Designing environmental signage and graphics for over 30 years, Debra has found her art form at the intersection of architecture, communication and art. Inspired by the profound beauty of her home town of Carmel, she pursued studies in fine arts and design. For the first 15 years of her career, while working at an international architecture firm, Debra actively engaged in a design process which would become foundational to her practice: working alongside clients in large multi-disciplined teams of architects, interior, lighting and landscape and graphic designers creating exemplary built environments on a global scale. This collaborative approach working closely with designers, particularly architects, would become her hallmark.

Establishing Debra Nichols Design in 1991 allowed her to pursue a broad range of project types and to collaborate with architects and designers worldwide on museums, educational campuses, commercial developments, entertainment and sports venues, district master plans, and civic institutions. Debra’s creative approach is integrative, synthesizing elegant and energetic design with strategic marketing and smart problem solving. Above all, however, she believes that for anything to truly succeed, to create the spirit of the place and to contribute to life in a meaningful way, it must be beautiful.

Debra graduated from the University of California, Davis with a bachelor Degree in Environmental Design. Prior to starting DND, she worked at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), for 15 years where she was an Associate Partner and Director of Environmental and Signage Design. Debra was inducted as a Fellow of the Society for Environmental Design (SEGD), and is the recipient of the highest award from the University of California, the Distinguished Alumni Award. She has served on the UCD Deans Advisory Council as well as on various professional association boards and private institution development committees. Projects by DND have been published extensively in design and business journals and have been recognized by the industry’s highest awards. Debra is distinguished in her field as an innovative leader, mentor, speaker and juror. Consistent with a lifelong passion for study while simultaneously working full-time, she is currently working toward a Master of Arts degree, with a research emphasis on philosophical aesthetics and the impact of beauty on devotional practices, at the University of California Berkeley and the Graduate Theological Union.

Debra Nichols, President