John Seamon, Iconica
IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features John Seamon, architectural director, Iconica.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?
Because design profoundly impacts people’s lives, the most rewarding aspect of my job is getting to know clients on a personal level. Knowing what makes them tick and why they do what they do leads to crafting design solutions that provide the most powerful outcomes. Those relationships are meaningful to me and the work we do together is hopefully meaningful for others long after we are gone. The most challenging aspect of my job can be helping others see the benefits of exploring what could be. We can’t create a new reality while looking at the current reality.
Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?
Simon Sinek, as he best articulated the single most important aspect of any business — it’s not what you do or how you do it that matters most, it is why you do it. Eric Schmidt, as he understands how to keep business culture and innovation completely scalable. Elon Musk, as his why truly drives the how and what he and his companies do. He was a client for a very short time and I believe he can move through or around obstacles more quickly and efficiently than perhaps anyone I’ve ever met.
What has been the high point of your career so far?
I’ve had many high points, so there is not one that stands out. I’ve worked with some great people and minds so far. Working closely with Jeff Kipnis over a number of years had the most impact on me. It was transformational. Starting and growing a small firm in San Francisco was incredibly meaningful and rewarding. Years of working/living in a studio with those that cared as much as I did was amazing. I don’t separate my career from my life, or my life from my career. Life is fun, is work, is fun, is life. It’s all wrapped together for me. This is how I have designed my life, you could say. I have basically allowed my “why” to get me to where I have been, and I want to continue to let it guide my direction and decisions.
Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
Explore and stay the course for what inspires you — not your friends, your parents, or your teachers, you. Surround yourself with winners and don’t compromise. Say “yes, and” rather than “yes, but” most of the time to get the best out of your team. Be more of problem seeker not a problem solver.
What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?
It has to be the ability to blend city and country life more easily than any other city I’ve visited or lived in. You can have both here pretty easily. The potential for powerful change in many industries are here in Dane County. Values of trust, cooperation, and community are strong. I feel like the collective know-how to solve seen and unforeseen problems is very high, and it seems like a place on the edge of becoming a perfect place to blend life and work. Geographically, Dane county is diverse, unique, and special — very similar to the Bay Area of California in those regards.
Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?
I love mixed media art and continue to swim in those waters. Any more than that would make it not a secret.
What are your guilty pleasures?
I’m happy and grateful to say that I have many pleasures but no guilty ones. I used to design, fabricate, and install custom lighting solutions using neon and cathode ray, and I survived a sizable electric shock during some prototype testing. Some of the custom home projects for confidential clients have been the closest thing to a guilty pleasure, I guess.
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