I never fully understood the term “infectious smile” until I met Eric Sedeño. The TikTok star-slash-graphic designer and I recently had a lively chat via Zoom, and from the moment his ebullient face popped up on my computer screen, I was captivated.
“I’m from Dallas, Texas—yeehaw!” he said with gusto at the top of the call as we made small talk, and I realized the person he presents as on his immensely popular TikTok account, @ricotaquito, is far from a front. That always-grinning, easy-laughing, radiant ball of effervescence is exactly who the real Eric Sedeño is.
I had the joy of chatting with Sedeño on the release of his new zine, “Spilled Feelings,” which is the first issue he intends to be a quarterly endeavor. While most know Sedeño from his TikTok, he returns to his graphic design roots with “Spilled Feelings” and has designed a line of T-shirts, tote bags, hats, and other apparel to go along with it. The jack of all trades also runs Groove, a candle company, with his brother. Through their company, the brothers partner with Minnie’s Food Pantry in their hometown of Plano, Texas, to provide meals to the food insecure with each candle they sell. True to form, Sedeño designed Groove’s brand identity, packaging, and website.
Our conversation was lively, wide-ranging, and soul-nourishing, and I left it feeling awash in dopamine. Such is the Eric Sedeño effect! Check it out below.
What’s your creative background? What drew you to graphic design in the first place?
I was always an artistic kid; I’ve always liked to draw and paint and do pottery. My mom is a crafty woman, so I grew up going to Michael’s and Hobby Lobby. Even my dad, he’s not creative in the same way, but he finds joy in building things. Like we could have easily hired someone to rebuild our fence, but he’s like, “No, I want to do it!” He loves putting things together.
I always liked art, but I was never the best at drawing hyperrealism—hands are hard for me, eyes always look wonky. But when I got to high school, I realized graphic design was an option, and it was where I flourished. It was the first time I felt like I really could see myself doing something, and it made me really happy. It was also at a time in my life where I didn’t really know myself yet, so it was nice to have one piece of the puzzle figured out.
The college I went to didn’t have a graphic design program, it was only a minor, so I did advertising. I’m really grateful that it all lined up because I could have learned all the technical stuff as well as I wanted, but advertising taught me how to have an idea. That major taught me the most important thing you can have is an idea or a concept or something that makes everything makes sense. I don’t think I would have grasped that quite as well without the advertising framing. As soon as you have an idea, you just have to build it out in as many ways as you can.
Even now in my TikToks, I have an idea, and then I try to execute it. College taught me how to have an idea and how to tell a story, whether it’s in a picture or a video.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
I’ve always had a really big pastel era, and I’ve always liked things that are bright, light, and airy. Something about the cartoons I watched growing up stuck with me; I love a black outline. I love the cleanliness, I really appreciate harsh lines. My aesthetic is part of my personality; I’m very vibrant, and I love vibrant and approachable and fun illustration. It’s a visual representation of me!
I’ve always been super interested in expressing myself through print. I feel like paper is an experience, and it’s a dying experience.
Why was making a zine so important to you?
I’ve always been super interested in expressing myself through print. I feel like paper is an experience, and it’s a dying experience. In a lot of ways, to have my art printed and sold is something very special to me. It’s just a different part of your brain, it’s an itch that gets scratched when you get to print something out. It’s like, “Oh, I made that.” I’m very proud of it!
I’ve always wanted to sell a zine, but I never really felt comfortable. I was holding myself back because I had imposter syndrome. I worried about whether it’d be good or whether people would appreciate it, or whether that’s even something people would want to see from me. But I wanted to design something where you could get a piece of my brain that’s different from the one you already see. I wanted it to be my love letter to the internet.
So how did the comedic performer side of you that you portray on your TikTok develop?
I don’t think people see this on the internet, but I’m a very guarded person, actually; I always have been. I think it was part of protecting myself when I wasn’t out yet. I had to be guarded and hide a lot of pieces of myself, even up until I went through a breakup, and then that gave me the space and time to make funny videos. I was never a performative kid, I was never onstage or anything. This is just actually who I am; I was born to be annoying, in the best way.
This is just actually who I am; I was born to be annoying, in the best way.Eric Sedeño
One thing I’m really grateful for now, looking back, is working at an ad agency where they had me working on a bank; there’s no room to be creative when you work on a bank. It is literally so dry, it just is what it is. It was so sad, all they used was white, gray, black, and red— that’s such a terrible palette! But because I had the opportunity to be at work and be bored all day every day working on that dumb bank, it gave me the space in my mind to be like, Okay, I gotta do something fun. I was so lucky to be given the space and time to use my brain to create stuff on the internet. As much as I complained so much about that job and how they put me on the worst client, without the worst client I wouldn’t have my platform. The stars kind of aligned for me.
Are you surprised by how massively popular you’ve become on the internet?
It still shocks me that people really, really like my content— I’m literally just being stupid. Like I said, I’m actually really guarded, and I never allowed everyone to see that side of me. The videos I make now, I used to just send to my friends. I would be a character and they’d be like, I don’t know what the hell he’s doing, but it’s funny. I never did it for an audience of more than like, five people. I had 11 followers on TikTok, and then one day I was like, “I want to be funny!” It allowed me to show myself in a new, really authentic way and not be so guarded with who gets to see what I’m up to.
One of my first jobs when I was in my freshman year of college was at a furniture store, and I got hired for my personality. They literally told me, “We love your smile, and we love your energy, we want you in front of the cashier.” I had to welcome everyone in. They were like, “Yeah, you’re a personality hire.” I feel like that’s just what I am now on the internet— I’m just a personality hire!
What’s next for you? Do you have any long-term goals?
Down the line, I would really love to have some sort of little graphic design studio. I love doing branding and brand identities, and my best friend is a package designer, and I think we would rule the world if we got to work together. We could sell T-shirts and make zines and have fun interns! I already have the name, but I can’t say it yet!
I feel like being a creative person is so hard sometimes because I’m interested in everything. I want to do pottery, and I want to do painting, and I want to do watercolor! I want to do all of these things that take so much time and energy, and I know I should just pour myself into them, but then I know I’ll fall in love with them and have another thing to do. Our culture doesn’t seem to celebrate creativity unless it’s extremely marketable, and I just think that’s sad.
But honestly, I feel really lucky to be me, lately. It’s a crazy thing to say, but I’m just so lucky to be me.