Felt & Wire’s 3 questions for Sean Adams

[Tom Biederbeck] Wherever he goes, Sean Adams is at the center of activity — creative, educational, social, professional. Far from appearing rushed or distracted, Adams is both a part of and above the whirlwind. He makes getting a ridiculous amount of things done look easy, whether in his work at AdamsMorioka — the design firm in which he partners with Noreen Morioka — or in his efforts for the AIGA (he’s immediate past president).

Q1 Some designers enter the profession because they love to draw, or love type, or are obsessed with print. What led you to become a designer? The truth now, Sean: Was it Disney?

It would be a great story if it were Disney. It would fit the myth of happy all-American so well. But no, it was almost by accident. In high school our art teacher asked if I could work on a poster for the school musical. This led to all the posters for every concert, play or event, which led to all homecoming and school banners. By the end of my senior year, I had two independent studies of art where I designed everything from the school stationery to the city seal. This allowed me to leave classes under the pretense that I “had a deadline.” I dutifully applied to Harvard, but I also applied to Art Center and CalArts. Believe me, there are many days when I wonder if I should have gone to Harvard. I have a vision I’d be wearing tweedy jackets and teaching American history at a small prep school.

Q2 Your work at AdamsMorioka is known for its range — from identity, to environmental graphics, to motion design. What kind of creative work have you not done yet that you’d like to?

Wallpaper … and not the digital kind. I know it sounds nutty, but I’d love to make wallpaper. I need some nautical-themed paper for one of my bathrooms, and it’s all so ugly. I started on this path, but then I was interrupted by the recession. Damn that making money and working hard thing. When things start to look better, I’ll be back at it, and soon everyone will be able to paper their bathrooms with clipper ships, or their kitchens with cute vegetable platters.

Q3 You are a very busy guy with your commitment to AIGA, teaching at Art Center, judging competitions, writing books, blogging brilliantly at Burning Settlers Cabin … I get tired just trying to list it all. And this is on top of your “regular” work at AdamsMorioka! Yet you always have something memorably witty to say, a smile on your face and a smart crease in your trousers. How is that?

Tom, in the first place, I only have a smile on my face when I spend time with you, because you are such good company. Otherwise I’m yelling or crying. There’s an old adage, “If you need something done, give it to a busy person.” I’ve found this to be true. I have an inherent fear that I’m very lazy at the core, so I try to stay productive. I’m fortunate I have Noreen, who handles so much at AdamsMorioka, and Terry Lee Stone and the entire staff. They make it possible for me to spend time working on AIGA or writing or teaching.

The secret I’ve learned is to never procrastinate. I know this sounds like a sermon, but it’s worked beautifully for me. Of course you don’t see me every night when I put on my pajamas, and we eat dinner on our TV trays while watching I Love Lucy, just like Ronnie and Nancy.

The editor advises: Hie thee hither to ye Burning Settlers Cabin to enjoy Sean Adams’ observations on design, travel, history, Modernism and imaginary nautical tattoos. Below, left to right: Noreen Morioka, Sean Adams (with custom-drawn deco), Marian Bantjes.

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Comments (2)

  1. Posted by Pam Williams on 04.21.10 at 9:27 am

    Finally, someone interviewing Sean versus the reverse! But awwwww, come on, Tom, these weren’t tough questions. Give him something challenging like “what client do you wish you never worked with?” Still, loved this. Never knew about Sean’s desire to do wallpaper. He’s always funny, good natured and inspiring. Thank you.

  2. Posted by Amy Graver on 05.1.10 at 6:26 am

    Can we have a Part 2? Sean is so funny and talented, he needs at least three more questions.

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