When I was 13, my french teacher took our class to Paris for ten days. It was my first time out of the country, my first time on a plane, and my first major vacation without a family member along for the ride. It was liberating, exhilarating, eye-opening, and utterly amazing. I took so many things away from that experience, but the one thing that has stayed with me through the years was the discovery that traveling to other countries (and by extension having unusual experiences) broadens how we perceive our own world, and how we perceive ourselves. Its impossible to grow as a designer if you live in a vacuum. Like a writer or a musician, our aesthetic comes from deep within us, from memory, from emotional highs (and lows), and the pure joy of experiencing love for the first time, or from swimming in a lake under the stars at 3 am, or from being a boy on the streets of Paris watching a completely new world unfold.

Stephen Szymanski is a native of Baltimore, a BFA graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York City, and currently resides in Arlington, Virginia. With over 20 years of experience helping clients achieve their marketing and communication goals, Stephen is an accomplished Creative Director, Art Director, Designer, Copywriter, Conceptual Strategist and Armchair Therapist. Before founding SDMC, Stephen was the Creative Director for Marsh - the world's leading risk management and insurance services firm. Most recently, Stephen was the Creative Director for Symplicity Corporation - a technology firm in Arlington, VA. He is also an Adjunct Professor at UMBC where he teaches classes in Brand Identity. If he had free time, he would be spending it attempting to escape the horrors of the world in which we live by reclining in the comfy leather club chairs of the Courthouse AMC theater, or trying to paddle a kayak in a forward direction, or by finally penning that great American novel.