Shawn enjoys long walks on the beach and... Oh, wrong profile.
When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
Like many designers, I started out very early drawing. I would draw anything around me including my favorite cartoon characters like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and album art. I was great at copying by sight alone. To this day, my mother still tells the story of when she used to accuse me of tracing at a young age. She stopped the accusations the day she tried matching my drawing up to the picture of Bart Simpson I was drawing and noticed that although they were strikingly similar, the lines did not match up.
My major in college (at Savannah College of Art and Design) was to be Painting. Although I really enjoyed the creative freedom, I realized very quickly that there wasn’t much money to be made in this field. I believe it was while developing brochures and a web site for my art work that I became intrigued in the graphic arts and its usefulness.
Who or what inspires you?
Television shows and commercials do inspire me. Seeing a creative commercial campaign makes me want to achieve more in my own creative in order to achieve my goal of one day directing large scale campaigns that would include television broadcast.
Being a native Floridian (and you thought we were all extinct) I’ve spent a lot of time at the theme parks since I was very young. I’ve always found much inspiration at Disney and Universal from the visual creative to the attention to detail in creating a fully immersive experience. Getting to work with those brands in the last few years has been quite fun.
Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
I started working during my junior year in high school as a map maker (yes, I drew maps). This job soon turned into a designer position. After moving from school to school for a few years, I found one that I enjoyed taught by professionals who, during the day, worked in their field. Many of them didn’t have the pretty masters’ degrees, but they knew what they were talking about having dealt with the issues in the real world. I received degrees in Commercial Art, Advertising and later decided to round it all up with another in Marketing Management.
During school, I always maintained a full time design position. So, the information I was learning at night usually applied during the day and vice versa. By this, I was getting both the real world experience and the book smarts all at the same time. However, I always say that nothing can train you better for the real world than real world experience.
How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
I prefer cling wrap for the ultimate in freshness. Seriously though, I try to keep up by surfing the web and checking out the design annuals. I always stay up to date on what the big guys are doing and read up on Ad Age. I try not to get too involved, however, because I find that when designers obsess too much about what others are doing it can be detrimental to their own style.
What are some of your current projects?
Much of the work I do is in affiliate marketing for major theme parks such as Disney, Universal and SeaWorld. Last week I wrapped a web development project for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal. Today I began concepts for a new cruise booking web site to be launched early next year.
Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
I always like doing the theme park work, especially for Universal. I enjoy the park, the people and the entire experience. Not to mention, it’s great for the portfolio. One of my favorite projects has to be a vacation package developed for Universal. It was my first big project for them that turned out great. Another project that I am proud of is a billboard campaign done for Houlihan’s Restaurants. I developed a concept for a 10-board campaign themed with a different ‘therapy’ on each board relating to the restaurant. ‘Hydro Therapy’ showed a few cocktails while ‘Aroma Therapy’ was shown with a aromatic entrée. They were all over the city for a year or two. Whenever I show my portfolio locally, many people say, “Oh, that was you?”
Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
I would love to get into video production and post-production. I had a chance last year to co-direct a few commercials for a client in conjunction with Universal. While I enjoyed the experience, I always felt the urge to jump into the editor’s chair and do the work myself. While I was there, the editor’s next door were working on promotions for the (then yet to be open) Mummy ride at Universal. As you may have figured, I very much enjoy working for the theme parks. I was like a big, hungry kid in a candy store.
Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?
My advice to young designers and artists is to learn how to take criticism for what it is. Although some clients and employers can be quite harsh at times, they (usually) mean only to nudge you in the correct path. Don’t take it personally. Take a step back, analyze what it is they are looking to accomplish and try to establish an educated solution that you both can be proud of. Don’t get too attached to your point of view.
What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?
In my experience success is usually established by numbers. No matter how proud I may be of a certain piece or how hard I worked to achieve a certain look, sometimes it just doesn’t work in the marketplace. I use separate phone numbers or market source codes (for web sites) to generate reports on the successfulness of a particular project. Seeing those numbers can be quite an eye opener. However, this does give my team the ability to test multiple campaigns and change up certain elements to find out what works and what doesn’t. It’s quite an education in versatility.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
I love to just go take a drive when I feel I’m getting burnt out. Just stepping away from the confines of the office can do wonders. Sometimes, I will come home for lunch to spend time with my dog and watch the tube for a few minutes. I also find people-watching to be wonderful relaxation. My fiancé and I can be found on most weekends people-watching at the theme parks.
And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
Definitely Lost. If you asked me this question a few months ago, I would have said Carnivale. But as we know, this wonderful show has been yanked away from my wanting hands. I’m going to go cry now. Both shows I enjoy for the wonderful production, visuals, well-developed characters and a plot that keeps you on your toes.