For this next AIGA Vermont Member Spotlight, we are happy to introduce longtime member and upstate New York native Seth Drury—co-owner of Burlington design firm Methodikal, where he and his business partner Mike Hannigan “think strategically, work collaboratively, and eat donuts enthusiastically.” When he’s not eating donuts (or perhaps multi-tasking), Seth is creating engaging design work with local clients such as the Ski Vermont, St. Clair Scents, and Middlebury College. Read on to see what makes Seth tick.
What do you do for a living?
I co-own a small creative shop named Methodikal, Inc. We have a fantastic and diverse array of clients we collaborate with. I love the fact that we work with so many different clients in such varied fields. It’s fun to learn about new things during the design process—it keeps it feeling new for me.
How long have you been in the field?
I’ve been designing things for as long as I can remember. It started with a band t-shirt for my grade-school band “Rock-to-Rock Combat” (it should be noted that this was a 2-person band and one of us didn’t know how to play an instrument, he later entered the field of graphic design) and then all through high-school creating flyers for friends, fake ads for art classes, and mixed-tape/CD cover art. I’ve been working “professionally” for over 22 years now, 13 of those as Methodikal.
Why did you get involved with AIGA? Why should someone become a member?
I got involved with AIGA in college and quickly realized that it’s a great way to stay connected and meet people. I’m lucky enough to be married to a designer but it’s always good to have more people to talk to about design. I like having people I can turn to to bounce ideas and designs off and love when they do the same with me.
I love seeing what other people are creating, so it’s a good way to find folks you might not cross paths with otherwise. I’m not always the best about attending all the events but I love that the option exists for Vermont’s designers locally. When I do drag my ass out to an event I always walk away energized and I enjoy being able to catch up with people I haven’t seen in a while. It’s a really great, supportive community.
What advice would you give your past self?
Trust your gut. I am never disappointed when I trust my gut. I wish I had realized that long ago. I wasted a lot of time worrying about what I thought people wanted, or this, that or the other thing. I don’t mean ignoring others opinions or insights but rather listening to feedback and input but then trusting yourself to follow the right path, listen to the right part. Working in this way, no matter what, I’m proud of the end result. There is nothing worse than finishing a project after going against my instincts and realizing I’ve made a huge mistake and am not excited with the results.
Describe your creative process. What are the major steps?
It’s a bumpy road. I always go in super excited to have a new project to work on. All projects start with discovery/research and conversations with the client about the specifics and goals. It’s very important for me to have a clear sense of what we are trying to accomplish, what problem are we solving. I am not good at designing for the sake of designing. I need a problem to solve and a concept to act on.
Very quickly I enter the “I suck” phase which typically consists of me sketching the same thing over and over followed by a list of other professions I could try out since I’m obviously no longer good at this. Then I put the project aside and that makes me feel better. I like to let an idea sit and percolate for a while, jotting down little thoughts, ideas and sketches when they pop in there. Nothing formal, just lots of little ideas or notes. But not REALLY thinking about it. You need to sneak up on most good ideas or they will escape.
Once I feel like I have a few ideas worth spending time with I’ll sit down to sketch more formally and flush the ideas out more to see if they make any sense outside of my head. Pencil and paper provides a certain level of freedom, it doesn’t feel as precious as it does once I’m on the computer. I like to stay in the sketch phase for a while, trying different things really quickly. Sketching also offers me a chance to get out from behind my computer – I like that I can do this anywhere.
From there it’s a matter of picking my favorites, which as any parent knows is never easy but must be done (in case my family reads this, that was a joke). I have a very hard time narrowing down and will inevitably end up presenting too many, but I’m getting better. I like to ask for opinions from some trusted friends and family at this point to be sure I’m not making a huge mistake like “hey, that one is kinda swastika-like”. People are very quick to point out when you have inadvertently created a swastika in the logo.
Depending on the project and the client, I might present in the tight sketch form or, if it makes sense, I will take the ideas onto the computer to present a more finished looking piece. I still think of them as digital sketches, not even close to being done.
A little back and forth. A little give and take. Some refinement here and there then it’s ready to hit the streets.
What gets you through a rough day?
Different things depending on the day. A healthy dose of running, TV, music and family. One of the biggest things I’ve learned though is to always have a personal project of some sort going. Nothing makes me feel better, if things aren’t going great, than to drop everything else and turn my attention to something I’m creating just for me. No client to please, no other voices, no deadline, just bringing an idea to life for me. It makes me feel good all over.
Where can we find your work?
Here and there. The Methodikal website (methodikal.net) obviously has a nice showcase of projects that I’m proud of.
Any projects you want to highlight?
We’ve been lucky enough to work with a few performance venues which has afforded us the opportunity to play in the poster world a good bit. I really love poster art. It’s probably my favorite thing to create. Creating CD art was my dream job in school but iTunes killed that dream, so posters have replaced CDs for me. I love to make them as simple as possible – how do you get the idea across in a quick and entertaining way while maybe, just maybe, enticing someone to want to hang it on their own wall. That’s really fun.
I created a fun poster for a recent Lebanon Opera House concert. I wasn’t familiar with the band, but once I started listening and researching I had what I thought was a fun and simple idea – deconstruct the three instruments the folk trio played and create some sort of visual representation of both the music and the instruments. I was really pleased with the results. The bass, guitar and violin elements worked really nicely together and felt very lyrical. Since it was single color I was also able to screen print it myself in my garage loft studio (my wife is the real screen printer so she’s nice enough to let me use her equipment from time to time). It was great to be able to create the piece form start to finish, very satisfying.
View other AIGA Vermont Member Profiles.