#WHOARETHEY: Steven Bazarian
Steven is a multidisciplinary graphic designer in Brooklyn, NY, currently focusing his work in social impact design. Learn more about Steven’s views and opinions on the state of design culture, and where he finds his inspiration to stay motivated and curious.
Where are you from, and where do you reside now?
I’m originally from Massachusetts and lived in Boston for about 6 years, where I attended undergrad. I moved to New York City after graduation and have been living in Brooklyn for the past year and a half.
When did your initial interest in the design field begin? What made you decide to pursue this discipline?
When I was in high school I took a graphic design course as an elective and instantly fell in love with the process. The elective wasn’t quite representative of the actual design field but it introduced me to the basics of graphic design and from there I became increasingly interested and learned more about it in my free time. When it was time to apply to colleges I knew I wanted to study graphic design specifically at an art and design school, and that led me to Massachusetts College of Art and Design where I earned my BFA.
What is your niche for design, where do you feel your skillsets and passions are best applied?
I really enjoy being a multidisciplinary designer because I think different types of projects pose fun and unique challenges. However I’d say my niche is that I currently work at an agency that focuses on social impact work, and I hope to continue doing work with a purpose throughout my career.
Anything you are currently working on for a personal project or investing time into learning?
I’m actually taking pottery classes in my free time because although I love being a designer, I find it helpful to pursue a different creative discipline on the side. It helps me feel more inspired in the times that I’m feeling creatively stifled because there are no rules and no clients telling me what I can and can’t do— just endless grounds for exploration.
Who inspires you, or what do you look to for inspiration even if it’s outside of the design realm?
When I was in school I was really inspired by the typical “design celebrities” and their work (like Pentagram, Sagmeister & Walsh, etc.). Although I continue to respect their work, I’m honestly getting a little tired of idolizing designers in that way because art and design are always changing and creativity is limitless. So it feels silly to me that we all love to force this invisible hierarchy that determines how valid we are as creators. Basically, the design field can feel extremely pretentious and exclusive. I also find the lack of diversity among these “design celebrities” quite disappointing.
So to address the question of where I get my inspiration more specifically, I don’t really look to any one agency or designer but prefer to browse the various design blogs available to use in 2019 and look for specific projects or artwork that strike me as particularly smart or unique. I’m also consistently inspired by zine culture, DIY aesthetic, and the “anti-design”, as it has always challenged what design means, who it’s for, and its accessibility (or lack thereof).
Which artists do you credit for influencing you and your work in positive ways?
This is seemingly not design related, but an artist (or artists) who have influenced me throughout most of my life is the band Crass. They’re an anarcho-punk band of activists from England whose core values were anarchy and peace. They really got me interested in politics when I was younger, which I credit for my current desire to do work that makes a positive impact rather than designing for corporate companies. Also, on design-related note— one of their band members, Gee Voucher, was an artist and designer who made all of the band’s design from posters to album covers, and I’ve always loved her collage work and bold graphics.
Every creative struggles with this, but how do you stay focused and on the ball? All while making sure you’re giving yourself the time to be inspired and to think clearly?
Staying focused can be tough, especially because it’s rare to be on only one project at a time. At first I got better at working quickly just by being thrown into things and having to learn as I go, which sounds stressful but I do believe it’s best to learn just by doing. Jumping into a project with a role I don’t feel is my strong suit used to really scare me but as my experience grows I feel increasingly more confident in my ability to problem solve in these situations.
The primary physical measure I take to stay focused is simply listening to music. To me music just kinda turns into background noise while I work and it effectively drowns out any conversations around me. If I know I’m going to work on something that requires more thought and attention to detail I’ll leave my desk and find a quiet place in the office to work. This way it’s less likely that people will come up to me to chat and I won’t be distracted by the interactions happening around me. It’s also nice to give myself a change of scenery every now and again.
What is a time in your career where you felt like you came up short or experience the inevitable creative self doubt, and how did you rebuild to push yourself in the right direction?
I’ve actually always struggled with a lot of creative self doubt. Going back to what I said in question 6 about “design celebrities”, I guess I always felt like if I wasn’t making work that looked like theirs then I wasn’t doing a good job. This made design feel more stressful than the fun thing I loved to do when I was in high school and I was constantly feeling disappointed in myself, even with others were telling me my work was successful. Over the years I’ve built up a lot more confidence, mainly by rejecting the idea that my work has to look a certain way to be seen as “good design”. I don’t really care what other people in the field think about it, as long as I’m performing well in my job and having fun nothing else really matters. That shift in perspective has felt very liberating.
What are you looking forward to working on and creating this year?
I don’t currently have any major plans but I’m always looking forward to working with new clients and learning about the issue the spaces specialize in. I’m also looking forward to continuing my pottery classes— more specifically, I’m going to be digging deeper into surface design techniques.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m really excited to be a part of this project because I find transgender people to be significantly underrepresented in this field— actually, I’ve literally never even heard of another transgender designer. Systematically there are many factors keeping trans people out of office jobs in general, and I’m hoping that this will change in the near future. For the time being, I hope that by being a part of this project maybe I can be the representation that someone else is looking for because that’s something I wish I had when I was in school and when I was starting my career.
See more of Steven’s work here: https://stevie.works/