Interview Type Designer Sean McCabe

Today we expand our interview series out further to share the work, thoughts and style of Sean McCabe. Sean is a hand lettering artist and type designer who will inspire you with all of his work.

Who is Sean McCabe? What were your first creative influences growing up?

I am Sean McCabe, a hand lettering artist and type designer (also known as seanwes). I am co-founder of San Antonio based design firm, Bold Perspective. Growing up, I was always creating. From a young age, my parents fostered creativity and never discouraged any of our aspirations. Being homeschooled was a significant part of my education. A love of learning was instilled in us. I devoured every book in our house and beyond. Learning to learn was the most valuable skill I developed by far.

When did you first decide a career in the creative industries was for you? What path through education did you take to your job today?

There are two categories of things that I love: Logic & Creativity. I have found that the areas in which I am most passionate are where those two concepts overlap. This accounts for my primary passions: Typography, Design and Music. In music, we have rhythm, repetition, movement, underlying chord structures and chord progressions that are all vital to composing a comprehensible song. You can stray from these a little bit in some areas, but if you venture too far, you end up with a mess instead of a melody.

Letters share many similarly welcome constraints. While you can be creative in expressing letters, you can only go so far before they cease to become recognizable. As a designer, I always make it a goal for my lettering to first and foremost be legible. Some might argue that expression is more important than legibility. Personally, I think “what’s the use if someone can’t even read what you made?” In that regard, I tend to categorize my lettering more as design than art, though there’s certainly a little of both.

With all of that said, my first business did not fall into any of the above categories. I started a computer repair business while I was working on a Computer Science degree. I was also freelancing web design at this time. What I began to realize, was that in all my areas of interest, experience was equal to education. Furthermore, being very entrepreneurially minded, it became clear that I only intended to work for myself from here on out. I stopped pursuing the degree.

It’s important to note that my education did not cease. Rather, it continued all the more concentrated, for now I was focusing my self-driven education on specific areas of interest as opposed to more general education that wasn’t necessarily directly applicable. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: If you go to school and don’t learn to learn, then you’ve learned nothing.

What made you want to setup Bold Perspective?

As time went on, my computer repair business was doing very well. But my freelance web design was doing even better. I was really enjoying it. In fact, it was doing so well there was more work than I could handle. I called my friend, Brian who was working at a local firm. A skilled developer, I knew he was worth much more than what he was currently being paid. I knew starting a design firm wasn’t all smooth sailing, but I hoped he would be willing to take the leap with me. He was. A few months after that first meeting over coffee, and we were officially full time.

Fast forward a couple years. Our long term goal has always been to focus on developing our own products. We’re now phasing out of client work to dedicate all of our efforts toward pursuing this goal. We’ve learned a tremendous amount on this journey, and it continues to get better.

Where does your typographic ventures fit into the story?

While seanwes started out as just a handle (a mash up of my first and middle names), it has now developed into a full-fledged brand. Much of my work is self-initiated. My mantra is to do good work and continue to do good work. Essentially, create and don’t stop creating. That is what I try to do. In addition to personal projects and commissioned pieces, I also sell various products featuring my lettering work, such as shirts and prints, on my store.

While I take on commission work, it’s primarily to fuel the production of new products. It’s slowly becoming more and more self sustaining. I enjoy creating things that I love and seeing other people enjoy them just as much as I do.

As a kid I thought I was pretty strange. I always found myself drawing letter forms throughout middle school and high school. My homework was littered with typographic illustrations. The artistic friends I had all seemed to draw cartoons, or paint still life, but for some odd reason I was drawn to letters. I just really enjoyed hand lettering.

In general, most people see words and read sentences to derive meaning. I saw letters as beautiful as shapes and curves with forms full of beauty. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered that I had a love for what was known as “typography”. What a feeling of relief and excitement all at once! I discovered that not only was I not some strange person with a deranged affection, but that there were also thousands of others who shared the same love for type. The internet has a unique ability for making one feel less weird.

What projects have been the most enjoyable to complete?

For the most part, my favorite projects are the ones where I have the most creative freedom. Primarily these are my self-initiated projects, but I do get commission requests where the client entrusts me with full creative liberty. I must say, those works almost always receive a healthy dose of extra love and attention beyond what I charged them for. Not coincidentally, they are often the pieces that tend to receive the most positive response, both from the client and my general audience.

Where do you find your inspiration online?

While I partake in the usual forms social media consumption, I would say that more and more, my influences come from non-typographic sources. Music, art, various writings and books are all references for my work. In the past year, I’ve really opened up my music tastes through the social connections with my friends using the music service, Rdio. Something about stimulating my brain with music I normally don’t listen to somehow triggers a creative explosion in my mind. Once you push past the initial “weirdness” of an unfamiliar style, and start bobbing your head a little bit, it’s really interesting to experience the new effect it has on your creative thinking.

In a general sense, I’ve also made an attempt to be more open minded in what I consume and absorb. Whereas before, I might have unfollowed or ignored someone because of a particular stance they have, I now challenge myself to think objectively about what they are presenting or where they are coming from—even if I don’t agree.

In terms of literal inspiration for typography, I more often draw it from real life examples such as signage, painted lettering, advertisements, and movies. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t nearly gotten in a wreck dozens of times because I was looking at type on a billboard.

What/who have been your biggest creative influences in recent years?

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say this, but without a doubt, Kyle Steed. He reached out to me, and we met at a coffee shop in 2010. He’s pretty much the most down-to-earth guy you’ll meet, and super humble. His passion for doing what he loved was very contagious, and he encouraged me greatly. I’m very privileged to call him friend.

Do you have any favourite people you enjoy to follow on twitter?

I have really, thoroughly been enjoying the challenging and thoughtful writing of Scott Berkun (@berkun).

Outside of design, what do you enjoy to relax and unwind?

Here’s the thing about doing what you love for a living: when you’re done with work, your play looks exactly the same to everyone else. Essentially, I really do draw letters all day, even in my free time. Probably 6–8 hours a day on average. You’ll typically find me at my drawing table nights and weekends too. What can I say?

While I haven’t recorded as much recently, I do also have a fair amount of piano videos.

Follow Sean McCabe on his Website, Facebook, Dribble & @seanwes on twitter.