Sean Kane: Fun Designs from Bikes to Teapots


A designer recently told me, "I don't try to keep up with trends, I just create designs that I have an emotional response to."

That's exactly what happened to me when I saw Sean Kane's bicycle surface design pattern. I had an emotional response. A smile spread across my face and then I thought: "Bicycles never get their due attention on stationery products." I knew that all the bicycle lovers in my life would be eager to see this type of design in stores.

When I accidentally ran across his bike design, I then went directly to his website. Not only did he have more bike images, but he even had a decorated helmet. I realized then, how powerful one image can be, and if artists just choose one piece of their art that gives people an emotional response, they can post it anywhere, and people will be drawn go to their website to look for more.

Seeing Sean's art also made me want to learn more about him as an artist, and he was kind enough to let me ask him some questions. The images represented here are from his Reverie Line. His other lines can be found on his website.


Podcast: TED Talks
Blog: For the art of marketing & business, Seth Godin's blog.
Twitterer: DesignObserver
Design book: Currently "Light of India: A Conflagration of Indian Matchbox Art"
Artist: Tony Fitzpatrick
Company you wish you could work with: SWATCH
Fantasy Art Vacation Location: Istanbul

-How did you get to where you are today?
I've been an illustrator for 16 years, handling a range of commissioned projects for clients while exploring various creative and entrepreneurial urges along the way. Over the past few years my sketchbooks, personal work, and interests were telling a different visual story than my commercial work, so I began to embrace the more decorative direction that was bubbling up. Now, my focus is on creating personally-driven designs with product licensing uses in mind. It's a blast and the latest body of work has been well received, which is gratifying.

-In your art life, what inspires you?
Traveling and experiencing new cultures, even ones close to home (plus looking at books about worlds new to me) is a big inspiration. From seeing unknown landscapes and grocery items to street signage and traditional clothing, there is child-like excitement with these discoveries. Any time I go for a good walk I usually pick up or see something that captures my attention.

-What is a major message you want to communicate with your designs?
If my designs convey an overall positive, playful feeling, are "embraceable" and perhaps a little unexpected, I'm quite pleased.

-What was the best experience you've had marketing your designs?
Not counting successes I've had with commercial illustration, licensing my designs for a line of winter holiday gift tins and ornament for a Canadian chocolate company has been the best experience. I did my research, made an unsolicited pitch to the company, and they ended up choosing not one but two of my designs. It was great knowing that my work was part of holiday gift giving for thousands of people and a treat having tasty samples to send to those on my own gift list. The dozens of tins of chocolate in my studio smelled so good, but were a bit distracting!

-What was the worst experience you've had marketing your designs?
Probably seeking a licensing agent before being ready for one would rank as the worst, least productive experience. I'm sure there'll be other not so good moves down the road, but trying and failing can be a good way to learn!

-What's a tip you can offer other artists on how to avoid wasting time or money when marketing their designs?
I might suggest, when presenting designs to prospective manufacturers and designers, to include mock ups of how the designs could look on that company's products. Without such a visualization, the company may not see the full potential of the designs for their products, so make it easy for the busy designers and the non-creative decision makers involved in the selection process. This should help make the most of the time and money invested when marketing designs.

-If money were no object, what is the next step you'd take to live your artistic dreams?
A three month live/work period in another culture; a time and place where I could get a good grasp of the everyday art & design taking place there, where I could meet local artists/designers and connect on a project, and where I could work like mad with a whole host of new influences, all of which resulting in a body of work fit for publishing and exhibiting.

WEBSITE www.seankane.com
SEAN'S STUDIO photos of his workspace
QUESTIONS about illustration or licensing? You can email Sean at sean@seankane.com

MORE ART by Sean:

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