Keep Empathy and Responsibility in Mind, Baltimore-Based Multidisciplinary Designer Sean Dong

Sean Dong is a motion/3D designer and a Graphic Design MFA graduate from Maryland Institute College of Art(MICA). Dong’s MFA thesis created an immersive sensory experience with 3D motion graphics. His most recent work, Quarantine Testimony, illustrates his personal reflections during a pandemic. He is currently an adjunct faculty at MICA.

Project Biophilia, 2020

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Sean Dong, a graphic designer, motion designer and a 3D artist. I came to the US four years ago and studied at Maryland Institute College of Art(MICA), Graphic Design undergrad and MFA program. I came here because I always love typography and hoped to build a systematic methodology for my design. During my MICA experience, I came across motion graphics and found my passion for it. It’s really instinct and natural for me to use motion graphics as a form to tell a story or make a point. Now I’m specializing in Motion Branding. I’ll begin to teach at MICA next semester.

Project Biophilia, 2020

What brings you to design? How do you see yourself as a multidisciplinary designer? 

My first “design” experience was in primary school when my teacher asked me to join a computer drawing contest. We had to use the software Paint in Windows 98 to make a postcard. Winning this contest gave me a lot more confidence to explore other sophisticated software like Photoshop and Illustrator. I enjoyed creating my own logo and building my personal fictional brand. During this process, I gradually found my tribe, graphic design. I loved to collect CDs and books with good covers because I couldn’t find a professional graphic design book at that time. I started my first freelance job in high school, and I keep doing it till now.

I am building my practice from a really basic start point. I don’t like to get a whole package of pre-made tools and build my work based on it. I always want to figure out the reason for an existing solution, and start an idea from a raw and rough origin. I believe the more basic points I can start from, the more possibilities I can find later. So, I kind of force myself to build my own tools while making a new project. In order to do that, I need to utilize the knowledge, the experience and the tricks that I got from my previous practice. I hope my solutions are not just an attractive visual. Everything I made should come with a reason, something stands behind it. Technology is rapidly updating and replacing itself. As a designer, I wish I could find a way to live with it, not follow it all the time.

Project Quarantine Testimony, 2020

What does a “community” mean to you?

Community is a place that I can constantly get inspired and appreciated. I think especially for art people, we’re more open-minded for novelty, whimsical thoughts, experimental works, etc. It’s way much easier to get positive feedback from the community, and it is good for incubating new ideas. 

During your creative journey as a designer, what is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far?

I’m really proud of my MFA thesis, Biophilia. Biophilia is a therapeutic journey of a sense of satisfaction. It explores people’s instinctive expectation of how the objects should behave in terms of the physical world. It optimizes the sensory experience with looping 3D animations and ASMR sounds. Biophilia collects my fondest memories of how I received the world around me. Due to the Covid-19 situation, I lost access to my studio space. I had to change some of my plans for my thesis. I restructured my content because of the shorter render time I got, and I recorded the sounds of my video in my closet. I always have the tendency of making my plan overly under control, but this situation made me realize that I couldn’t prepare everything ahead. So I’m really glad that I made this project to this stage.

Project Biophilia, 2020

As a young creative, is there any advice you would like to share with others?

Be empathetic and think about your responsibility. As visual artists, I think we have a stronger power to manipulate how the public feel. Design can influence people’s life so much. When your work is out in public, what do you want the viewers to feel? What kind of information do you want to deliver? People get polarized opinions easily in this world now. Can we do something to make it better? I believe a good will in design is important, so that we can gradually produce something good for the world.

Project Quarantine Testimony, 2020

text & photo courtesy of Sean Dong

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