Kevin Finn

A few years ago we lost my Mum to cancer. For most of her illness I was on the other side of the planet; a huge distance from someone I loved deeply and was incredibly close to. I’m grateful I had the chance to be sitting next to her at the very end, but it was an immensely traumatic moment in my life. It caused me to question everything as I grappled with the loss. I also began to lose interest in design, something I was previously passionate about. It now felt rather meaningless in comparison. 

Over the following years it was a massive effort for me to practice design. But it also signalled a very clear moment in my life, where I decided to only work on projects that I felt were meaningful, and to pursue my self-initiated projects with more purpose wherever possible. I had come to realise a simple truth: we don’t have time to fuck around.  

Even so, it took considerable effort to muster the energy to focus on my own initiatives. I also began filtering commercial projects based on whether I found them meaningful, whether I could make a positive impact with the clients I was working with, and whether I could provide a tangible value beyond delivering a traditional design ‘output’. That’s not to say I intended to only seek out charity or cause related projects. I simply wanted to connect with the people and the impact—not just the design.  

Strange as it might sound, I stopped thinking of those commissions as design projects and ironically began getting closer to design again, as a result. During this period I wasn’t attracting as many commercial projects as I needed to in order to sustain the business effectively. It was a scary and confusing time. Even when I needed the work, I declined projects that I felt weren’t the right fit, and I cherished engagements where I felt I was making a positive difference for those I was working with (not working for). I still approach my practice this way. 

Through all this, I slowly began finding my own path. Things started to make sense again. Even though we all face challenges and uncertainty—life pressures from all sides—I’ve never been more committed to following my own path, however flawed or uncertain that might appear. And although it’s a work-in-progress, I now feel less distance between where I was and where I want to be.


Kevin Finn

Kevin Finn is an internationally respected designer. He is founder of the independent design practice TheSumOf, which primarily specialises in strategic brand identity focusing on simple, clear and accessible communication. Among other projects, he has designed the identity and communications for SBSBrisbane Festival and de Bono Global, where he designed the identity and visual language of Dr. de Bono’s life’s work – the first time this has ever been done.

He is also founder, editor and publisher of Open Manifesto, an independent journal which for over a decade has focused on the intersection of design with social, cultural, political and economic issues. Contributors have included Edward de Bono, Noam Chomsky, Alain de Botton, various global thought leaders and designers, an ex-CIA operative, a real-life super hero and a real-life cyborg, among many others.

Kevin is also founder of DESIGNerd and creator of DESIGNerd 100+, the world’s first design trivia game featuring personal questions from some of the most significant practicing designers, including Stefan Sagmeister, Steven Heller and Lita Talarico. 



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