Heidi Nielsen ’96: Employing Both Sides of the Brain

There is no telling where by an art diploma will consider you. Just request Heidi Nielsen ’96.

As a senior art university student at Pacific, her prints and illustrations were being hung in a downtown Portland gallery as element of a college student displaying. She bought some. That encounter led rapidly to an offer you with Summit Assignments, a Hood River, Ore.,-based mostly style and design company, even while she experienced not but had any skilled design and style practical experience.

20-two many years later on, Nielsen is a principal and main running officer at Portland’s Brink Communications, a revered, speedy-expanding communications and structure agency that sets alone aside by focusing on customers “that are interested in developing actions and creating improve in the world.”

It is not a path she, nor any person, would have predicted, but it illustrates the significance of becoming flexible and getting benefit of options when they emerge. Nielsen’s path also states a thing about the relevance of wondering with equally sides of the brain — the imaginative aspect and the analytical facet.

“Every practical experience builds the upcoming move,” she reported. “Everything you do, all the things that you experience sets you up for regardless of what is to occur. I consider I landed where by I landed for a rationale.”

When she graduated from higher university in Hood River, she had best-notch grades and a unique interest in theater and drama. She chose to go to Pacific due to the fact, even though she was not absolutely sure what she needed to do with her everyday living, she thought she could go pre-med, or into the actual physical therapy method.

At Pacific, she acted in performances and designed theater sets. But about a year-and-a-half into university, she pivoted. She experienced been using a ton of biology and connected programs. She determined to focus in its place on artwork and artwork historical past.

“I believed, ‘I can do this,’” Nielsen remembered about her pre-med days, but “I hadn’t genuinely thought about what would actually carry me joy.”

Her tutorial trajectory had transformed, but some thing else hadn’t: She still was becoming pushed to think, not just absorb info.“I believe that Pacific was definitely crucial in creating essential wondering,” she mentioned.

A Race By means of the Layout and Consulting World

Nielsen’s put in the environment of developing appears and messages for shoppers developed swiftly — much more immediately than she may have preferred. After about a calendar year at her first task, the designer who had been her mentor remaining the organization, and she was thrust into the prime layout job.

“Everything you do, every little thing that you working experience sets you up for no matter what is to occur.”
—Heidi Nielsen ’96

“I was offered the helm at a really younger age to do all the graphic style that arrived as a result of that agency,” she stated. “To be truthful with you, I cried for like a year. It was just one of those people sink or swim times.”

But she didn’t sink. Immediately after a couple of years, she cofounded a boutique design and style agency of her have, and then her own style and design studio. Then Leslie Carlson and Marian Hammond, principals in a fledgling agency referred to as Brink Communications, came calling. Would Nielsen be interested in signing up for them as the third principal?

She claimed sure.

At the time, Brink was as a great deal an notion as a doing work company. It sought to do perform with a purpose, collaborating with clientele who needed to make improvements to the world, little bit by little bit. But there was no guarantee it would do well. Nielsen was a single of 5 workers, and billings had been in the selection of $1 million a calendar year.


Heidi Nielsen artwork

Flash forward six-in addition yrs to the present day, and Brink has grown to roughly 30 persons. The company was listed final calendar year as the 8th speediest-growing organization by the Small business Journal of Portland. Its consumers incorporate an array of companies with social missions, from point out well being businesses to nonprofits and foundations.

For example, Brink labored with the Oregon Wellbeing Authority to build a COVID-19 awareness and reaction campaign directed in particular to communities of colour that ended up remaining disproportionately influenced by the virus. Brink’s Secure + Strong marketing campaign released in April 2020, soon soon after the lockdown. It integrated a website in 12 languages and a continuing local community engagement effort and hard work that involved communications, branding, promoting, social media outreach, investigate, online video and collateral elements. The company has carried out comparable work for quite a few other customers.

“Our do the job is genuinely justice-centered,” Nielsen claimed. “All the do the job we do uses a justice lens: social justice, racial justice, wellness justice, environmental, gender, local climate, and it definitely centers communities. We support movements and empower transform.”

A well-rounded daily life

If you look for Nielsen’s title on the web, you will observe her placements in these types of cyclocross activities as the Grand Prix Luciano Bailey, and Cyclocross Crusade: Cascade Locks. She has turn out to be an avid competitor in the activity, which resembles track and field’s steeplechase, apart from with bicycles, which contend to protect the biggest distance in 45 minutes.

Her participation in cyclocross grew out of her passion for mountain biking, which she adopted with her husband, David Combe, who experienced prolonged been an avid outdoorsperson. Then the couple moved from Hood River to Portland, exactly where mountain biking trails are rather scarce. So they switched to street-biking. Then Brink principal Carlson persuaded Nielsen to check out cyclocross.

Nielsen, Combe and their two daughters, 13 and 15, now guide active lives of backpacking and outdoor pursuits.

Like their mother right before them, the two daughters are budding artists. The oldest is now a sophomore in large college, and she’s beginning to consider about what will come following her senior 12 months.

“She’s talked a whole lot about going to an arts faculty,” Nielsen explained. “And I truly feel pretty strongly about a liberal arts training. I consider the prospect it offers you to become a essential thinker, and the possibility it provides you to get a huge selection of encounters, is seriously significant. I imagine that narrowing down when you are 18 or 19 or 20 yrs old is not as useful. You do not know what you do not know.”

An additional point Nielsen will notify her daughters is to in no way prevent finding out.

“If we are open to affect,” she claimed, “if we can be open up and see what options are out there, we’re much more flexible in how we go ahead.”


This story appears in the Spring 2021 of Pacific magazine. For extra stories, check out pacificu.edu/magazine.