Interview Series 2012 – Designer, Thinker and American Dreamer Sean A. Metcalf

by Sean | June 12, 2012

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Recently we had the pleasure of chatting with designer, thinker and American Dreamer Sean A. Metcalf. Sean creates inspired designs and original strategies that solve real problems. A master of typography and the visual arts, Sean has become a leader of his domain and brings new meaning to the term ‘creative designer’. Aside from pumping out slick designs and cool typography – Sean strives to become a better designer through brand new thinking. Below is the full interview that we conducted with Sean, enjoy!

Twitter: @seanmetcalfing

What is the most important aspect of typography?

It depends. In terms of design, readability is the most important aspect. It’s not good typography unless you can read the message and connect the dots. But that’s design, anything goes in the art world.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of creating your own custom typeface design?

I’m a huge fan of creating custom typography. Creating your own typography really allows you to fulfill your creative vision and how you want the words to speak. Type design can dictate whether your words yell, whisper, or sing you to sleep. By creating your typography, the words will be read through your voice.. not someone else’s.

While you are in the process of creating your designs, what are 3 rules do you always follow to maximize results?

My creative process varies on the project so I don’t really have set rules. But if there is one thing that is always consistent and contributes most to great design, it is the research and sketch phase. You can’t think outside the box if your thinking within the computer. Find any little thing that can be connected to the problem and do all your thinking before you reach the computer. The computer is just a means to an end.

When working on a print project that doesn’t involve custom typography, how do you decide what font is best?

I usually print out several variations of the type, compare, and match them to find out which one works best. It’s fun!

Some people struggle to work with typography – what advice would you give them on layout, readability, emphasis and alignment?

With layout I would suggest sketching many different options with careful consideration to hierarchy and organization of content. Try designing on grid paper or paper with a set columnized grid. The grid will clear up any alignment issues right off the bat. Emphasis or hierarchy is determined by pt. size and character weight. Type reads the best when you pay attention to the tracking so each letter is kerned perfectly. Leading and pt size is also important, especially in body copy. Hope this helps!

I really enjoy your ‘Discover Design’ piece and how it incorporates braille into the design – what was the most difficult part of this project and is there anything you learned from this? 

Thanks! Discover Design was a class exercise and the brief was to create a typographic layout from any writings by Paul Rand. Our professor had showed previous examples that were pretty straightforward, black and white type layouts on 8.5″x11″ paper. I didn’t like them. During this time, I was reading a book Change By Design by Tim Brown and he was really encouraging designers to fully understand the problem and using the problem to inspire the solution (vs. other designers work). This whole experience taught me to never create anything that is to be expected and always draw inspiration from the problem. A few days later I was embossing several hundred braille dots into a printed poster.

What are some good rules to follow when working with typography?

There are too many things to list that you really just start to pick up on as you go. Nothing beats learning by experience so never stop creating!

What key skills (technical or personal) do you believe an artist needs to succeed as graphic designer specializing in typography?

Desire and curiosity. The more you do it, the better you get! Pay attention to typography around you. It’s everywhere. Critique it- if its bad, why? If it’s incredible, why? The only two ingredients that will make you a successful creative are curiosity and desire. The better you get at those, the better your work will be.

In looking back at your portfolio, what piece is the most memorable? What did you have the most fun with?

Young&United campaign is the most memorable and most fun. I’m still growing Y&U and a new website, Behance, and Kickstarter will be released soon. The project has evolved into a collaboration with some amazing designers across various disciplines. You can follow the project at and . Stay tuned!

Do you have any final advice for our readers?

Create your own inspiration and never stop creating! I can’t wait to see your future work.

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