Without a doubt, one of the best things about the internet is being able to reach out and meet new people. Social media has become a place for people to share their passions and talents with a wider audience and I have loved being able to marvel in the creative abilities of others online. Sam Beggins is one of those people whose talent I admire and someone I have been lucky enough to reach out to thanks to social media.
I first found Sam when I was looking at inspirational quotes on Instagram. I create a few terrible designs myself for my blog, but there are some incredible pages out there full of beautiful, uplifting designs and Sam’s is one of them (@expresssamantha). Her messages are always positive, the colours are bright and popping and they’re the kind of thing that just by reading them makes your day a little better. She’s the perfect kind of person to be interviewed for this blog.
When I first messages Sam, I thought this interview was going to be simply about sharing her work and marvelling over how talented she is, but from reading her replies it became clear that this interview is about a lot more. Sam is from Tampa and is currently studying Graphic Design at Full Sail University, but her path to this field hasn’t always been easy and clear cut. Sam has had to have a lot of self believe and determination to get where she is and I think that makes her story all the more incredible.
As well as being a graphic design genius, Sam is a keen traveller and an excellent photographer. She manages to make her passions a profitable career and is evidence that using social media positively and effectively can really be a life changing choice. All in all, she’s exactly the kind of positive, inspiring person you want on your social media feed and the kind of person I want to introduce to you all.
How did you first get into graphic design?
My main passion is photography, and I have a background in concert/music photography but have been on a bit of a “hiatus” as I try to figure out school. I had just gotten my first DSLR and I went to an A Day To Remember concert and afterwards looking at the band’s social media accounts I noticed they were tagging a photographer. That led to me to discovering the world of music photography and touring photographers.
I reached out to a girl called Michelle who went to UCF, where I was enrolled at the time studying Journalism, who ran her own concert photography blog and asked her how she got started, what I would need and what I should do. She offered to let me shoot for her Tumblr blog and I was stoked when I got approved for my first photo pass. During the summer, Michelle was coming back to the area so she told me we would have to work out a show schedule as now she would be able to cover them too, and as it was her blog I wanted to make sure she had first dibs. This sucked on my end though, as I wanted to shoot the shows, too – so I started my own site Sounds to Sight.
I eventually grew it to have photographers contributing around the US and even had a girl in the UK shoot a few shows for the site – all through the power of social media! I created an Instagram account and had posted that I was adding photographers to the site and bam, I had a number of emails come in from all these budding photographers just looking for a place to start.
As I was getting my blog running, I got a Twitter notification from somebody asking what my email was and because they’d like to pick my brain – so I took the chance and reply. Turns out he worked at the radio and had seen my social media. They were starting a new channel for Alternative music and would really like to get me on board for content. Again – LOVE social media!!
About a year into all of this, I shot a Smallpools show at a little venue called The Social in Orlando. I posted a few photos after the show on social media, tagged the band, nothing out of the norm. The next day, I had an email from the band’s manager saying their photographer quit last night and they needed someone to come out with them until they met back up with their regular photographer. I was in the middle of my semester, had a job I was scheduled to show up at and had but a day’s notice to make my decision. If I could meet the band 2 hours away, I could ride out on the bus with them for the next month.
I called my boss at the radio station and he told me I have to do it, not don’t worry about my job and without a doubt go. After texting friends and taking time to process what was going on, I called my mom who wasn’t 100% thrilled at the idea but ultimately backed it. I emailed my professors, I had to drop out of only one class and the rest said I could work online and or make up assignments. Then I went!
After coming back from this, school was harder. I wasn’t really feeling the journalism classes I was enrolled in and the music photography world was pulling me in hard. The only class that clicked with me was a Page Design class, where we learned about InDesign and the basics of graphic design – I was hooked. The following semester was my last one at UCF and my parents had agreed that if I got a job and could support myself, they’d be okay with my decision to end my time at UCF and with school for the meantime. They knew (even if they may not have believed me at the time) that I wanted to pursue a Graphic Design degree and would eventually return to school.
My family owns a Real Estate brokerage in Tampa and they offered me the job. They told me if I wanted to quit school then I needed to support myself. I was really serious, I could take this job while I finished out school and then could figure it out.
My plans to start at Full Sail were delayed a year due to a dislocated knee and blood clots. but I did start classes a year into me moving back to Tampa. With the knee issues, shooting concerts was impossible for a while. Whilst I am back in Tampa, concert photography has taken a pause due to long drives to shows and a full time but, but I have dived in deep into Graphic Design.
I love that the path you have taken to find careers you enjoy is a little unconventional, as well as the fact that is shows how social media can be used for something incredibly positive. A lot of the content you share online is incredibly positive in itself. Why do you choose to use your online voice in this way?
Positivity is key! It’s important to share positive posts because there’s enough negativity on everyone’s feed, whether it be someone posting nasty comments or just sad world news. I just want to have fun and spread some colour with the little doodles and graphics that I share. What’s more fun than bright, colourful text and happy messages?
Your designs definitely are bright, colourful and happy – I love them! Where do you get the inspiration for your creations from?
I get inspiration from everywhere!! Pinterest and Instagram are big sources of inspiration for me. I follow a lot of artists to learn from their process videos and to stay up with the industry. I’m almost always listening to music as I create – there’s a playlist on Spotify that’s called “Soft Focus” and it’s my jam. It’s instrumental music but up beat and not slow and sleepy. I get too distracted when I listen to music I know or music with lyrics because I try to understand what they’re saying and get sidetracked or if I know the song start singing along to it mentally and slowly stop paying attention to what I was doing anymore.
Out of everything you had designed so far, what is your favourite thing that you have created?
My favourite creation is probably the calendar I made for my mom and sister for Christmas last year! Every year while my sister and I were growing up, my mom would make a family calendar featuring pictures of me, my sister and various family members or events we went to throughout the year and that would be everyone’s Christmas present. She’s stopped now that we have moved out and there’s lack of content. But last November, my mom and sister each brought home a Vizsla puppy. They had taken so many photos and I just keep getting sent photos and videos – the joys of group chats! – and I decided I would carry on the calendar legacy, but shift the focus to the dogs! I had fun with it. It was so much fun to see it all come together and to see the final printed version was cool. I kept it a secret from them until they opened it which was super hard as I always ask them both for feedback of my work!
A lot of work that graphic designers or photographers like yourselves share online gets copied and posted by others who do not credit the source. Sometimes people even pass it off as their own. What would you say to someone who reposted your work without crediting you as the source?
Simple… WHHHHHHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?! It’s so easy to drop a line of credit! I’m not asking for payment, although in all reality I could, and it’s so easy to @ someone.
I think the main problem is that the internet is a wild place. To non-creators might not realise the work that gets put into something simply because they don’t know the field and software. They see the artist posting it and think ‘hey that’s cool, I want to share that’. I don’t think there’s always harmful intent, I think it’s a matter of ignorance. Now, with repeat offenders and cases where they deliberately don’t credit – they just suck.
Uncredited sharing is definitely a negative of the internet, but you seem to utilise it so well. How would you say that social media has helped you build your brand?
I LOVE social media! It’s a free platform – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest – where you can connect to anyone and everyone in a matter of a second. You can tweet your favourite artist and get a reply – we take that for granted. Years ago, you would have to search for their address or their email to send a message.
You never know who is out there looking at your stuff and you don’t know who will come across it. You can make so many friends through social media now, too. Just like our paths probably would never have crossed had it not been for our Instagram accounts!
With photography, I credit social media with helping me get my radio station job as well as my touring opportunity. I posted my content, used hashtags and tagged relevant accounts, and it caught my old boss’s attention to the point he called me in for an interview without me reaching out first. It caught the attention of the band that took me out on tour, too. I was in the right place and right time and was quick enough to tag them in social media posts and that allowed them to see my work and bring me on tour with them.
With design, it just opens your eyes to what is out there. I scroll hashtags allllll day long to see what others are up to, what techniques they use and to really study what people are posting. I haven’t gotten too deep with my social media and graphic design yet, but do hope as I build my platform, by the time I graduate in December, I have a well-rounded profile to show the world.
You talk about graduation, but what about beyond that? Where would you like to see your brand in the future?
Hopefully I’m making sales off my art prints and travel photography! I would love to fund my travel off selling my work. Travel blogging and travel photography is the road I want to head down. I would love to publish zines and little travel books to share the experience!
That’s a great goal to have! What advice would you give to anyone who is interested in the friend of graphic design?
Take your time to really develop your style. I’m still searching for mine. It will take time, it will be a trial and error process, it will be frustrating and you will get burnt out but at the end of the day if you love design, if you love what you’re doing, it will be worth it.
That’s great advice for anyone with a passion as well, not just design. Finally, if you could sum up your outlook one life, what would it be?
Do what you want and don’t wait! Book that trip, read that book, pause and appreciate where you are and what you’ve done to get yourself there. If you’re not where you want to be, think about what you need to do and DO IT – stop with the excuses.
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