Original Interview: January 2016

Sean Kane

Adelaide winner of 16 for 2016 Sean Kane (voted in by SouthSouthWest) has some stella work, and even better advice. Stop going to the internet for inspiration, get that contract sorted, and pick passion projects over free pitching. A solid read and some great book suggestions. Thanks Sean!

Any passion projects you would like to share?
Currently, I am in the final stages of a typeface that I began working on last year. Sk-Modernist (typeface) is an ultra simplistic sans serif designed to be a work horse font for all my personal branding. The idea of creating an amalgamation of a modern Grotesk, like Helvetica, with a simpler geometric style, like Avant Garde has been bugging me for a while. Designing and creating a working type family has been a huge learning curve and I now really appreciate how much work goes into getting a typeface to look perfect, especially the more simpler ones.

What role does digital design play in 2015, and how to you apply traditional graphic design skills in a digital age?
Digital design is something that can’t be overlooked in 2015. I would say every project I work on has a digital element required. The scope of that varies from simply having to consider the logo or mark will be viewed as a tiny social media profile picture, to working closely with developers on entire custom built websites.

The main skill that I transfer across to digital is a respect for the canvas you are using. With print, I always try and respect the tactile nature of the paper and the print process itself, preferring to rely on these areas to add interest rather than superfluous visual adornments. Simply repurposing a print design for digital use is always going to be a compromise. Digital designs lack texture and do not offer the ability to control how every visitor will view or interact with the design. But what you gain are brighter colours, moving images, more interaction and a non linear page flow, so these should be considered and used to the designers advantage. I try to avoid desaturated colours or imitating textures on the web, as in my opinion, they do not respect the digital canvas.

The other major part of designing for our current digital age, is the idea of responsive design. Instead of specifying exactly where static elements sit on a page, or the exact size and stroke weight of a logo, we are instead attempting to design space – to create the relationships between elements and shapes with parameters rather than finely tuned adjustments.

Sean Kane The Design Kids
Sean Kane The Design Kids

What are your three must-read design books/blogs/podcasts and why?
1. Grid Systems in Graphic Design by Josef Müller-Brockmann. Easily the benchmark when it comes to learning how to use grids and type effectively. An absolute classic, which still offers advice that can be translated into any area of layout design. I am a big believer in learning the rules, before you can break them and this is the definitive set of rules.
2. Visual Design in Action by Ladislav Sutnar. This was recently bought back to life by a Kickstarter campaign and is worth owning just to experience the attention to detail that Lars Müller Publishers have put into ensuring the print stays true to the original. Ladislav Sutnar was an extremely underrated designer and great at explaining the theoretical reasoning behind graphic design.
3. Logo, Font & Lettering Bible by Leslie Cabarga. Although some of the content is a little dated, the information in this book is priceless for anybody looking to get into typeface design or custom lettering. Explains in a very easy to read format all the basics of building letters and most importantly the certain optical adjustments you must employ. To me, it is a little like the magician explaining how his tricks work to the audience.

What is the design landscape like on your city and where do you fit in?
The level of quality designers and small studios in Adelaide is amazing when you consider how small our population is compared the eastern states. Our graphic work has always been respectable, but recently the line between traditional interior, architectural and graphic design fields are starting to blur with excellent results. The food and wine industry is where the most obvious examples are, with studios like Mash, Studio Band and Frame killing it. At the moment, I have been a bit on the outer with the local scene as my freelance work usually attracts interstate or international clients. I welcome opportunities to be more involved in local projects and events in the future.

Sean Kane The Design Kids
Sean Kane The Design Kids

What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way?
1. Don’t work for ‘exposure’ or for a ‘pitch’. This will never command any respect for our industry. That time is better spent on your own passion projects.
2. Less is more. You will not look back on the simpler work in two years and hate it, unlike those designs that follow trends.
3. Rushing to the web to search for inspiration is the worst thing you can do. Find the design solution from within. If you bombard yourself with ideas that already have been executed, how will your idea ever be original?
4. It is easier to make a living as a freelance designer or illustrator if you have a niche.
5. Make sure you have an airtight contract, the overall amount of a project seems like good value, but when a 3-day job turns into ongoing changes for the next two weeks, you’re going to wish you had a clause in your contract that ensures your time is covered!

Whats on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months?
Within the next 12 months I would really like to step up and work on some projects with much bigger scope. An interest of mine is craft beer and spirits, so I would love to be able to tick creating a distilling or brewery identity off my bucket list. Having never worked full time in a studio, I think the lessons I could earn from this experience would also benefit me greatly.

Website: seankanedesign.com
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Sean Kane The Design Kids
Sean Kane The Design Kids