Popular Science

For as long as I can remember making art has been a part of my life and Popular Science magazine has been in my life. My father subscribed to Popular Science and I grew up with it. As a child of the 70s and the 80s (major influences include but are not limited to Star Wars [IV], E.T., Karate Kid, and Goonies), it was instrumental in my understanding of the state of technology. Modern developments such as the Apple IIe, VCRs, telephone answering machines, walkman, solar and wind power were all covered by Popular Science. I would intently study the “infographics” in the articles, which were called illustrations or graphics at the time, to better understand what they were talking about. A cut away illustration demonstrating the inner workings of a hydro-electric dam (Popular Science circa 1984?) made a deep impression on me and helped me to understand how water power turned the turbines to generate electricity. To this day I still mentally refer to that graphic to understand how electricity is generated.

Now 29 years later, there is an article in Popular Science that discusses my abilities as a researching graphic designer. I know this isn’t officially an award, such as an Oscar or a Cub Scout Wolf Merit Badge, but if I ever send out a resume again, I’m including this. I’m humbled and honored. Hell, I didn’t even know that I was considered a graphic designer until Popular Science pointed it out. I thought I was just making pictures to explain how things worked when too many words seemed to get in the way. My tech-savvy friend Matt Hilla pointed out that I was making something called an “infographic” and suggested that I put my graphics on a website called Visual.ly. So I did. A few views and a few comments later, the life span of that infographic might peter out within a few days (see the infographic: A Points Per Inch Comparison). I don’t know why but I kept with it. I just wanted to. Getting 100 views from people I didn’t know was exciting (that particular infographic is up to 106!) and I wanted to see where it might go.

A couple of weeks ago I was in Whole Foods and encountered some cheese. Wensleydale with Blueberries to be specific. It was $17 per pound and I had no idea what I might be buying into, so I didn’t, but it got me thinking. I realized that I didn’t know anything about cheese! Sure I know about Cheddar (Sharp, Mild, Medium), Mozzarella, Swiss, Gouda, Provolone, Munster, but there’s a whole universe of cheese that I know nothing about. Monty Python even mocks how many cheeses there are, most of which I’ve never heard of (Note: Venezuelan Beaver Cheese is fictitious). I sought out some information about cheese and realized that there are literally mountains of information about cheese. I decided I didn’t need to know about how cheese was made or the chemistry of cheese. To become a better cheese consumer I needed to better define the end user experience to help create an understanding of how to select cheese based on the flavors of cheese. Enter the excellent work of Drs. Delores & Edgar Chambers and Dr. Martin Talavera-Bianchi at Kansas State University. They broke cheese down to 16 high-identifying flavors, from salty to pineapple. It was brilliant. It was smart. It was simple. I turned it into an infographic. Then something happened. Popular Science found it on Visual.ly.

Suddenly the 100 views on Visual.ly that I’d been so proud of had been dwarfed by cheese. 4000+ views later, an article in Popular Science, and tens of branch-off posts on other websites, something shifted. It went viral. Huffington Post picked it up. Culture Magazine picked it up. Fine Dining Lovers picked it up. My hobby was no longer just a thing that I was playing with in my free time, it had the potential to become a thing that I did as a real job. The best type of job. The kind that you do when you don’t know that you are already doing it because you are doing it for enjoyment anyway.

Two days ago I tested a theory. Was Cheese a fluke or was this skillset really something that had legs. I released the 18 Flavors of Whisky Infographic. I sent a copy to Popular Science and waited. A few hours passed and they replied! They said they’d put it on their homepage on Friday. One thing led to another and it went viral again. In fact, I received so many requests for prints for that infographic, and the others, that I set up an online store on Shopify.

I’m in awe. I’m humbled. I’m so grateful. I want to express my thanks. Thank you for helping me make an art/research project that I enjoyed doing into a profitable activity that has the makings of becoming a full-blown career.

With all if this in mind, I guess I can now say, Welcome to Sean Seidell Art + Science. I’m a graphic designer and we’re open for business. 🙂

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