Nick Stocking – Founder of Design Cloud

[quote style=”boxed”]For Christ’s sake, get off Twitter and open your eyes to the real world. Follow your eyes into a museum, your nose into a bakery, or your ears to a concert.[/quote]

Nick Stocking is founder and principal of Design Cloud, a collaborative design studio and art gallery. Design Cloud is comprised of problem solvers, skilled designers, artists and business-minded entrepreneurs. It’s an innovative space, a collective resource, and a culture which allows the best work to be realized. Members of Design Cloud are all independent freelancers, shirking the “9-5” for something better.

Unlike typical agencies with bloated overhead and unnecessary hierarchies, Design Cloud’s model rewards the bold, reduces risk and delivers results. Unlike the typical freelance or staffing agency options, Design Cloud provides trust and accountability. Its art gallery fosters Chicago’s rising artists and curators. This intersection of art and design serves to inspire and strengthens people’s passions. And, well, it makes for a great place to drink beer, meet interesting people and hang out.

The idea for Design Cloud dates back to 2009. For Nick, it was the both the worst and best year of his life (cue dramatic soundtrack). He went from being a real estate development partner to being unemployed. The career he loved was gone, thanks to the recession. He wasn’t prepared. An identity crisis ensued (gasp!). This low point allowed for introspection, and he began to see an opportunity for reinvention. He wanted to live closer to his creative spirit, be happier in life, and never work for someone else again. This quest brought him to Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where a summer design intensive exposed him to like-minded folks on their own searches. The idea for Design Cloud was hatched, and Nick has pursued this vision ever since. Oh, and he’s never been happier.

Nick Stocking spent 15 years as a builder of large-scale urban developments. His passion was working with design teams to re-imagine functionally obsolete buildings, taking new visions for spaces and making them realities. Although brick and mortar will always be close to his heart, Nick is building something new with Design Cloud: a studio and gallery experience—a creative experience, redefined.

What are you working on right now?

I’m refining Design Cloud’s value proposition for the website. Well, actually, it feels like I’m creating one from scratch, which is nice. For the bigger picture, I’m focused on building upon our culture of trust. Trust is the key for our design team: it brings inspiration, fulfillment and happiness. It allows for the design team to take risks and push the creative envelope. It’s hard to do, but it’s harder to replicate. If done properly, huge value will be created for everyone involved.

Where did the idea for Design Cloud come from?

At RISD, during a summer session. I was in a new city, surrounded by other creative folks from all over the world, with an expert group of mentors who provided guidance. I was desperate to start learning again. RISD unlocked something powerful that still fuels me today.

What does your typical day look like?

I get up early at 5:00 a.m. (Dang, not long ago, that’s when I went to bed.) I then take my lady to work and walk the dog in the park. We’ve seen a lot of sunrises. Next I hit the gym. God, I hate the Cybex—what a stupid machine. So I box, too. At work I try to do big-picture vision stuff before noon, and then address nagging problems in the afternoon. I don’t work too late, as doing so is usually counterproductive. In the evening, I drink a glass of wine, make dinner and watch bad TV (Top Gear) or awesome TV (Breaking Bad). Sometimes I read. Basically, I decompress. Other times I attend networking events if I know they’ll be valuable.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I think a lot. I journal (check out I research. I use the whiteboard. I ramble to anyone who is (un)lucky enough to be within earshot.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The tech bubble. I’ve been through a bubble in real estate already. It’s a huge opportunity, or at least a huge learning opportunity.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I’ve had a few. I worked as a gopher for a home builder in high school. I’m pretty sure everything I did would now be considered illegal by today’s standards. I walked roofs with severe pitches. I swept and then coughed up drywall dust. I dumped all sorts of crazy shit in landfills, cut down trees older than my dad, and heard stories from contractors about their wives/girlfriends that I don’t care to repeat. It was my worst job, but I still loved it. It galvanized my passion for how buildings are built, how space can be configured, and how truly crazy some people can be (I’m talking about the homeowners).

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would start sooner. I should have launched in 2010, but frankly, I was too chickenshit. I created a slew of reasons in my head to not trust my gut and take the big leap. Finally, late last year, with the help of some great collaborators, I pulled it together.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Share ideas, information and resources.

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Negativity. I usually listen for valid points and then disregard the rest. I also fight my own doubts; no one is a harsher critic than me. To overcome this, I seek out a pep talk from someone at Design Cloud or do something simple yet productive to clear my head. When that fails, there’s always a bar. I like whiskey.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I was working on a pop-up, short-term retail concept that would help breathe new life into under-utilized retail space around Chicago while offering an opportunity for entrepreneurs, makers and designers to sell in a retail environment, to get exposure within the local community, and to hopefully walk away inspired to pursue their passions. I had to shelve it in order to focus on Design Cloud. However, if anyone out there reading this has a similar idea or is interested and wants to collaborate, contact me today. Let’s do it!

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I would make water desalinization feasible on a large scale. That would probably solve a lot of problems.

Tell us a secret.


What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

  1. Basecamp.
  2. Google apps/docs
  3. Meetup

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Start With Why by Simon Sinek. It’s filled with good advice that’s applicable to both business and personal interests.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

For Christ’s sake, get off Twitter and open your eyes to the real world. Follow your eyes into a museum, your nose into a bakery, or your ears to a concert. Check Twitter when you’re on the toilet.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

My dog just farted. Loudly.

Who is your hero?

Maybe my mom (she raised six kids–well). Or my dad, who worked hard to make it all happen and still attended all my sporting events when I was a kid.

What’s on the horizon for Design Cloud?

Our client roster has expanded in nine short months. Our clients welcome our fresh approach, and we share a lot of the same entrepreneurial DNA. We’re working on some really interesting projects in the digital realm. So we need designers and smart, ambitious people to help us grow. It’s a great place to take your next big step.


Design Cloud on Twitter: !/DesignCloudChi
Design Cloud on Facebook:
Design Cloud’s website: