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your role, and how do you overcome it?

The biggest challenge is being a woman, and really taking on my role as a mother — that has meant as much to me and [has been] as big of an honor as being a working woman. When the kids were young, it was extremely stressful — working and volunteering for the local elementary school Arts Attack program, homework, church marketing and outreach meetings, facilitating and designing women’s retreats. The extra challenge has been working with David — keeping a healthy marriage and working together. We’ve learned a lot over the years.

Is there an achievement or contribution you are most proud of?

I think there are multiple. Before I stepped into agency work, it probably would’ve been choreography — having the chance to do commercial work and do a couple of commercials. I worked with music programs and was a judge for 12 years. 

Agency-wise, again I go to the skincare — SkinMedica, Glymed Plus, Dr. Michelle Copeland — all of them are doing really well. SkinMedica is an international brand now. And I’ve been really proud of the work we’ve been doing for REEF and Pearson Farm with their catalogs. 

We’ve also done promotions and marketing for San Elijo Dance and Music Academy’s Annual Nutcracker. We designed the logo and website for the production, and we did all the marketing for the promotional side event, the Sugar Plum Fairy Tea. We all loved working on this event.

What are your hopes for the future of Deal Design?

I see us being a full-service brand agency, which we’ve always said because we’ve always had the capabilities. But for some reason, we just didn’t put it all together. I think we’re hitting this stage in our life where we have some free brainpower. I don’t have an expectation, but I do envision growth, and I’m excited to see where this takes all of us. I’m really excited about what’s coming. 


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