Alaska-based maritime enforcement specialist dabbles in graphic arts

By Auxiliarist Drew Herman

Run to Remember LogoWhen Coast Guardsmen commemorate fallen colleagues with the third annual Run to Remember this May, the event’s bugler logo designed by Petty Officer 1st Class Sean Lawler will help set the tone and unite participants across the nation.

Lawler, an instructor at the Coast Guard’s North Pacific Regional Fisheries Training Center in Kodiak, Alaska, was stationed in Florida when Run to Remember began as part of the Keys 100 Ultramarathon in 2011. He volunteered to create a visual identity for posters and T-shirts for the Coast Guard memorial.

As a maritime enforcement specialist, Lawler’s job description does not include graphic arts. But 13 years ago, Lawler lived in the quiet town of Hillsboro, N.C., and he is still a big fan of the Tar Heel teams.

“I had a fun job in North Carolina — I was a private investigator,” said Lawler, whose tall, solidly athletic frame, short brown hair and serious expression fit the image of a reliable lawman.ME1 Sean Lawler

Then he visited some military recruiters and read a book about the Coast Guard. The challenge appealed to him, and he has since worked mostly on law enforcement, anti-terrorism force protection and training other units on security and enforcement.

While stationed in Georgia with a Coast Guard Marine Safety and Security Team in 2005, Lawler had some fun using Photoshop to put the face of a team member in place of the star actors in popular movie posters. People loved the spoofs and admired his knack, so he started getting requests to design unit logos.

Now his work appears on T-shirts, patches and challenge coins for several units across the Coast Guard. He has also created designs used for memorials and fundraisers like Run to Remember and the loss of Coast Guard helicopter 6535.

Besides the natural knack, Lawler taught himself the techniques and computer programs for modern graphic arts. He likes to try to recreate interesting designs and effects.

“If I needed to do something, I would just look it up online,” he said. 

Lawler recently scored a graphic arts milestone at his current station by winning a prominent local contest.

For more than 50 years, the island community of Kodiak has staged its Crab Festival at the end of May, celebrating the start of summer with games, rides, food booths and parades. The new logo for each year is as much a part of the event as the Ferris wheel, games and corn dogs.

Kodiak Crab Festival LogoLawler’s design for the 2013 Crab Festival of a shield shape with silhouettes of a crab and Kodiak’s iconic wind turbines will appear on T-shirts, ball caps, sweatshirts and other swag. He didn’t realize how much importance the festival logo has for Kodiak until he won. Congratulations poured in, the newspaper ran a story, and the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce, the organizer of Crab Festival, told him about the range of uses his design would get.

The festival also sponsors a popular annual poster contest, often won by professional artists whose work then becomes a collector’s item, decorating walls in homes and businesses on and off the island.

“I’ll get the poster next time,” Lawler said.

Although he calls graphic design his “budding side profession,” Lawler has never accepted payment for his work, and said he doesn’t have the time or resources to get too serious about it. 

“It’s never going to be a full-time job,” he said.

But while he continues his Coast Guard maritime enforcement career, Lawler is willing to hear from people interested in tapping his artistic talent for a unit logo. 

“We can talk,” he said. 

You can find more examples of Lawler’s graphic design work on his website, www.seanlawler.org.

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