All designers are presented with the same predicament at some point in their career. The work that pays the bills is work that they’re not excited about. It’s not fulfilling, it doesn’t express who they are as artists, and they’re not happy with the results. Recently, we interviewed Samuel E Vázquez on the Obsessed With Design podcast to find out more about his process. It turns out that his artistic journey has been a fascinating ride with one common through-line, passion.
Today, Samuel E Vázquez wears many hats. He is an artist, a designer, and an educator, to name a few. In the early days, however, he was known by a different name - “Brame,” his graffiti tag. Today, his art has evolved past the street and into some of the most recognizable spots in the Midwest. His work has lived in the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and the NCAA Hall of Champions.
Throughout his career, Sam’s work has always had a very distinct identity, and he credits this to his passion for street art. Here is some of Sam’s advice for designers looking to do work that they are passionate about.
First and foremost, it’s important to know and understand who you are as a person and as an artist early in your career. While your design skills may still be in their infancy and you still have a lot to learn, you can always provide unique value in the form of your perspective.
“Be who you are. Just be,” Sam said. “We’re all unique and we all have a different perspective.
Many young professionals, including designers and artists, struggle to insert their perspective into their work. It’s easy to let your perspective and voice get overshadowed by a desire to present work that resembles other work that you admire. While this can be an effective method to deliver a quality design, it’s important to incorporate your own touch in everything you create.
“Speak the truth from who you are,” Sam advised. This is the foundation of creating design work that feeds your passions.
In addition to self-awareness, it’s important to define an aesthetic that inspires you. Early in your design career, your best work will likely mirror the design work of great artists and designers that you look up to. That’s okay. Imitation isn’t just the best form of flattery, it’s also the best way for you to discover your own, unique aesthetic.
For Sam, this was street art. From a very young age, he found himself drawn to tags on trains, buildings, and billboards. This represented much more than an aesthetic choice, though. To Sam, street art was as much a mode of communication as it was an art form.
“It pulled me as far as the energy, the color, the movement. It was so vibrant,” he told us.
As you look for design and art projects that you will be passionate about, try to find an aesthetic that really calls to you. This will help inform the lens through which you see these projects.
Finally, if you’re really interested in designing with passion, you need to put your money where your mouth is. It’s important to put passion before the paycheck. For Sam, this meant doing several projects for free or extremely cheap. These passion projects would later lead to commercial success, but that’s because he made a name for himself.
“I don’t paint to sell a painting,” he said.
You can listen to the full episode and subscribe to the podcast here.