Coastal Carolina University Grad Earns an Emmy for Her Creative Work

June 2019
Written By: 
Sara Sobota

Barbara Astrini creates animated videos and graphics for Nick Jr.

As associate art director at Nickelodeon in the Nick Jr. Brand Creative Department, Barbara Astrini creates colorful, educational short videos.

Vibrant. Energetic. Playful. Enticing. Colorful.

CCU grad Barbara Astrini earns Emmy award for creative work with Nick Jr.

In Barbara Astrini’s world, education is all of those things. As associate art director at Nickelodeon in the Nick Jr. Brand Creative Department, Astrini creates bright, engaging graphics and animated videos that appeal to preschoolers, ensuring that the fun parts of learning remain front and center stage.

“I think the responsibility we get to make educational cartoons is very cool,” said Astrini, who moved to Myrtle Beach from Brazil in 1990 and now resides in New York City. “I take that really seriously.”

Astrini’s work is apparently appealing to industry leaders, too; her recent short piece Nick Jr. Color Song: RED won a 2019 Emmy award for Outstanding Short Format Children’s Program.

(Top left) Barbara Astrini created the short video Color Song: RED, recently nominated for a 2019 Emmy Award; Astrini also creates for Nick Jr.’s Alpha-Beats (pictured above right)

The award comes as no surprise to her former teachers at Horry County Schools’ Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology (AAST), where she earned a degree in digital communications in 2008, or her former professors at Coastal Carolina University, where she earned a B.A. in graphic design in 2011. To them, Astrini’s artistic talent combined with her initiative and work ethic made her star particularly likely to shine in her chosen career field.

Astrini’s work, considered the field of edutainment, can be seen in the 7-minute interim between programs on Nick Jr. For example, she might create a promotion for a new episode of Paw Patrol, or an announcement for the time of a particular program’s airing. Also, she creates short (1–2 minute) educational videos that air between programs and are also increasingly being used on a Nick Jr. paid app. One short video she created in 2018, titled Nick Jr. Alpha-Beats, won a Parents’ Choice Award, presented by the renowned nonprofit organization Parents’ Choice Foundation.

Incorporating elements of literacy and education into her work is especially important to Astrini because of her experience with English language acquisition. She explains how television, in conjunction with a passionate and effective ESL teacher at Myrtle Beach Intermediate School, had a significant impact on her learning to read and write.

“When I first came to Myrtle Beach, I didn’t know much English, and honestly, TV networks like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network—that’s how I learned English,” said Astrini, who retains fluency in Portuguese. “I would put captions on and learn; that’s how I survived on the playground.”

That background plays a central role in her process of creating the fun and colorful videos that preschoolers view each day.

“I try to incorporate language into my work,” Astrini said. “That’s why in the color song we have the words written out a lot, and Alpha-Beats is all about the alphabet and learning to read, because television, among other things, is a tool. It was important to me, so I’m hoping that other kids will get the same out of it.”

Cathy DeSimone, former director of the digital communications program at AAST who retired in June 2018 after a 14-year tenure, remains in contact with Astrini, and, in fact, received a text from her former student breaking the news of the Emmy nomination. DeSimone recalls Astrini’s talent as well as her initiative and determination in planning, implementing and completing long-term projects.

Astrini believes in the value of television to deliver young children lessons in literacy

“She excelled at everything I asked her to do,” said DeSimone. “She’s a go-getter, that’s the word I would use, because when she wants to learn how to do something, she’s going to figure it out one way or another.”

Astrini was involved in student media during her years at CCU, working on the student newspaper The Chanticleer and the student literary magazine Tempo. She believes those experiences, as well as the classes she took from the “holy trinity” of Scott Mann, Jeff Case and Paul Olsen, all CCU professors of visual art and graphic design, provided her a firm educational and artistic foundation.

“The three of them played very different roles in shaping my career,” said Astrini. “They were very important to me. And also at the academy, Cathy DiSimone, I think those four were so instrumental to where I am today, giving me resources in different ways, whether it was giving me access to things, or tough love, or just exposing me to a new world.”

Astrini lives in Manhattan with her husband, Devin Currie, who also attended AAST and CCU and works at Scholastic. She remains very close to her family and looks to them for inspiration and preliminary feedback on her work.

“In Brazilian culture, family is very important, and mine has played a huge role in my work,” said Astrini. “I send my parents screenshots of all my illustrations before I publish them, my sisters always happen to be around when I have big inspiration, and my nieces and nephews are my first focus group.”

Victoria Brown, who worked closely with Astrini at Nick Jr. for two years, said the artist’s work reflects her personality.

“If you look at her Instagram feed, she very truly emulates that bright energy,” said Brown. “It’s just bright, loveable, fun energy, and she lives that every single day.”