HAYTOUG: Can you tell us a little about yourself? Some background on where you’re from and how you got involved in art in general?
SAKO SHAHINIAN: I was born in Beirut, Lebanon. At the age of eight my family and I moved to the Unites States. As a child I drew everything I saw or wanted to see. Buses, animals, tanks, and explosions are just a few examples of my childhood drawings. In fact, the drawings I completed helped hone my skills as an artist. Throughout high school I would complete a sketchbook every few months with elaborate doodles, studies, and illustrations. Hence, I continued this passion in my formal education at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Ca. Upon graduation from Art Center, I quit my part time job at an advertising company and started freelancing.
H: Is your foundation based on formal training or did you develop your talent in other avenues?
SS: Self-motivation and self-education has always been the core of my training. However, I am always eager to learn new techniques and explore different areas in Art. I have taken private lessons by countless local artists, signed up for drawing sessions, and participated in various art shows. During high school, I enrolled in many art classes such as figure drawing, life drawing, painting, etc. Furthermore, I graduated from the Los Angeles County High School of the Arts. After graduation, I enrolled in figure drawing classes at Glendale Community College in order to prepare for a possible acceptance to Art Center College of Design. Soon after, I was accepted to the Art Center College of Design Illustration department where my formal training officially began.
H: How would you describe your style?
SS: I have always been torn between style and function. Some viewers suggest my artwork can be characterized by a particular style, but my ultimate concern is to be functional. Each job requires a different style and purpose; therefore, I believe an artist must possess the ability to function within those diverse circumstances. I consider my work to have an attitude rather than a style. Artists go through great lengths just to create a style of their own, however, when a particular job calls for another type of style, it becomes difficult for such artists to be functional.
Sample of Sako Shahinian's graphic design work
H: Can you tell us a little about Sako Designs? When did it start, what kind of things do you do and what are some key projects that you’ve worked on?
SS: In 2004, I officially launched Sako Designs. Throughout the years, I have worked on interesting projects within very different industries. For example, in the music industry, I have worked with System of a Down and Wiz Khalifa.
In the magazine and print industry, I have created a cover for Progressive Magazine and an illustration piece for The New Yorker. Some other key projects I’ve worked on include commercial companies such as Nintendo, where I created a graphic animation for their main store in New York, and Camel Cigarettes, where I developed a concept for the packaging.
H: Is your focus on print and design only or do you dabble in other mediums as well?
SS: I don’t limit myself to print and design. I work with multiple mediums such as motion, photography, corporate branding, and product development.
H: For many people, finding motivation to be creative and developing original concepts is not easy. Where do you find your inspiration?
SS: Unfortunately, there is no inspiration well I can tap into every time I have to develop a concept. On the other hand, interest in a subject and just the process of developing something itself is what I need for inspiration.
Another Example of Sako Shahinian's Graphic Skills.
H: What role do you think art and design plays in Armenian culture, especially for us today in the Diaspora?
SS: Art plays a fundamental role in Armenian culture; it is one of the brightest features in our national identity. For many years, in the Diaspora, we have had a preservationist approach towards art, which is understandable, but I would like to see us create more and more art to push forward a newer, better identity for ourselves, rather than a static one.
H: What are some recent and upcoming projects we can expect from you?
SS: I just signed on to a big project called 180South. It’s a new outdoor brand that makes high quality mountaineering and expedition gear. I am in charge of creative direction and development of visual. We are slated to launch next year, and are planning a Mt. Ararat expedition. We will be giving 1% of all sales to charitable organizations and plan to make Armenian environmental issues a priority. I hope AYF members who love the outdoors could participate in the brand and we can voice our common concerns together.
H: How can people get in touch with your company if they want to commission any work?