Q&A: Alumnus shares experience as graphic designer for Pomona brewery

Alumnus Nicholas Rios (’16, graphic design) found his lifelong passion for art and graphic design at a young age. Rios now works for Homage Brewing in downtown Pomona as a product packaging designer for the company’s beer cans.

Last month, Rios, a Los Angeles native, designed new packaging for a beer called Moonbeams, receiving praise for the designs in the process. His five years of hands-on experience in packaging, print, production and branding helps him create innovative designs. He has a strong passion for color, typography and music that inspires him to bring his graphics to life.

Alumnus Nicholas Rios (16,’ graphic design) designed a a packaging for Moonbeams beer for the Homage Brewery in Pomona. (Courtesy of Nicholas Rios)

Rios met virtually with The Poly Post to share his journey to becoming a professional graphic designer.

How did you get into graphic design?

When I was 18 or 19, I downloaded Photoshop solely for doing face-swap type photos. I was just having fun, but that’s where it all started. Before I transferred to Cal Poly Pomona, I ended up taking a class at Mt. San Antonio College to get formal training with the graphic design program. That was when I realized this is what I love doing. I thought to myself, ‘This is cool. This is fun. People get paid to do this? I’m in.”’

How did you get involved with the Homage Brewing?

Getting involved with the brewery was a blessing that sort of just fell into my lap. One of my best friends, Daro, is friends with the owner of Homage Brewing. Daro told me that the owner Matt wanted me to design a label for them. Matt had seen my work in the background of a photo that he had posted and wanted something in that style for the brewery. He told me I should swing by the brewery and talk to Matt about it. That led to the first project I did with Homage for a beer called “We’ve Been Had.” Since then we’ve done a few more projects together. My most recent was a beer called Moonbeams that was released about a month ago. I am very proud of that design and blessed to be a part of Homage Brewing.

What is your creative process when making your designs?

What inspires me to come up with my designs definitely comes from music. I can look at some of the projects I’ve worked on and I know what I was listening to when I created it. Inspiration happens pretty spontaneously too, though. Sometimes, it’s as simple as seeing a cool color palette or an interesting shape. I’ll take a photo or screenshot of something I saw and come back to it later to give me inspiration. Projects evolve and devolve during the creative process too. Sometimes, the piece was done before I actually finish it, and I’ll end up going back to that state of project for the final finished piece.

What software do you use to create your designs?

I use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to create my designs. I have two different styles I like to work with. Lately, it’s been abstract patterns and shapes in Adobe Illustrator. I used Adobe Illustrator to create my packaging for Homage Brewery. My other style is a bit more photo-based. I’ll take a photo of something and heavily abstract it. I find that my designs end up looking sort of similar to a Rorschach test that gives a unique style to my work.

How did your academic journey shape your career?

Cal Poly Pomona definitely helped me get to where I am today. I was taught time management and discipline in addition to all the design fundamentals in graphic design. When I know I have a deadline, I like to be ahead of it whenever it is possible. The fundamentals I was taught at CPP are a huge part of my success. I use the skills I was taught by my professors every day when I am designing a project.

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