Hey folks! Thank you so much for the warm welcome last week.
Today, I would like to introduce you to my good friend Mike Davis, a local graphic designer and one who makes Minnesota very proud. He is the co-founder of Burlesque of North America, a big fan favorite of the design community here in Minneapolis. They are super busy with clients from Arcade Fire to Nike, rotating exhibitions in their gallery CO Exhibitions, or hosting their annual Dre Day celebration (need to dust off those old hip hop mixed tapes?). He was kind enough to find a bit of time to answer some questions for us between jet setting around the country DJing as Mike the 2600 King and making delicious beef jerky with his wife.
One of my all-time favorite items that I purchased for my son would be Mike Davis’s Alphabet Print. Many cool kids have this poster up in their room already and what better way to learn their ABC’s then to remember “N” is for Ninja and “U” is for Underwear?
Here is my little guy (above), he was very lucky to be chosen to model one of Mike’s t-shirt designs, Sunshine Hot Dog. We like to call our son “The Boss” and this will be his nickname in this Small for Big world.
Here is Mike’s adorable niece modeling his Totem Pole t-shirt design.
Let’s kick-off the interview, shall we?
Hi Mike! What are your earliest memories of art and design in your childhood?
I remember loving cartoons and TV shows from a really early age. I was obsessed with G.I. Joe, Star Wars, The Dark Crystal, Pac-Man, He-Man, and Thundarr The Barbarian and would constantly be drawing my own comic books and making up my own stories based on those shows and movies I loved. From there, it was video games and all the promotional graphics that went along with them. Those Activision game boxes were the best. I was also a huge fan of Richard Scarry books and that artwork still inspires me to this day.
What were your favorite toys when you were little?
Star Wars action figures and Legos. I loved all the details and depth of the Star Wars toy universe – they took so much care in creating toys of so many random characters and vehicles which may have only appeared on screen for a few seconds in the entire trilogy. Legos really let my siblings and I get creative and build whatever we could imagine before Legos got all overly-branded and overly-designed. All we needed was a big pile of bricks.
What is the back story behind the famous Alphabet Print?
My sister had her first child about five years ago. I knew I wanted to make something special for my new niece, so I thought an alphabet poster would be a great gift for her. I’ve been really interested in typography and letterform design for a while and had been doodling some letters shaped like people or faces. This ultimately evolved into the letters being shaped like objects that matched that particular letter (A for Apple, B for Burger, etc). I initially printed out a black outlined poster (the H was originally just an H for Hailey) and colored it in with crayon for her. After some friends saw it online and gave me great feedback, we (Burlesque) made a screenprinted edition of them. It’s ended up being our biggest selling poster. About a year after we put it on sale, I was approached by Kidrobot to create a series of keychains based on the full alphabet.
What are your biggest influences in art and design?
Some of my favorites: Milton Glaser, Herb Lubalin, Stefan Kanchev, Otl Aicher, Alain Gree, Seymour Chwast.
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts Mike!