12 Questions: Meet Michael Irby (USA)

In our 12 Questions blog series, we feature interviews with someone from the crowdSPRING community. For these interviews, we pick people who add value to our community – in the blog, in the forums, in the projects. Plainly – activities that make crowdSPRING a better community. Be professional, treat others with respect, help us build something very special, and we’ll take notice.

We’re very proud to feature Michael Irby (crowdSPRING username: 3squared) today. Michael lives and works in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

1. Please tell us about yourself.

I grew up primarily in the Southeastern part of the U.S. where I earned a BS in Industrial Design.  Although the school was highly accredited, the program focused on quick sketching and marker rendering techniques.  While these are formidable skills, I found myself lacking the much needed computer design skill set that employers wanted and the desire to move to the big cities where they were located.  Hell, I didn’t even have a computer.  I moved to beautiful Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, seeking that quality of life we all talk about.  Since then I have been a bartender, restaurant manager and cabinet maker.  I bought a house with my girlfriend and we now have 2 cats and 2 dogs.  We recently purchased a Mac (my girlfriend is studying graphic design) and I started reading her design text books.  I signed up for crowdSPRING as a way to challenge myself to learn the software, and it has been a blast ever since.

2. How did you become interested in design?

I became interested in design as a child.  I collected comic books and would spend hours trying to draw the covers (mostly Todd McFarlane’s work).  I could replicate anything I could see, but was not very gifted at creating drawings from scratch.  I put  the idea of a career in creativity aside and followed a path towards science, until my senior year in high school when I was required to take creative writing and art history.  Both reignited the need to do something unique and unusual.  When I discovered Industrial Design at my local university, it seemed the perfect blend of both worlds.

3. W
hich of your designs are your favorite and why?

My logo design for Via Ferrata was my second project on crowdSPRING and my first win, so there is a lot of love there.  It involved multiple variations and additional requests from the buyer until all of the elements came together.  The buyer gave consistent feedback throughout the project which made it exciting; communication is so important to the success of any project (buyers listening?).  I also like the logo for Triple E Productions.  It is one of those simple / memorable logos that clients are always asking for.  It was also my first stationary project, so I was able to learn a few things as well.

4. Who/what are some of your biggest influences on your design work?

I get inspiration from good design everywhere.  For example, I recently flew into the Louisville, KY, airport where I had the opportunity to experience the Dyson Airblade hand dryer.  Dyson is known for his tenaciousness, and in this design he delivers perfection as usual.  I washed my hands twice!  My school followed the Bauhaus philosophy of form follows function, so this influences my designs the most.  For me, design is about problem solving, and usually the simplest solution is the best.  There are many designers on crowdSPRING whose simple, intelligent designs inspire and challenge me.  As far as influential designers of note: Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Eileen Gray, Charles Pollock, Alvar Aalto, Mies van der Rhoe, Marcel Breuer (yes I like furniture design) and Herb Lubalin who’s Mother & Child logo is truly inspirational.

5. How do you come up with concepts after you read a buyer’s brief?

After the brief, I peruse the website if one is available.  I look at all of the logos the buyer may have posted that they like, to see if a style is relevant.  Then I check Wikipedia if there are concepts I don’t understand (B2B marketing, Angel Investors, Boab tree, etc).  Once the research is complete, I usually let it simmer.  Have some coffee, go work out, take a nap, take the dogs for a walk.  Then it’s time for pen and paper; usually by now some ideas are starting to percolate.  I write out the name of the company and any ideas associated with it.  I look for obvious relationships within the name or letters, and among the images or ideas. It is very rare that an idea hits instantaneously and I go straight to the computer.  Once sketches are done, I open Illustrator and get to work.

6. Mac or PC?

Mac. I will never go back to PC (sorry guys).  I am primarily drawn to Illustrator and vectors (I guess pun intended).  I like the scalability and versatility and I am still learning Photoshop.  Hell, I am still learning Illustrator.  I have a basic digital camera which I use for capturing profiles and silhouettes of people when needed(again I can only draw what I can see).  I just ordered a Pantone Essentials Plus Kit, which I am hoping will help me bridge the gap between what I see on my screen and what I get from my printer.

7. What is your dream design project?

Furniture design has always been my favorite.  In college I utilized “green” design in every project I could; it wasn’t very popular 12 years ago and only earned me the nickname “hippie”.  My dream project would be to design and manufacture modern furniture using non-toxic, environmentally sustainable materials.  Now that green is hip, which isn’t a bad thing, it seems more achievable.

8. What are your favorite websites for inspiration or learning about graphic design?

I watch Lynda.com tutorials and Gavin Hoey on YouTube.

9. Please describe your typical work day.

Let the pups out, play with them, feed them, some time in between have coffee and check my phone for new projects or updates from crowdSPRING.  Once the dogs are down for a nap, I hit the computer to work on projects or search for new ones.  If there is nothing on the horizon and I don’t have to work my other job, I generally watch tutorials or call it a day; but there is usually something to work on, between puppy naps anyway.

10. What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of being a graphic designer?

The most challenging aspect to being a designer is understanding exactly what the client wants (they don’t always speak design) and then creating a solution that meets their needs in a creative, never been done before way.  Success at this is  the most rewarding part.

11. If you weren’t designing, what would you be doing?

Bartending is currently my bread and butter, and it gets me out of the house to be around people, so I am not yet a full time designer.  And there is something quite rewarding about not punching a time clock to do creative design work.  crowdSPRING has provided this opportunity.  But if I were to choose a different path, I would be a professional disc golfer.  I am not very good, but what a sweet way to make a living.

12. What do you do with your free time?
I am training two puppies right now, bartending and working via crowdSPRING, so there is little free time.  But I like disc golf (obviously), camping, floating the river with friends and cold beer, and generally hanging with my peeps, who are also an inspiration (at least sometimes).  I also love being outdoors and shooting photography.


Thanks, Michael!