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Q&A blog header with Tina

Say Hello to NMCO’s Co-Founder and Creative Director

Meet NMCO’s co-founder, creative director and North Star, Christina Ballew, AKA Tina! Once upon a time in 2012, Tina moved to New Mexico, the land of enchantment. Shortly after, she started her own small graphic design business which, with the help of her trusty co-founder, Lucky Gonzalez, soon grew and expanded, sprouting NMCO Media. Tina is a tenured graphic designer, entrepreneur and has expertise in branding, client retention, industry trends and media strategy. When Tina isn’t leading the NMCO creatives in production she’s hanging out with NMCO’s unofficial mascot, Kahlo the pit bull, working on her personal visual art or participating as chair of the Las Cruces City art board.

Q: Why did you pursue this path?

Christina Ballew (CB): You know, as a kid I was always making things and building things. I even won awards for drawing when I was in kindergarten, which is crazy to me. My mom has this story about a five year old me “directing” my step dad when he was drawing. He was a really great illustrator and artist, and I would cry if he didn’t listen in MY direction. I think that was just who I was and who I am now, but with less crying. I’ve always had a sensitivity to art, connections and communication.

Q: When you first started your independent graphic design business did you ever imagine you’d end up in your present position with NMCO as a leader and owner?

CB: Oh gosh no. I had no notions on what the future of the business would look like. I just knew I wanted to fill in a gap that I didn’t experience in this area; Ethically focused business with industry design standards and heartfelt storytelling. I had goals and strategy, but I wanted to ride the wave as long as I could with the anticipation that it could all evaporate the next day. That pushed me very hard. But the region has spoken, they want and need this type of thinking. You don’t have to go to LA for quality design and production.


Q: What inspires you?

CB: My clients do. No week is ever the same because they all produce their own set of challenges and identities, it’s like a funnel of problem solving and inspiration just coming to me. Other than that, other creative minded people or agencies that are on a national or international level. I’m always absorbing as much information as I can from the commercial creative industry. Then of course, our local creatives. We all really push each other.

Q: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a creative and an entrepreneur?

CB: I think the biggest challenge is to constantly prove your capabilities as a creative and a business owner. I evaluate every direction and think critically on almost every production that comes into NMCO. I do this to take the mental load off the client and to think objectively about that product or brand, but sometimes the client may have a bias that they can’t let go that could limit their own business. At the end of the day, that’s ok, it’s a new set of parameters that we have to work within.

Q: What is your process for creative direction?

CB: First, I want to understand and identify with the project. I listen to the objectives and goals of the client. Then I may come up with a brief or production outline to make sure we are all on the same page. Afterwards I go into research mode and try to absorb as much information about the client and their industry as possible. 

Then I delegate to the team that will be assigned the project. Sometimes I may have a strong vision that needs to be implemented but my goal is to ensure the client’s vision and objectives are executed in a way that makes sense to their target. I also jump in where it’s needed and it’s truly different for each project. I may write a script one day, rename a company the next, help outline the website and then help shape a logo or identity. When working with so many components, a project can easily end up feeling disjointed. I’m quality control and the client’s voice within the studio.

The other side of that coin is to nurture, inspire and push the creative team. I really push them to think further and explore their own creativity. I’m sure that I throw a lot of things at them and they are nervous or scared that they may not be able to execute it. There is a level of trust with each other and knowing that we will see it through together. We always end up making something amazing.

Q: What are some guidelines for managing/producing innovative and quality content?

CB: On top of fundamentals and principles, be open to the process and be comfortable getting uncomfortable. Also, nurture your authentic voice. Don’t try to be like everyone else.

Q: What advice would you give to someone starting in the creative industry?

CB: Stay focused and don’t give up. I think for the first 5 years of my career, the only thing I heard was that I didn’t have enough experience. It was deflating. I knew that I had a perspective and skillset, heck..even a talent that could contribute to society, I just kept pushing through and focused on exactly where I wanted to be. It was a winding road, but I got there. You’ll get there too. 

Also, accept criticism gracefully. It may be hard, but it will always be part of the process. You will look at work that you thought was amazing 10 years later and think, yeah, that kind of sucked, that client had every right to challenge me.

Q: Any design knowledge you’d like to share?

CB: Make sure you invest in a quality logo and identity system. It leads the tone for everything; video, web, even company culture.  It should be just as important as your business license and business plan. It’s a business priority, so don’t have your 15 year old cousin make it for you for free. It’s an investment at first, but it’s more costly down the road to not do it right from the get go.

Q: If you could give people any tips on running/starting a business, what would they be?

CB: You have to be unapologetically focused on the problem you want to solve and make it clear to the public that you are an expert in that solution. I see a lot of businesses and entrepreneurs that try to scale too fast and lose resources, or have a mix match of services. Like a jewelry boutique owner that also does consulting for businesses on ergonomic furniture and is also selling Doterra on the side. That confuses people, and when they are confused they don’t trust you. 

Q: What are your favorite projects that you have worked on?

CB: There’s too many to list, but from the top of my head,

Women’s day projects are always special, but we took a break on those because of the pandemic.

Aaron Lacombe’s “Pictures of Ourselves” music video. This one was tough to direct. It was a stop motion theme and it was challenging to articulate how the graphics and footage lead from one scene to the next. Ralph Diaz (animator) and I broke a lot of barriers in that one but we got it done!

The 2020 Census for Otero County, I had to create every asset in the first set of animations. I loved thinking about the different demographics that Otero County wanted to represent and then watching Carlos Arreola (animator) bring them to life. We later did a series of commercials called “Avoid the Knock” that were so fun to write and produce.

Q: How do NMCO creative services help/elevate businesses?

CB: Without our services, your business can be a faceless man. Creepy.

People are passionate about their business and their organizations mission or products, and we’re really passionate about expressing that to the public in creative ways. It can be a really great partnership.

Tina with Kahlo in front of the Color Me Cruces Mural

Q: What’s on your creative bucket list?


  • Directing a documentary
  • Directing a musical style commercial
  • Designing a beer label
  • Publishing a coloring book
  • Creating and directing a multimedia life size experience

Q: What can we expect to see from you in the future?

CB: What won’t you see from me (us) in the future?

Mural work for La Vida project, the City of Las Cruces’ Reimagine Bring your Bag campaign, and even a Christmas music video for Ziemba.

To learn more about different agencies check out “3 Types of Agencies”.

NMCO Studio member, Kahlo


Door Greeter & Cookie Eater

Kahlo is our gentle, friendly, office pup! He loves his belly rubbed, sniffing absolutely everything, and hasn’t found a treat he wouldn’t eat! Be sure to say hi, he loves the attention!

NMCO Studio member, Kelsey

Kelsey Gentile

Web Specialist

Once those websites are complete, Kelsey is our web maintenance manager. From regular updates, security checks, and content updates, Kelsey keeps our websites running smoothly, secure, and in tip-top shape.

NMCO Studio member, Annakat

Anna Kat Hollis

Senior Web Developer

Anna Kat is the driving force behind NMCO’s web development endeavors. With a sharp intellect, unwavering efficiency, and a keen eye for goals, she is the go-to expert for crafting everything from sleek landing pages to nationally acclaimed e-commerce sites. Anna Kat not only serves as your trusted web developer guide but also, if you look closely, you’ll notice she’s always impeccably color-coordinated with NMCO’s brand – a true testament to her attention to detail and commitment to the company’s image.

Zac Wittstruck


If you’re needing quality animation, Zac is your guy! Motion graphics, custom character rigging, and 2D animation are some of Zac’s specialties. Zac always wears a smile and is truly one of the nicest people you’ll meet. When Zac isn’t whipping out great animations, he plays bass guitar for a local jazz band! What a cool cat!

NMCO Studio member, Arron

Aaron Walterscheid

Video Specialist & Cinematographer

Meet Aaron, NMCO’s “Silent Assassin.” Despite his quiet demeanor, Aaron is an absolute powerhouse when it comes to videography, editing, color grading, drone operation, lighting, and crafting unforgettable cinematic experiences. His remarkable talent and expertise shine brightly, leaving an indelible mark on every project he touches.

NMCO Studio member, Sam

Sam Palm

Video Specialist & Photographer

Meet Sam, our resident photographer extraordinaire, who effortlessly transitions into the roles of Director of Photography, editor, color specialist, and an all-around Jack-of-all-trades. With an innate talent for capturing picture-perfect moments, Sam’s versatility knows no bounds. Beyond the camera, you’ll find him cruising the Southwest, embracing life to the fullest. Oh, and did we mention he boasts a head of truly great hair? 

NMCO Studio member, Ralph

Ralph Diaz

Senior Video Specialist

Don’t confuse Ralph with Academy Award-winning actor Johnny Depp. Although there’s a close resemblance, Ralph is much more talented behind the camera. He’s done it all from VFX to animation, to producing, directing, and editing some of our most memorable productions. It also should come as no surprise that he’s mastered the technical and practical aspects of videography, giving him the nickname, “The Doctor.”

NMCO Studio member, Dana

Dana Apodaca

Senior Graphic Designer & Art Director

Dana’s journey with NMCO has been nothing short of impressive, starting as a design intern and progressing to become a designer who now plays a pivotal role in assisting with art direction. Her dedication keeps our graphics department on track and ensures our processes are efficient and business-ready. Dana’s knack for creating identity systems has resulted in some of our most recognized work. And, if you’re fortunate enough to listen in, she’s consistently voted the best playlist in the studio.

NMCO Studio member

Dawn Franco

Studio Manager

With a background in journalism, file archival and organization, Dawn is our client onboarding extraordinaire. From contract preparation, to project management, account direction, and reporting, Dawn stirs the pot for most productions, making sure it’s served hot and on time.

NMCO Studio Co founder, Lucky

Lucky Gonzalez

Founder & Chief Executive Officer

When you have a wealth of creative content, you need someone like Lucky with 18 years of business experience to guide you on where to put it. He’s our media placement guru, with the expertise and know-how to maximize your impact. Whether it’s digital banner ads or broadcast TV, Lucky can take any budget and transform it into impressions and conversions. He’s dedicated to finding solutions for your unique challenges, making him an invaluable asset to our team.

NMCO Studio member, Tina

Christina Ballew

Founder & Chief Creative Officer

Tina, as a co-founder of NMCO, has been on a relentless mission to redefine creative services in the southwest. Building a creative studio from the ground up was a formidable challenge, but her vision and determination have transformed NMCO into a beacon of professionalism and innovation, known for its people-centric approach and out-of-the-box thinking. While she’s taken on nearly every role in the studio, Tina’s next ambition is nothing short of global. She’s poised to take on the world with her creative endeavors.