Seth McWhorter is the founder, chairman, and (self-named) janitor of the one-man graphic design and commercial art studio, McWhorter Creative. Based in Georgia, McWhorter Creative boasts clients from all over the country. You may recognize his work in our Golf Designs collection of playful logos as well as our Tour Visor Fundraiser, in which he designed both the AJGA and Youth on Course pieces.
We were intrigued by Seth’s story from working in landscape architecture to agency work and now creating designs for brands like ours, No Laying Up and The Buck Club. Read about his journey and inspiration, and give him a follow on Instagram to see his latest work.
1) Have you always been interested in design or how did you realize your talent?
I was always into drawing and crafts as a kid, but I certainly didn’t think I had much talent for it. It probably wasn’t until I was in undergrad studying Landscape Architecture at UGA that I realized that I loved the process of drawing landscape plans and sketching ideas more than other parts of the curriculum. It wasn’t until after undergrad while working in landscape architecture in North Carolina, that I realized graphic design might have been the better career choice for me. I started a blog (yes, a blog) and started posting sketches and paintings I had done after (or during) work. Eventually I got up the courage to go back to school and study graphic design at the Creative Circus in Atlanta. I ended up as a designer/art director at an advertising agency for five years. So for me, it’s probably been less about talent and more about what I’d call “career trial and error.”
2) Where do you find inspiration?
If we’re talking design inspiration, it might sound cheesy or like a cop-out, but that comes from literally anywhere – Instagram, design books, or maybe my dog just gives me ideas through subconscious thoughts? The truth is I really don’t know most of the time.
If we’re talking inspiration to do (good) work in general, it’s competitiveness. I get irrationally annoyed with myself when I see someone who has created something I wish I created (even when I have ZERO ability to do whatever it is that I’m envious of). It’s that annoyance with myself that keeps me wanting to be more prolific as a designer/illustrator/whatever. It’s probably not the healthiest form of inspiration, but it’s productive at times.
3) How did you know it was time to take the leap from working in agencies to being your own boss and taking on McWhorter Creative full time?
I knew it was time when I realized that I was getting more enjoyment from the freelance design work I was doing on the side than I was from the advertising agency work. I got to make some really cool stuff (TV commercials, etc) for big brands while working in advertising, but I got just as much satisfaction in working directly with a client who’s trying to figure out if what they do can or should be “branded.”
It’s been a new challenge working for myself – I’m doing my best to embrace the business (and housekeeping) side of things. A steady paycheck sure would be nice, but there’s nothing like trying to build something on your own. Ask me how it’s going in a couple years.
4) You’ve worked with quite a few golf brands over the last few years like No Laying Up and The Buck Club. Have you always been a golfer or how did you enter the golf space?
I grew up playing golf. I was pretty much obsessed over the game starting around age 15 when I started playing competitive junior golf. I had notions of being a golf course architect in high school. During undergrad, the recession made that career choice less attractive.
Fast forward about a decade — late one night after a shitty day at my agency job and a few beers, I sent a cold email to No Laying Up’s generic email address explaining that I loved their work and that I would kill to work with them in any way. To my surprise, Tron from NLU responded and actually had some stuff I could take a crack at. I did the exact same thing with Zac Blair and TBC (cold DM on Instagram). I did some small stuff for Zac/TBC and he was kind enough to share the fact that we had worked together, which definitely has helped get my work “out there” in the golf space. I’ve tried really hard to be easy to work with – I try to move as quickly as possible, which is helpful when working a dude like Zac. He’s got a ton of great ideas and has an incredible design sensibility for merchandise and branding – you just have to keep up with him!
I owe whatever small foothold I’ve found in the golf space to Tron and Zac and their willingness to respond to a cold email (either that or a shitty day at work and the confidence from a few beers).
5) What advice do you have for aspirational creators who hope to be in your place someday?
I’m not sure if I’m qualified to give too much advice, but I can say with confidence that you shouldn’t wait as long as I did to explore the intersections of your occupation and your passion. It’s way too easy to separate the two.
6) What’s next for McWhorter Creative in 2020?
I’ve got four month old that certainly demands quite a bit of attention. Right now McWhorter Creative’s sole mission is to make enough money to feed and clothe her!
In all seriousness, I’m focusing on establishing a stable base of clients that I can start to build a small design studio around. Maybe an intern? That would be nice. I’m accepting applications (only kinda kidding). Also,I hope this interview means I can do some more work with Imperial in 2020?
My work/expertise extends far beyond just golf, but I’m incredibly humbled that my work in the golf space has been well received, so thanks!