To finish out our “20 Days of Love” interview series, we introduce you to graphic designer, Mikey Mann. Mikey is the in-house designer for Portland Center Stage and the talent behind the show poster for the self-perceptive smash hit Threesome, now showing through March 8th at Portland Center Stage.
Mikey earned a BFA in Visual Communication from Ball State University. Fresh diploma in-hand, Mikey packed up and headed for Portland—though, maybe he didn’t know it yet. He first made a stop in Los Angeles to intern with world-renowned graphic designer, April Greiman, followed by a design job with Simon + Associates Advertising. After 3 years in LaLa Land he made the move to Portland, and now, in addition to his day job, he also does freelance design and illustration.
Hi Mikey, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Let’s cut right to the chase: Threesome. … Actually, let’s step back for just a second. Threesome is a co-production from Portland Center Stage and A Contemporary Theater (ACT), of Seattle. In the play, an Egyptian-American couple attempts to solve their relationship issues by inviting a relative stranger into their bedroom. What begins as a hilariously awkward evening soon becomes an experience fraught with secrets, raising issues of sexism, possession and independence.
Hilarity Ensues: Illustrating the Poster for Threesome, documents Mikey’s creative process on the project.
Can you tell us a little more about how you prepped for the assignment?
The poster design process can be a lengthy one. I started by reading the script. Once read, I sketched a few different concepts and met with the director of the play as well as the marketing director. We chose a direction and I started developing it further with lots of back and forth to make sure the poster conveyed the feel on the show.
Very cool, so you were very familiar with the content by the time you started creating. How did you translate what you had read into visual representations in the poster?
When it came to concepting the poster, I immediately thought of hieroglyphics. Since the couple is Egyptian, it was an easy connection. The flatness of the figures depicted in hieroglyphic murals made me think of Kama Sutra drawings. So my concept arose from the marriage of those two ideas.
Well it looks great!
Have you seen the play since? Any words of wisdom for people planning to see it?
I usually see all of our plays at least three times. First at the dress rehearsal, second at opening night and third during the middle of the run. I like to see the subtle changes as the play progresses. If you are going to see the play, be prepared to see full frontal male nudity, and that’s not the most shocking part of the play.
We appreciate the warning. Have you been to any other good events or shows lately?
The last design event I attended was the ICON 8 Illustration Conference. The speakers were all amazing—from Paula Scher to Carson Ellis. Definitely a highlight of my year.
That sounds amazing! What about the highlight of your average day? What’s the most fulfilling thing about your job?
I get to work with so many creative people every day, each one specializing in a different field. They inspire me to be a better designer.
How about the most challenging?
Living up to my own standard.
And what led you to this role?
Networking. It’s all about who you know. Of course, you need to be a great designer too, but this city is full of great designers.
That certainly seems to be true. Any advice for up-and-coming designers, to gain an edge?
Get to know as many people as possible. They’ll let you know if a position is open. They’ll put in recommendations for you. They’ll help get your foot in the door. Networking is a difficult but necessary step in your career.
Good point. Anything else?
When creating your portfolio, show work that you’d want to continue making.
Speaking of networking, you’re a former board member—now member—of AIGA. Tell us a little about your AIGA experience.
I had been a part of AIGA off and on since college. When I moved to Portland five years ago, it was a great way to break into the design crowd. When the opportunity arose to be on the board, I jumped on it. I joined the board to develop my leadership skills, but what I got out of the experience was much more than that. It was a great way to network with local agencies. I had wonderful opportunities to reward and bring designers in the community closer together by creating group projects. Being on the board gave me so many more opportunities to further my career than what I initially thought.
Photo by Christopher Columbres. Poster artwork by Mikey Mann of Portland Center Stage.
You mentioned moving to Portland; how have the creative community at large (throughout your journey), and the Portland creative scene, inspired or informed your work?
I’ve always been a part of the creative community. Seeing better work than my own inspires me to be better. I’ve definitely added more illustrations into my designs from having worked in Portland. Before the move to Portland, I worked at a firm that did mostly clean sharp corporate designs, so it’s nice to see so many designers using illustration as a tool.
Were you always on a path to your current career?
I’m the type of person to pick one path and stay on that path until I master it. I have always been drawn to illustration (pun intended). Ever since I was but a wee child I’ve been drawing. That ultimately led to graphic design. I include a lot of illustrations in my design and love to have that tool to work with when designing.
What other tools do you depend on? Where do you turn for inspiration, or to unplug?
Twitter. I always have my twitter feed up while I’m working. It is the perfect way to stay current on news, find daily inspiration and maybe have a laugh break. You can find it all on twitter.
How about a dream project you’d love to work on, or a professional goal?
I would love to illustrate a map for a fantasy novel. I love cartography. Can’t get enough. Especially fantasy cartography.
What’s on the top of your bucket list?
I would love to visit the British Isles, especially Wales.
What’s your favorite food cart in Portland?
Oh man, that is tough. I would have to go with Aybla Grill. Their Super Lamb Gyro is so good!
Coffee or tea?
Tea! I don’t drink coffee. My favorite place to grab a tea is Tea Chai Te, in Sellwood and on 23rd. Awesome atmosphere and amazing tea blends.
Ok, let’s try flipping the script. Why don’t you ask me a question?
Who are you wearing?
Ummm, Nana made me this sweater. … I’m not sure what her knitting label is, but she’s big with the bridge club crowd. What about you?
Right now I am rocking a lovely J.Crew field knit V-neck Teeshirt with a pair of 501 Levis jeans.
Well if I ever run out of sweater back stock from Nana, I’ll know where to turn for advice. Thank you so much, Mikey for the time, we’ll see you at the Tea bar!
Learn more about about Threesome and make sure to subscribe to our blog, to catch the next AIGA Member interview!
Check out Mikey Mann’s design work and then drop by the AIGA open house on Thursday, March 5, 2015 at Metal Toad. Grab a drink, hang out for a while, and meet neat people, like Mikey.