I feel really lucky to do what I do. I make things for a living and that's really fun. Why should I be overcritical of that?
While earning his BS/MA in Visual Communication Design from Kent State University, Mikey Burton co-founded Little Jacket and started going after the type of work he wanted to get. When he found himself designing gig posters from a editorial perspective he began to seriously consider illustration as a career. After a time working for 160/90 in Philadelphia he took on an illustration representative and began working on his own. His style, that his site describes as “Midwesterny,” features thoughtful visuals executed with limited palettes and textures informed by his interest in analog printing techniques. Today, his work is everywhere—clients include Facebook, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Fast Company, and every other popular magazine you’ve ever read.
When asked about design criticism, Mikey said, “I feel really lucky to do what I do. I make things for a living and that’s really fun. Why should I be overcritical of that?” This optimism and wit shows through in his most recent personal project “Freelance Ain’t Free.” The project resulted from a challenge he gave himself to letterpress a personal project while home in Ohio. Printed at Cranky Pressman, a frequent collaborator, the “Freelance Ain’t Free” print has developed into a brand, a micro-site, and a movement that people can get behind. He told us, “It’s really important to do personal projects. I make time when I can. Whenever I sit down to do one they always end up going somewhere else than expected. Plus, its always nice to have another bit of income.”
He commented on the changing illustration industry. He said, “You don’t need an agent anymore. I’m very interested to see where Twitter and Dribbble go. Everything has changed. You can sit down for a day, upload all your work to a Cargo site, and with the right kind of networking you can get illustration work and create a job for yourself. When I was in school we didn’t have that.” But Mikey likes having an agent. “My rep knows all of the old way of doing things. He has all of these contacts and it’s really nice to have someone there to take care of contracts, and get the most out of the job. It’s really nice to have someone there to be on your side and back you up.”
We asked him about inspiration and he laughed. He said, “It’s tough when I’m giving a talk and people ask me where I find inspiration. I say the internet. I wish I had a special library out on a mountain and every few weeks I have to go to the top of the mountain to be inspired. But you work, eat, drink, hang out in a city, spend time with friends to recharge, and then get back to work.” If Mikey does have a secret mountain-top library, we want to go there!
It was a privilege talking to Mikey. He made us laugh, challenged our way of thinking, and reminded us why we’re grateful to be designers. Oh yeah, and he really love bears! This link proves it!