Tomorrow, I take a purposeful week off. It’s my second break since starting Small Scale Sabbaticals. Every 7th week, I take the week off to rest, recharge, and pursue my secondary passions.

I apply myself fully to whatever I’m doing which means when I’m working, I’m working hard. I realized if I was ever going to rest, I’d have to be just as intentional about my breaks. Focused work time. Focused break time.

I plan to continue taking every 7th week off and making sabbaticals an integral part of my routine. During my sabbatical, I take a break from my regular commitments and output. I don’t record podcasts with Ben and I don’t shoot any seanwes tv videos.

However, I do schedule two, mini sabbatical episodes on my podcast. They’re shorter-form recordings over some of my kalimba playing with some food for thought during the week.

While the sabbatical is primarily for my own recouping, I also like that sharing these mini sabbatical episodes serves as a reminder to you of the importance of taking breaks—even from doing work that we love. I like that it may get you to think about taking purposeful breaks in your own life to prevent burnout.

To reinforce this, I decided I wanted to brand the sabbatical in the form of an icon that visually indicates that I am on a break.

I immediately knew that I wanted to commission Community member and icon designer extraordinaire, Kyle Adams.


Kyle shares in his case study:

“Seanwes is a brand dedicated to helping others making 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.”

The One Concept Approach Case Study

I approached Kyle because of his objective process, clean style, and meticulous attention to detail. I’ve gotten to know him better over the course of this year through our many discussions in the Community chat. He has a great work ethic and as a long-time podcast listener, he employs The One Concept Approach with his all of his projects and clients.

Those of you who have listened to the seanwes podcast for any length of time know about The One Concept Approach—it’s how a professional designs. They don’t make tons of options until you’re happy, and they don’t take on any client who expects such a thing. They’re selective in who they work with. They explain that they will be taking your goals, target audience, and intended mediums and design an effective solution that serves all of that criteria.


You’ve heard me talk at length about The One Concept Approach on my podcast from the perspective of a design professional, but today I’m going to be switching things up and writing about the approach from the perspective of being the client.

As much as I like working as a professional, I enjoy working with someone who employs a professional process. I like deferring to specialists. Rather than attempt to design an icon myself (something I could attempt, but is outside of my expertise), I prefer to hire a specialist.

As a client approaching a professional, I am responsible for two things and two things alone: content and goals. I’m not coming with preconceived ideas or concepts for this person to execute, I’m coming to them with objectives that they can apply their expertise towards.


Kyle explains his 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.”

Enter Without Preconceptions

The reason I do not enter the project with preconceived ideas or concepts is because I am deferring to Kyle and his expertise. He is going to make objective design decisions based on my goals and his experience in icon design. He knows and understands limitations that I do not. He is taking things into consideration that can only be intuited with years of industry-specific experience.

If I tell him to execute something a certain way, I could very well be compromising the effectiveness of the icon because of my lack of experience or limitations that I am unaware of. This is the reason for hiring a specialist. Telling them how to do their job defeats the entire purpose of hiring them for their expertise.


Kyle speaks to pixel precision:

“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.”

Kyle is a professional. I came to him with the goal of creating a kalimba icon for the purpose of branding my sabbaticals. Because the sabbatical is for rest and pursuit of secondary passions, I wanted the icon to represent music (my secondary passion) and embody calmness.

I told him the intended mediums and locations that the icon would be used as well as specific size constraints. Beyond these objectives, I entrusted him fully with the result.

Expect the Unexpected

As a client, relinquishing control means the result is something that is unexpected. When I saw the final icon design it was something I did not expect and that’s exactly how it should be.

Kyle follows an objective process. He’s not making design decisions based on his own personal preference nor is he making them based on mine. This means the result is something neither of us can predict.

This is the expectation you should set with your client. If the result is merely what the client had in their head, they didn’t want you to be a designer, they wanted you to be a paintbrush. It’s your job to educate your clients and explain your process. If the client does not trust you and is not on board with your design process, then it is your job to decline the request to work with them.


Kyle concludes with calculated reasoning for the colors:

“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 to your 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.”

Hire a Professional

A technician will make exactly what you want. They’ll compete on their rate, they’ll cut you a deal, and they’ll make you happy.

But a professional will ask you the right questions. They’ll make sure you’re making the right thing in the first place. They’ll tell you it’s the wrong idea even when it might mean losing the job. They’re not thinking in terms of scarcity, they’re thinking in terms of effectiveness.

Many people are so focused on having someone make exactly what’s in their mind, they’re afraid of anything falling short of that. What they don’t realize is they’re missing out on having a professional surpass those expectations.

This is what Kyle has done. By giving up control and trusting him with the execution, he has created something that is better than I could have come up with. He has crafted something that accomplishes what I need beautifully.

As soon as I saw the resulting presentation, I said, “Wow!” It was an exclamation of simultaneous surprise and awe. It exuded polish and instantaneously drove home that I’d hired a professional.

Be a Professional

There’s nothing quite like the beauty of being approached specifically for your expertise. Specifically because of your work and specifically because you’re you. There’s nothing quite like the feeling.

But it requires practicing selectivity. It requires turning down more projects than you take. It requires being uncompromising in your process and saying “no” to many of the wrong clients.

There’s no magic point you reach where you’re able to be selected with clients. You’re able to be selective because you’ve chosen to practice selectivity.

Do what Kyle has done. Be consistent with an objective design process and share the results through case studies on your website.

Kyle is able to use The One Concept Approach because he has spent time becoming excellent at his work and he’s not willing to compromise on his process. He’s not complaining that some clients “won’t like” The One Concept Approach. He knows the right client will follow his process because they have seen the results from his case studies and want the same for their project.