Michael Schawb

book cover

Perhaps you know I drool over Michael Schawb’s clean lines and nostalgic forms. Not to mention how I adore his stacked type and trademark font… Turns out he’s an Art Center alumni, and came to speak to students tonight at the Hillside Campus just up from the Rosebowl in Pasadena. He has gone on to be a successful illustrator and graphic designer located in San Francisco. You’ll probably recognize his Golden Gate National Parks campaign, and if you’re a Peets coffee patron – his early poster art might hang behind the counter at your local shop. His posters are here.

His talk was open to the public, so I grabbed a friend and headed to meet a hero. He gave a brief background on his schooling (texas, new york, and LA) and his career (San Francisco). Going through slides, he narrated a bit of his process and experience with occasional insights.

He himself is still unclear whether he’s a designer or illustrator after decades of experience. There was something reassuring in that grey area. I was struck with the authenticity of his art, he’s pretty disconnected from technology by still using models to sketch and develop the famous figure silhouettes he’s known for. Also interesting, in finding the right composition he makes a direct connection between art/design and theatre. He strives to find the memorable moment, a climax to capture for dramatic effect. There is not only an element of entertainment but of communication.

Hearing a designer speak again was like coming home. I love design and I especially I love hearing people talk about it.

I brought along my copy of his anthology, The Graphic Art of Michael Schwab, and a sharpie to have him sign it. I was the only one with a copy of his book, so he was excited to see I had it: “That makes me feel good!” Though, he was talking to other folks, so I just got a quick “m schwab 2007” on the title page; a little bittersweet when meeting such an personal design hero. Guess he has more influencing to do… and granted I was stunned into silence. Oh well, it was a great talk and more importantly he’s still producing great work. I’ll forever drool over his simplistic silhouettes and stacked type. *sigh* If your around San Francisco, look out for his MLB All Star Game campaign in SF right now.

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3 Responses to “Michael Schawb”

  1. Ipp Says:

    Schwab has such an interesting style. Does he start with photography and work towards the final image with contrast? I can imagine a large wall with a series of his work. The great thing about his art, its so unique and distinct that one could pick any three peices and they would look great together. Thanks for sharing and congrats on your autograph!

  2. DC Says:

    Enjoyed catching up on your world this morning. So you were speechless?

  3. designministry Says:

    ipp – Yay! another schwab fan in the making! He does use photography, but they are polaroid shots of live models with studio lighting (to get the intense lights and darks for those contrasting silhouette shapes).

    dean – Yea, I did come up short for words when meeting mr. schwab. “I love your work” seemed so cliche, and he was having other conversations while signing my book…perhaps another day.

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