Mr. Seth Johnson

Member Since December 2004
Member Type Design Leader
AIGA Chapter Austin
Title Design Advocate
Company IBM Design
Email [email protected]
Website www.sethjohnson.org
Portfolio Site www.twitter.com/sethrrr
Field Experience design
Service design
Communication design
Bio

I’m a designer, strategist, writer, organizational leader, and educator. Currently, I’m working at IBM Design in Austin, Texas, designing and delivering active learning experiences to people around the world during a new era of design-led innovation within the largest technology company on earth. 

 

Like most Wisconsin natives, I’m a connoisseur of beer and cheese, but I’m also adept at identifying typefaces in film titles—much to the annoyance of those seated nearby. Through my volunteer work, I strive to help emerging designers bridge the gaps between education and professional practice. I speak frequently at universities and design organizations around the nation and have held adjunct faculty positions at colleges in Los Angeles and Minneapolis.

 

I am a past president of AIGA Minnesota, and also served as its treasurer and co-director of education, founded its mentor program, and implemented its chapter improvement grant program.

  • Seth Johnson commented on the article "What is AIGA’s position on SOPA legislation?"

    Ric, thanks for being so consistently expeditious in responding to issues of such importance to AIGA members. A few members of the board of AIGA Minnesota were conversing briefly about whether or not our chapter should write our own position to post on our website but nobody had the bandwith to do so in a timely manner. Enter you with the post above, which allowed us to quickly vote via Basecamp to state that our chapter fully supports it. So thanks not only for the leadership demonstrated here, but also for taking actions that enable volunteer chapter leaders to be quickly and easily supported and supportive in their own communities. 

  • Seth Johnson, AIGA Minnesota commented on the article "AIGA urges the Obama 2012 campaign to reconsider its jobs poster contest"

    The Obama campaign will soon be sitting on nearly one BILLION dollars of expendable cash and they want to allocate none of it to paying a designer or two for what will likely be some very iconic and valuable posters. Now who's the greedy party?

  • Seth Johnson, AIGA Minnesota commented on the article "AIGA urges the Obama 2012 campaign to reconsider its jobs poster contest"

    Lawrence: (1)  There is an enormous difference between honest to goodness pro-bono design work and this, which is a crowdsouced contest. Remember, "pro bono" means "for GOOD," not "for FREE." (See Joe Gonzalez's comment above) (2)  You're sadly mistaken that "no one can ever take the rights away from your art;" even the simplest explanation of US copyright law proves that an incorrect statement. Take a glance at the onerous rules of this contest and you'll realize that, indeed, by entering, you relinquish ownership of your artwork to the Obama campaign. 

  • Seth Johnson, AIGA Minnesota commented on the article "AIGA urges the Obama 2012 campaign to reconsider its jobs poster contest"

    There are a several rather notable differences: (1) The AIGA project is not run as a contest or a competition — no winners were chosen and all entrants were featured equally on the website. Anyone who chooses to participate receives exactly the same thing as anyone else who does.  (2) In the case of the AIGA project, there is no assignable client, per se. It's not a campaign, an organization, or a company asking designers to create free advertising for it. It's merely a call for anyone to make a poster for a rather unspecific cause — "Vote." (Not "Vote for Candidate A," or "Vote for Party X." Just, "Vote.") (3) As such, there is no real inherent value to the project's organizer (AIGA, in this case), for any of the submitted posters beyond the rather limited purview of the project. The project's purpose is to get AIGA's members excited about creating the message — there's no real value for AIGA in using the posters for anything once they've been submitted.  (4) Further supporting this idea is the fact that the AIGA project makes no claim of ownership. Submitting a design to the project doesn't force the author/designer to relinquish ownership or copyright of the material they've created. This means that it's still completely possible for the designer to repurpose their entry in other ways, possibly for profit — so the designer isn't giving away their work product for free, because they still own it.Not all "design contests" are bad — which is why the AIGA position on spec work doesn't draw a clear line in the sand regarding them. The Obama contest, however, is clearly onerous and damaging to the design community and to the perception of the profession's value. 

  • Seth Johnson, AIGA Minnesota commented on the article "AIGA urges the Obama 2012 campaign to reconsider its jobs poster contest"

    Hear, hear! Thank you, Ric, for an incredibly well-writen, incisive, and persuasive communication. 

  • Seth Johnson commented on the article "http://staging.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3080&id=2569"

    Correction: My previous comment should have been directed toward "Christian," not toward "Stan."

  • Seth Johnson commented on the article "http://staging.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3080&id=2569"

    Cathy, I'm in total agreement with you. Excellent post. I'd like to respond to your point that "maybe it's time for some legislation in this regard." There already is. The U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, has established pretty cut-and-dry criteria to define what constitutes a trainee (unpaid intern) versus an employee (paid staff): http://www.dol.gov/whd/opinion/FLSA/2004/2004_10_19_16_FLSA_PreemploymentTraining.htm or http://wdr.doleta.gov/directives/attach/TEGL/TEGL12-09acc.pdf I'm no attorney, but given these criteria, I think it's safe to say that most unpaid internships offered in our industry are not internships at all. Rather, they are positions necessitating compensation commensurate with, at the very least, minimum wage laws. Keep in mind that those particular criteria are established by the federal government and, like minimum wage laws, it's likely that individual states have their own criteria that take them one step further.

  • Seth Johnson commented on the article "http://staging.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3080&id=2569"

    @pny: I don't know what's worse: That you're continuing to allow unbathed, disheveled, rude, obstinate, unprepared people to work for you and represent your company — or that you're refusing to pay people for their labor. Either is dangerously bad for business. Get with the program. (And, by the way: I worked a few crap jobs when I was young. I was treated like crap, talked down to like crap, and felt like crap. Luckily, I'm compassionate and able to to exercise free will by choosing not to subject today's naïve youngsters to the same ills. "That's the way it was when I was young" is no defense at all.)

  • Seth Johnson commented on the article "What if AIGA did not exist?"

    Thank you, Ric, for articulating an important idea. My friends who are lawyers have the NLG and the ABA. Those who are architects have the AIA. Those who sell real estate have the NAR. And those who are teachers ultimately look to the NEA, though there are several regional equivalents. And, while I realize that those examples aren't entirely fitting in that some of them are unions or certification authorities, the general idea is the same: Those of us in professional pursuits have larger bodies that, for us, organize, listen, respond, and advocate. Without an organization like AIGA to actively advocate for designers on a broad scale, each of us is left to fend for ourselves. Without AIGA, designers are left alone in the woods with only their wits to get them through the cold night. By banding together, pooling our resources, and contributing to a definitive way forward, we amplify our individual voices and contributions to a level that is out of reach for one person and that is unable to be ignored by others. We choose not to go it alone. We choose to hold hands and move forward together; and we elect AIGA to facilitate that process.

  • Seth Johnson commented on the article "http://www.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3082&id=2107"

    Great feedback from everyone. Specifically to Tommy, Seamus, and Sjui: Perhaps one of the reasons a 100-year old organization has been slow to change with the times is because it's a 100-year old organization. Clearly, Ric's post here indicates AIGA's consciousness of its need to change. Take it as a call for help. And then, help. All three of you seem to have wonderful, cogent, proactive ideas of what AIGA can do to assist people like you in your own professional development, careers, and communities. And your willingness to post those ideas here in this forum suggest that you'd like to see them implemented. So help implement them. AIGA isn't the government. It's not your college administration. It's not your employer. It's your community. It will only work, grow, and be successful if people like you and me step up to the challenge and make it happen. Bear in mind that AIGA's membership rates are in line with membership rates of similar professional organizations. And remember that AIGA student memberships are heavily discounted and provide a direct cash infusion back into the sponsoring student organization. Student-level members receive a 50% discount on their first year of Associate-level membership. Heck, the 15% Adobe discount for members more than pays for the cost of your annual membership by using it to purchase discounted software through AIGA. Great feedback. Now put your words into action and do something about it. We need you.

  • Seth Johnson commented on the article "http://www.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3080&id=2643"

    The reason that every computer and software application in the world has a "Font" menu -- as opposed to a "Typeface" menu-- may be rather pragmatic. Remember the first Macontosh? Remember how small the screen was? Screen real estate was at a premium; every pixel counted. "Font" takes up much less space on a menubar than "Typeface" does. Just as the Mac cemented Helvetica as the worldwide standard for a sans, so did it, perhaps, with the substitution of "font" for "typeface." However, for the life of me, I can't recall where I read this theory. Perhaps Susan Kare had a hand in it? We know that Steve Jobs has a soft spot for typography, so it's clear that he meant no evil when including type choice as part of the original Mac concept. Maybe, at the end of the day, good intentions were scrapped to accommodate physical restrictions.

  • Seth Johnson commented on the article "What is AIGA’s position on SOPA legislation?"

    Ric, thanks for being so consistently expeditious in responding to issues of such importance to AIGA members. A few members of the board of AIGA Minnesota were conversing briefly about whether or not our chapter should write our own position to post on our website but nobody had the bandwith to do so in a timely manner. Enter you with the post above, which allowed us to quickly vote via Basecamp to state that our chapter fully supports it. So thanks not only for the leadership demonstrated here, but also for taking actions that enable volunteer chapter leaders to be quickly and easily supported and supportive in their own communities. 

  • Seth Johnson, AIGA Minnesota commented on the article "AIGA urges the Obama 2012 campaign to reconsider its jobs poster contest"

    The Obama campaign will soon be sitting on nearly one BILLION dollars of expendable cash and they want to allocate none of it to paying a designer or two for what will likely be some very iconic and valuable posters. Now who's the greedy party?

  • Seth Johnson, AIGA Minnesota commented on the article "AIGA urges the Obama 2012 campaign to reconsider its jobs poster contest"

    Lawrence: (1)  There is an enormous difference between honest to goodness pro-bono design work and this, which is a crowdsouced contest. Remember, "pro bono" means "for GOOD," not "for FREE." (See Joe Gonzalez's comment above) (2)  You're sadly mistaken that "no one can ever take the rights away from your art;" even the simplest explanation of US copyright law proves that an incorrect statement. Take a glance at the onerous rules of this contest and you'll realize that, indeed, by entering, you relinquish ownership of your artwork to the Obama campaign. 

  • Seth Johnson, AIGA Minnesota commented on the article "AIGA urges the Obama 2012 campaign to reconsider its jobs poster contest"

    There are a several rather notable differences: (1) The AIGA project is not run as a contest or a competition — no winners were chosen and all entrants were featured equally on the website. Anyone who chooses to participate receives exactly the same thing as anyone else who does.  (2) In the case of the AIGA project, there is no assignable client, per se. It's not a campaign, an organization, or a company asking designers to create free advertising for it. It's merely a call for anyone to make a poster for a rather unspecific cause — "Vote." (Not "Vote for Candidate A," or "Vote for Party X." Just, "Vote.") (3) As such, there is no real inherent value to the project's organizer (AIGA, in this case), for any of the submitted posters beyond the rather limited purview of the project. The project's purpose is to get AIGA's members excited about creating the message — there's no real value for AIGA in using the posters for anything once they've been submitted.  (4) Further supporting this idea is the fact that the AIGA project makes no claim of ownership. Submitting a design to the project doesn't force the author/designer to relinquish ownership or copyright of the material they've created. This means that it's still completely possible for the designer to repurpose their entry in other ways, possibly for profit — so the designer isn't giving away their work product for free, because they still own it.Not all "design contests" are bad — which is why the AIGA position on spec work doesn't draw a clear line in the sand regarding them. The Obama contest, however, is clearly onerous and damaging to the design community and to the perception of the profession's value. 

  • Seth Johnson, AIGA Minnesota commented on the article "AIGA urges the Obama 2012 campaign to reconsider its jobs poster contest"

    Hear, hear! Thank you, Ric, for an incredibly well-writen, incisive, and persuasive communication. 

  • Seth Johnson commented on the article "http://staging.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3080&id=2569"

    Correction: My previous comment should have been directed toward "Christian," not toward "Stan."

  • Seth Johnson commented on the article "http://staging.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3080&id=2569"

    Cathy, I'm in total agreement with you. Excellent post. I'd like to respond to your point that "maybe it's time for some legislation in this regard." There already is. The U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, has established pretty cut-and-dry criteria to define what constitutes a trainee (unpaid intern) versus an employee (paid staff): http://www.dol.gov/whd/opinion/FLSA/2004/2004_10_19_16_FLSA_PreemploymentTraining.htm or http://wdr.doleta.gov/directives/attach/TEGL/TEGL12-09acc.pdf I'm no attorney, but given these criteria, I think it's safe to say that most unpaid internships offered in our industry are not internships at all. Rather, they are positions necessitating compensation commensurate with, at the very least, minimum wage laws. Keep in mind that those particular criteria are established by the federal government and, like minimum wage laws, it's likely that individual states have their own criteria that take them one step further.

  • Seth Johnson commented on the article "http://staging.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3080&id=2569"

    @pny: I don't know what's worse: That you're continuing to allow unbathed, disheveled, rude, obstinate, unprepared people to work for you and represent your company — or that you're refusing to pay people for their labor. Either is dangerously bad for business. Get with the program. (And, by the way: I worked a few crap jobs when I was young. I was treated like crap, talked down to like crap, and felt like crap. Luckily, I'm compassionate and able to to exercise free will by choosing not to subject today's naïve youngsters to the same ills. "That's the way it was when I was young" is no defense at all.)

  • Seth Johnson commented on the article "What if AIGA did not exist?"

    Thank you, Ric, for articulating an important idea. My friends who are lawyers have the NLG and the ABA. Those who are architects have the AIA. Those who sell real estate have the NAR. And those who are teachers ultimately look to the NEA, though there are several regional equivalents. And, while I realize that those examples aren't entirely fitting in that some of them are unions or certification authorities, the general idea is the same: Those of us in professional pursuits have larger bodies that, for us, organize, listen, respond, and advocate. Without an organization like AIGA to actively advocate for designers on a broad scale, each of us is left to fend for ourselves. Without AIGA, designers are left alone in the woods with only their wits to get them through the cold night. By banding together, pooling our resources, and contributing to a definitive way forward, we amplify our individual voices and contributions to a level that is out of reach for one person and that is unable to be ignored by others. We choose not to go it alone. We choose to hold hands and move forward together; and we elect AIGA to facilitate that process.

  • Seth Johnson commented on the article "http://www.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3082&id=2107"

    Great feedback from everyone. Specifically to Tommy, Seamus, and Sjui: Perhaps one of the reasons a 100-year old organization has been slow to change with the times is because it's a 100-year old organization. Clearly, Ric's post here indicates AIGA's consciousness of its need to change. Take it as a call for help. And then, help. All three of you seem to have wonderful, cogent, proactive ideas of what AIGA can do to assist people like you in your own professional development, careers, and communities. And your willingness to post those ideas here in this forum suggest that you'd like to see them implemented. So help implement them. AIGA isn't the government. It's not your college administration. It's not your employer. It's your community. It will only work, grow, and be successful if people like you and me step up to the challenge and make it happen. Bear in mind that AIGA's membership rates are in line with membership rates of similar professional organizations. And remember that AIGA student memberships are heavily discounted and provide a direct cash infusion back into the sponsoring student organization. Student-level members receive a 50% discount on their first year of Associate-level membership. Heck, the 15% Adobe discount for members more than pays for the cost of your annual membership by using it to purchase discounted software through AIGA. Great feedback. Now put your words into action and do something about it. We need you.

  • Seth Johnson commented on the article "http://www.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3080&id=2643"

    The reason that every computer and software application in the world has a "Font" menu -- as opposed to a "Typeface" menu-- may be rather pragmatic. Remember the first Macontosh? Remember how small the screen was? Screen real estate was at a premium; every pixel counted. "Font" takes up much less space on a menubar than "Typeface" does. Just as the Mac cemented Helvetica as the worldwide standard for a sans, so did it, perhaps, with the substitution of "font" for "typeface." However, for the life of me, I can't recall where I read this theory. Perhaps Susan Kare had a hand in it? We know that Steve Jobs has a soft spot for typography, so it's clear that he meant no evil when including type choice as part of the original Mac concept. Maybe, at the end of the day, good intentions were scrapped to accommodate physical restrictions.

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