Meet Chromatic Champion Nicte Cuevas

Every trace of Nicte Cuevas’s presence online and otherwise is energetic, brimming with a vitality that zeroes in on one of her greatest design tools: color. Even on a video call with a choppy connection, she is vividly colorized — if, at times, pixelated — wearing an abstract geometric print top in shades of fuchsia and ultraviolet. Tasseled drop earrings featuring an eye motif gaze back at the camera, with neon lights emanating from behind her, illuminating various swatches, artwork, and in-process projects that cover the walls of her Las Vegas home office. Color is unavoidable and, in case you forget, she’ll be there to remind you of its power at every turn.

Cuevas really lives in color, and it’s not for nothing. As the Principal and Creative Cultivator of her own design and branding firm, Nicte Creative Design, Cuevas recognizes color as a potent influence, noting that it’s the second element after shape that the eye recognizes, and that it carries countless emotional associations that we often unknowingly process. When asked about style, she is insistent on purpose — color is meaningfully functional in its influence. But it’s not just a matter of theory or neurological firing that aligns Cuevas so closely with visible spectra, it’s also personal. Color, she says, is one of the ways that she has coped with life’s hardships, and it seems almost as if it has been there for her at every difficult turn.

Born in Mexico City and raised in Venezuela by a Colombian mother and Mexican father, Cuevas experienced profound culture shock after moving to Texas, where she politely says she didn’t experience a welcoming vibe. She acknowledges experiencing blatant racism with a hesitance as if this isn’t an obvious reality for Latin American people on the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexico border. Her father encouraged blending in, but she took another route, hoping to build connections and motivate small shifts in culture where she could. “I knew that with words it wasn’t going to be as easy for people to change their perspective, so my way of showing up was through color,” she recalls. “Color became my superpower.”

It began with the way she dressed, which she says has never been about a fashion statement, but how she feels. Emotion stands as another unofficial pillar of her design philosophy, a channel through which connections of depth can be made.

She elucidates on her father’s childhood poverty and a particularly difficult aspect of her maternal family history, wrought by the realities of historic civic and political unrest in Colombia. Military violence inflicted upon her family naturally led to generational trauma, leading to what she describes as negativity and anger that seeped into familial relationships.

Design eventually became an outlet. Her late uncle had been her introduction to design as a practice. Cuevas recalls that he used to do hand-painted signage for car dealerships in New Jersey, the aesthetics of which, she notes, we see resurfacing in the contemporary market. While she started college focused on computer science in the hopes of becoming a video game programmer, the commitment to studying physics just didn’t connect. Craving a greater focus on visuals, she changed her major to Graphic Communications.

“When I found color, when I found design, that was my outlet to just celebrate life, to really look at life with a different lens and it was a place where no one could come and tell me bad stuff.” She cracks a smile and notes her son off-camera, “I’m watching my language because I have my little one here, but poopy stuff.” Empathy became another characteristic that set her apart from those around her, enabling her to connect emotionally on a deeper level.

But even with her spirited motivation, challenges continued to appear. Her son was born exceptionally early at 26 weeks, and she experienced what she referred to as a very dark period of her life. “I was angry at the world, I was angry at my body, but I held onto color to survive,” she emphasizes. “I would dress as vibrant and colorful as I could to lift my energy, to lift my mood up.”

Today she uses color, and her interest in cultural fluency, to guide her work — connecting communities beyond standard lines of division. Cuevas sees cultural differences as a place of opportunity and learning. “We are so wired to go down this path of comfort,” she suggests. “What happens with culture is, if people don’t feel connected to it, they’d rather be on the sidelines.” Her goal is to encourage celebration and curiosity amidst difference, as well as to cultivate empowered pride within cultural communities. “It’s really about sitting down together and having conversations. That’s my whole approach with how I work with clients.” She wants her clients working across cultural lines to be authentically invested in heritage, not simply checking off an identity category for marketing needs. This requires digging into the emotional side of the work, to ensure that the purpose of a client is actually aligned with the communities with which they might be engaging.

Looking forward, Cuevas is planning to offer more color strategy-focused educational resources that are accessible to the public through her website. She currently has paid courses available on LinkedIn Learning, but wants to expand the reach of her curriculum. When she’s not busy with work, she’s busy being a mother, making sure to get outside with her son as long as the Vegas heat is not too prohibitive. But even then, she’s considering the colors she sees in nature, capturing photos, and mulling over the emotions evoked. She laughs when asked about free time, but it seems that her connection to the prismatic reality she co-creates with her surroundings is her ultimate freedom.

Are you ready to start learning? Click here to explore Nicte's course on evoking emotion through color and start creating with her templates made in partnership with Adobe Express!

Try Adobe Express today