Defining Hokies: Student Sean Simons is driven to express his creativity
Sean Simons of Lytle, Texas, an English major in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, has an eye for detail, a mind for creative thinking, and an opinion right at the tips of his fingers.
The son of military parents, Simons was raised in Italy until he was nearly 13. It was in Europe that he says he fell in love with the world of architecture and the reason he decided to go to school at Virginia Tech, which was well over 1,300 miles from his hometown.
But, he says it was not long before he realized that his passion of creativity was calling from another medium. Increasingly interested in the aesthetic design of architecture rather than function, it now seemed more of a hobby than a lifelong career to him. Simons says about his decision to change his major to English, “I could read and write until I die.”
Simons is now pursuing a double option in English, with creative and professional writing. Although immersed into a world of reading and writing, he says he did not once think of leaving his love of design behind.
Simons has found his niche as a graphic designer. His sketchbooks are now filled with designs for organizations such as Silhouette, the literary and arts magazine at Virginia Tech, or the new literary festival, Glossolalia, which was created by Virginia Tech students and is set to be held this weekend.
Simons has no formal training in the field of graphic design, but it was an interest he pursued on his own. He says that over time he developed his own set of visual standards, “It took a lot of messing around to figure what I liked and what processes I needed to do it in.”
Whatever processes Simons has figured out seem to be working. Recently, he won the poster design contest for the Department of English's seventh annual Undergraduate Research Conference with the theme, “Writing Worlds.” He submitted two designs, they tied for first place.
Simons’ creative eye for lines and style doesn’t just apply for graphics, but apparently fashion as well. In the summer of 2011 he went to London with the English Department’s London Calling program, and worked as an intern for Verge Magazine, a United Kingdom-based publication. He wrote multiple articles on fashion and university life and was able to interview high-profiled individuals, such as singer/songwriter Keri Hilson.
But, Simons says the highlight of the internship was having the opportunity to plan and style a photo shoot on his own. He did everything from selecting the location to booking the models, and he says his resources were nearly endless as he was able to call almost any fashion house in order to get the clothes for the shoot.
Although Simons is both writer and graphic designer, he says that his creativity manifests itself very differently in each. When he is writing a story he doesn’t plan it out; instead, he lets it develop on its own throughout the writing process.
However, he says when he is plotting a graphic design piece it is much more methodical. He always sketches his ideas out first, and then, depending on if what he is doing is digital, he will either go to the computer or will start working it on paper and measure out the margins and spacing with a ruler, perhaps much the same way an architect would.
Simons is also experienced at developing the writing and creative skills of others. Not only is he a Virginia Tech Writing Center coach, but while he was in London this past summer he also volunteered with the Ministry of Stories, a nonprofit organization that mentors children from ages 8 to 18. He says he knew he wanted to be a part of the organization before he went to London, and after an extensive background check and training he was able to join other students, teachers, and businessmen as a counselor.
Each location of the Ministry of Stories has a unique theme and storefront, the one that Simons volunteered at was Hoxton Street Monster Supplies. There they sold things like 'beetle juice eye candy' and little books and newspapers that contained the children’s writings. He says it was one of the “coolest” things he has been a part of, “These children have all these great ideas, but no way to express it. And you’re there to help them.”
Simons’ strong personality and voice comes out in his writings, and people are listening. After reading Simons’ opinion columns that he used to write for the Blacksburg's Collegiate Times (CT), Next Gen Journal, a growing online journal, asked him to write for them as well. He contributed to both for about a year, but says he stopped so that he could move up in the CT as the opinions editor.
He also became a Twitter intern in the fall of 2011 for Trendy Problems (@TrendyProblems), a group that is about “pop culture and popular problems all rolled into one,” according to their website. He followed them on his personal Twitter account, and after seeing a post that they needed an intern, he wrote them a very sassy email detailing why he deserved it. Although not recommended for most people seeking internships to “sass” their hopeful employers, but writing for your audience is important, indicates Simons.
It is important at times to creatively and actively seek what you want, Simons says, “You know these kinds of things that you do, or you do on your own like graphic design, tweeting, or writing. I find it great everything that I find interesting I can find a place for. I like to design, and I like to write sassy tweets.”
Determined to get the most of his four years at Virginia Tech before he graduates in May, Simons is involving himself in even more activities. In an independent study he is helping to convert Feast of Words, the English department’s alumni newsletter from an eight to 10 page newsletter into an interactive PDF. He is also on the English Department Undergraduate Curriculum Committee as the only student representative.
Simons’ creative style is uniquely his own from his graphic designs, to his writings, and even the way that he dresses. It is far from the ornate grandeur of European design that he first fell in love with, but everything he does has a blend of modern and classic, while he still aims to keep things straight-lined, clean, and fresh.
Simons says that he finds creativity in all things that he is involved in and will continue to throughout his career, "Creativity on its own is knowing what works and what doesn’t, without really knowing why.” He says that he is looking at jobs in publishing houses, entry-level editing, and design positions that he can move up in. “Writing will always be my primary desire, but it will not always be my sole career.”
Written by Shelby Ward of Bluefield, Va., who is a senior majoring in English in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.