Meet VS Designer Caroline Nilsson

Our designers are the fuel that drives us full steam into the future, and we’re proud to have some of the brightest folks in the industry, like Caroline Nilsson, on our team.

Caroline’s west- and east-coast influences and experiences in places like Portland, Oregon and Shenandoah National Park have shaped her adventurous spirit and perspective on the world.

While helping architect gyms’ walls, Caroline also focuses in special projects and steel development. This means she specializes in structures ranging from front desk benches and ATPs to the steel structures that hide behind the walls. When not at work, Caroline actively produces graphic designs, paintings and more.

We recently caught up with Caroline to talk shop and to understand why she loves working at Vertical Solutions.

When did you first get into art and design?

My mom’s number one way to keep me occupied when I was little was for her to give me paper and crayons. Then I just dreamt of being an artist, but I was also interested in math.

In college, I discovered that both come together in interesting ways through architecture. Now, I get to do both, which is awesome because I get to be really creative.

Why do you enjoy design so much?

Having a passion isn’t something I necessarily think about in any sort of specific way. Design isn’t something I've actively chosen, it just seemed to happen. Perhaps just from doing it over and over again, my brain has been primed to see things in a certain way and wants to create and communicate with people.

And part of the appeal is getting into the flow state, which I think happens when I'm totally absorbed in letting the work create itself and I don’t control it in any certain way.

Why work for Vertical Solutions?

I hiked the end of the Appalachian Trail with my roommate, then moved to Akron, Ohio because she was there, too. But the weather was horrible and there wasn’t much to do in the outdoors.

I actually applied to the junior graphic design position at The Front. But Alyssa [the HR manager for both companies] referred me to VS and I worked on a sample project. I was working in architecture before, and this seemed like a logical next step in pushing my design abilities. Working at Vertical Solutions fell into my lap as the most creative thing I could possibly do with architecture.

What other personal and professional work experience do you have?

I worked for a small residential firm in Charlottesville, commissioned paintings and freelanced as a graphic designer. I’ve always had my own projects and personal art shows, too.

What do you like about living and working in Salt Lake City?

There’s so much to do! Sometimes I get overwhelmed because I think I won’t be able to fit it all in!

Being in Salt Lake is amazing because of the outdoors. But there’s also an entire community that’s incredibly supportive – both at VS and in the city in general. People here are so welcoming and always want to show me new things. It’s nice to build a life here.

How does the design team work together at VS?

Jaime’s approach is to get everyone to know how to do everything. Initially, I learned all the different aspects of our design types, but now I specialize in special project and steel development. Everyone on the team specializes in their areas of strength, which is helpful in getting a lot done quickly.

Describe the team’s process.

First, we set out a floor plan to understand a gym’s flow of traffic. Then we can put together an idea of lead walls and bouldering walls with different features like slabs and overhangs. From there, we seek approval from gym owners and work with them to finalize their ideas.

Then we have to figure out how the walls will hold themselves up, which is a puzzle. We work with an engineering firm out of Seattle to see what’s stable and what won’t work, or which features will have to be redesigned.

What projects have you worked on since starting in July?

Our field workers get drawing packets to see how to put everything together, so we all worked a ton on the Brimstone project. We also have all worked on The Front’s new gym (pictured in this blog post) in some capacity.

In my first week I was tossed in the fire by designing a private wall for someone’s basement in Park City! There was a lot of trust in me right off the bat, which was both terrifying and heartening.

What are you working on now?

I’m helping design Latitude’s Virginia Beach gym and Ubergrippen’s second location. I’ll also be working on steel development for High-Steppe and Crux.

Why do you enjoy working at VS?

My coworkers are great and supportive! And the ability to be creative is a special thing that not a lot of people get to do professionally.

And it’s great to think about what we’re creating. People come to climbing gyms and end up meeting their spouses or best friends, or have amazing, life-changing experiences. And we get to build the giant sculptures that they climb on! I feel very lucky that this is my job.


Thanks, Caroline, for helping to make the VS design team apt to tackle any job! Our clients’ projects would not be the same without your creativity and passion!