Art & Design

Interview with Graphic Designer Stephen Bowman

Stephen Bowman is a true design professional with many years of design experience under his belt. He talks to Design Blog about his love of traditional printing methods and his recent decision to set up on his own design studio.

BEN: Tell me a bit about yourself; what drew you to design in the first place?

Flyer design for a performance by the rock band –Wilco
Flyer design for a performance by the rock band –Wilco

STEPHEN: I became interested in design at an early age. It was as early as the 5th grade that I became fascinated with album cover art. I spent many hours trying to copy YES album covers and drawing band logos on my notebooks. At that time, I had no idea that graphic design could be my career! During high school, I took a part-time job at a t-shirt screen print shop and fell in love with screen-printing as a medium. This encouraged me to pursue a degree in art and design.

I attended the Massachusetts College of Art from 1988 to 1992 and studied graphic design. After graduating, I worked for a couple of small design studios before landing a design position at LEGO. I was with the LEGO toy company for 16 years as a designer and art director, working on direct mail catalogs, packaging and marketing material. This past year, I have started my own design studio, SJB Graphics.

BEN: What do you like most about design? What are your favorite projects to work on?

Stephen enjoys designing for the music industry
Stephen enjoys designing for the music industry

STEPHEN: Each project presents a new challenge and requires a unique solution. Overcoming this challenge is what I enjoy most about this profession. My favorite projects are music related. Designing CD covers and show posters brings me back to the 5th grade. I am sorry to see albums and CDs disappearing. Digital downloads just don’t cut it. In the golden age of the “album cover”, the packaging was sometimes better than the actual music on the disc.

BEN: What clients/projects are you currently working on?

STEPHEN: I am currently working with a wide range of clients – mainly small, start-up businesses. My clients include welders, DJs, florists, toy companies and musicians. Right now, I’m helping a Marina prepare marketing materials for a tradeshow.

One of Stephen’s designs for the Lego company
One of Stephen’s designs for the Lego company

BEN: I notice that you have product design examples in your portfolio of work. Do you enjoy creating these?

STEPHEN: A lot of my work has been for products, such as LEGO. It can be a great deal of fun to design around an object. It can also be a real challenge to make a piece of plastic look good. This creates the opportunity to play with photography and illustration.

BEN: What’s your favorite design medium/program? Why do you like it so much?

STEPHEN: Although most of what I do is on the computer, I still love screen-printing. Each print is unique and the look of thick screen-printed ink on a great sheet of paper can’t be beat. The majority of my work, however, is 4 color-offset print. For software, I prefer to work with Adobe CS applications (Indesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, etc.)

One of Stephen’s logo designs
One of Stephen’s logo designs

BEN: What advice would you give to designers who are straight out of college or new to design?

STEPHEN: If you are still in school, start looking for internships. That’s the best way to get your foot in the door of an agency or large company. The pay is not great and the hours may be long, but consider it part of your education.
To see more of Stephen’s brilliant design work or to contact him for full service design work, go to SJB Graphics

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