Colorado Creative Series: Shawn Meek

Colorado Creatives Series

In support of #AIGAatHome, we have launched the Colorado Creatives Series, an opportunity to celebrate and showcase local creatives in our area. Our Colorado Creatives will share a little about their creative process, some of their most worthwhile investments, current reading lists and more. Enjoy!


Shawn Meek, Professor of Communication Design, MSU Denver


He, His, Him

Where can we find you?

What are you reading, listening to or watching right now?

Reading: A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

Listening: I’m not big on podcasts, but as of late have a mix of older NIN intermixed with Explosions in the Sky and Album Leaf. That seems to be the mix when working, along with some past Deftones B-sides that have seemed to surface on the web as well.

Watching: Sadly 90-day Fiancé is pretty interesting. I was watching this before the pandemic. 

What are 1-3 designs that have greatly influenced your life?

Hillman Curtis remains to be my all-time favorite designer. When I was an undergrad, I remember going to a lecture given by Curtis where he broke down the mechanics of design and code. At that time, it was Flash (shhh), but it really influenced how I looked at design, animation, narrative and coding in a new language to build something. He said ‘I am a designer first, that’s my passion’ and I remember feeling very empowered by that statement as it’s easy to build boundaries between roles of web development versus design. I tend to want to bridge that divide in my work. His later video series interviews are paramount. Beyond that, I was initially inspired by album covers growing up, connecting the conceptual underpinnings of music back to the design, and at the time, was very postmodern. I tend to still find a love for that type of design, looking deeper into the narratives behind NIN album artwork, and the like. I feel that is missing in today’s music, where everything can be accessed quickly, streamed without any knowledge or connection to a deeper concept, when growing up that was the norm. For me, along with many other bands and albums, that is what got me most interested in design at an early age. Ironically, much of my work now takes on a more modernist approach. 

What is one piece of advice you can offer to other designers right now?

At this current time, it’s very difficult, especially for students who are coming out of design programs. The goal is to not lose the optimism that you have and know that things will shift. If anything, this pandemic has taught us valuable lessons and shown how we can work in our industry remotely, and even teach in this environment effectively. I feel that it’s important to stay connected to the larger industry and community, as if it has taught us anything—change continues to be the constant. Stay positive, stay healthy, stay connected. 

What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)

Interestingly enough, I’ve found it is personal projects that have paid off the most. It’s odd, we are trained to solve problems for clients, and in turn, provide value to services in the form of gaining value. I continue to struggle with the notion of value, as I am typically viewing value as a form or result from time I have invested into something to produce a result. When the absence of an estimate allows us to do something beyond the clock and/or for ourselves, that is typically when I’ve found the most success. While it may have not rewarded me financially, I have found interesting investments when investing in this type of personal value and work. Overall, I do believe there has to be a balance with that type of personal passion projects and client-based work, however this has always been a topic I continually come back to it seems. Maybe the universe is teaching me something.

What are you currently working on?

I just wrapped up a project for a nonprofit in Seattle who helps underserved children find legal representation in court. This nonprofit typically has a large Spring fundraising event, and this year it could not run in person due to COVID-19. It was a 5-week project in turning this into an online event, in which I found out that they met 70% of their financial goal in just one day from last week’s fundraiser event. This month I am also wrapping up another web project for a startup tech company in the space industry located in Golden and affiliated with the Colorado School of Mines. In addition to all, and by the time this is read, I will have completed the last week of courses and final projects / exams with my students at MSU Denver. Teaching is a continual work, yet its busy seasons come in waves, and we are now cresting the last wave of this unprecedented semester. 

By AIGA Colorado
Published May 18, 2020
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