seanwes kalimba

Seanwes is a brand dedicated to helping others make a living with their passion. As part of his teachings, Sean McCabe, the owner of seanwes, has begun taking a sabbatical every seven weeks. This is a purposeful break from his regular commitments with the focus on relaxing as well as pursuing secondary passions. I was approached by Sean to create a kalimba icon that will be used as part of the seanwes sabbatical content branding. This icon helps to differentiate the content created specifically for week long sabbaticals from the normal seanwes content his audience has come to expect. He wanted something that would invoke a sense of calmness, relaxation, and admiration for beauty in the small, otherwise unnoticed things. This resonates with the premise of the sabbatical as it is a time to unwind and appreciate the otherwise overlooked aspects of life.

Research and Sketching

I began by sketching the form and studying the kalimba. In order for the icon to project beauty in the unnoticed and retain a natural feel, it was imperative that I gained an intimate understanding of the subject matter. The main component of the kalimba is the wooden box that makes up the body of the instrument. I studied the wood grain thoroughly and sketched several concepts in order to simplify the texture. It was important that this portion of the icon still felt organic in it’s reduced form. The number of tines (the keys of the instrument) and their shape were also explored during this initial phase. Due to the scale of the smaller icon it was important to structure the tines so that their shape was communicated clearly.

Final Concept

To further incorporate the theme of relaxation and simplification, the final representation is simplified in form. I made many precise curves, clean highlights, and defined shadows to simplify the real world object. Pixel precision was also of the upmost importance. A scale of 280x280px (1x) and 700x700px (3x) were chosen as those dimensions would allow the icon to be used clearly within the dimensions Sean required for his newsletter, blog post header, and podcast album artwork.


A simple and soft palette of colors were chosen for the final icon. Subtle contrast between colors create a calming sense of relaxation and rest for the viewer. As the seanwes brand has grown it has begun to appeal to both creative and business focused individuals. The blue-gray tones associate with the business aspect of the seanwes audience, while the rich wood tones pay tribute to Sean McCabe’s legacy as a hand lettering artist by incorporating a rich earthy tone. The icon is optimized for use on light colored backgrounds as soft, bright colors will help further extend the intended message of relaxation. The lighter background also helps distinguish regular seanwes content from the sabbatical content as Sean’s traditional ampersand logo contains a dark background.


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