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Meet the Speaker: Sean Flanagan

Written by
AIGA Baltimore
October 11, 2016

Sean Flanagan has over 10 years experience creating effective, award-winning work for clients big and small; and has created entire advertising and branding campaigns executed from print to interactive, from broadcast to outdoor.

Sean started at Penn State University, earning a degree in Advertising, and going on to pursue a Master’s degree in Graphic Design at the Pratt Institute. From there he has worked at a variety of Baltimore-based agencies including Frank Strategic Marketing and Siquis before moving to Under Armour, where he is currently a Group Creative Director, leading their Team Sports Category and Content division.

Where do you draw inspiration from?
Film, TV, Photography. My obsession right now is lighting and how to shape and control light. So I look at a lot of films and the DPs of those films and try to reverse engineer the lighting setup they used. Cinematic lighting in movies can do so much with the range of emotions we feel from the picture.

What advice would you give to your 20-something self?
Don’t be a jerk!

Look, it’s ok to be passionate, it’s ok to have confidence, and it’s really ok to defend the work. But perhaps try to have a little bit more emotional intelligence and empathy for the people you’re in the trenches with and especially the client. Really just try to have a wholistic point of view of everyone’s motivations with regards to the project.

What does the graphic designer role look like in 20 years?
I’m not sure in 20 years there will be a job called “graphic design”, let alone five or ten years. It’s too limiting and narrowly focused. So much of what we do these days is experiential and driven by engagement. I’d say in 20 years we will all be called engagement designers, or engagement directors.

When did you first realize you wanted a career in design?
I did it all wrong! I don’t think I was aware of design as a career until late in high school. So by that point it was too late. I had no high school work to use to even attempt to apply to decent college programs. Until then I was just a kid that could draw pretty well. Then in college, the closest thing I did to graphic design was editorial cartoons for the Penn State Collegian. After I made the move to studying advertising as a focus, my talents skewed more towards the visual side than the copywriting, so then I was stuck trying to reverse engineer this whole thing to get the knowledge I needed, which included getting a Masters degree at Pratt for graphic design, and many more student loans.

What’s the harshest criticism you’ve ever gotten about your work and how did you handle it?
When I was at Pratt, there was a year-end design show where you got a section of a large room and you displayed a year’s worth of work. At some point, a team of professors would walk around critiquing each student’s body of work. When it was my turn, a very vocal professor proclaimed that my work was just too “advertising-y.” He meant this in a negative way, and for a minute it stung, because at that time, I had my mind set on being as pure a graphic designer as I could be. But eventually in my head I was like, “you know, you’re right,” and that’s when everything kind of clicked.

Is there any designer or piece of design that you’re digging right now?
Zombie Yeti of course!

Baltimore’s 5th Annual Design Week is back! Register now for Raising the Game: Creativity Through Collaboration at Under Armour.

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