Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An Interview with Graphic Designer Sean Pomposello

January 31, 2012

By Beth Huisking
Associate Director of Marketing

The 2012 Season artwork was unveiled in October of 2011.  During the preceding months, the Marketing and Artistic staff was meeting with graphic designer Sean Pompasello to create the unique look for each 2012 Season production.  This month I was given the opportunity to interview Sean and talk about that process and what he loves most about graphic design.

Beth Huisking: How and when did you become interested in graphic design?

Sean Pomposello: Very young, actually. I was always the kid doodling in the margins of his homework at school. Mostly an alternate take on movie posters of the day. Then, around middle school, I became fascinated with cameras, and spent quite a lot of time fiddling with them. In college, I was an English major. So, I’ve always hovered around creative, in one form or another.
BH: Can you walk us through the process of designing the artwork for a single production?

SP: I’m confident my approach differs from many, but I begin by immersing myself in the source material—the script for the play or musical I’m designing for. I attempt to break down some approaches I’d like to explore into broad areas I call “buckets.” Each one represents another avenue of thought. I then gather as much swipe or reference that has mined a similar conceptual conceit. So, I essentially have a concept board filled with reference material for each approach I intend to develop. From that a single idea will emerge. Sometimes, I will share the boards with a Producer, to give them a suggestion of where I’d like to pilot the title, but more often I simply return with a range of fully resolved ideas that have launched from each concept board.

BH: This year, you also created our “Theater Worth Talking About” season art.  How does developing a piece for the entire season differ from creating something more production specific?

SP: Well, it’s a more holistic sort of approach, but not so different from the key art development process. The major difference is that I think copy first. I wanted to create an engaging handle that sums up the season at Westport Playhouse and then a graphic look, or tone and manner that works in an umbrella fashion over the entire year. While I’d like to take full credit for the handle, to be honest, it was simply a phrase I kept hearing in the offices at WCP. I pretty much just parroted it and adorned it with a compelling look.

BH: You design for multiple platforms (packaging, print, television and web).  Is there one you prefer to design for?

SP: To be honest, I consider myself a storyteller first and foremost, so I enjoy assisting Producers in detailing what their production is all about in advertising terms. Nowadays, when you come up with an idea for a poster it’s rarely going to exist solely as a poster—the art will need to work in many different advertising applications. So, I really don’t favor one medium over another. I try to have the artwork exist above any individual discipline or convention. The enjoyment I derive from it comes from the act of reimagining the show’s over all identity for different applications. 

BH: What were some of your most memorable projects? Most creative/unique?

SP: The ones that you remember the most are not the ones that get the most awareness, but the ones where you had to solve a problem. A lot of what I do is problem solving. You have certain objectives that have to be met, so it becomes sort of a puzzle that needs to be pieced together. I had an assignment recently where the producer had a title that was an expletive that couldn’t be printed in most newspapers and essentially informed me that I’d have the job if I resolved the problem (in graphic terms or otherwise), which I did in a rather clever way, if I don’t mind saying so myself, but still didn’t get the job. Surprisingly, that was a high water mark for me.

BH: What do you enjoy most about your career?

SP: I enjoy having the freedom to daydream. My job is to dream up ways to make productions appealing to consumers. If I do my job correctly, I help a show get a running start. This gets me up in the morning and often keeps me awake at night.

Other examples of Sean's work you might recognize:

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