In the spirit of giving back, and our desire to support local businesses and artists, we are doing an artist spotlight series. We will be showcasing a new artist each day for the next 31 days. Today’s artist is Michael Doret of Alphabet Soup, a Digital Type Foundry.
Michael grew up in Brooklyn, NY near Coney Island—the influence of which is permanently etched in his work. He graduated from Cooper Union, and went on to start his own design studio in New York. His work revitalized the art of hand-lettering by expanding it into the areas of illustration and graphic design. You may be familiar with his work without even knowing it. If you’ve seen his logo for the NY Knicks or one of his many Time covers then you’re familiar with the power and dynamism he has brought to the art of hand-lettering and design. The inspiration for his work has come from such diverse sources as matchbook covers, theater marquees, enamel signs, early and mid-20th century packaging, and various other artifacts of this great land of ours.
Michael is an eight time recipient of the NY Art Director’s Club Silver Award, and has exhibited work in all the major industry shows and annuals. His “Bedlam Ballroom” CD packaging project for the “Squirrel Nut Zippers” was nominated for a Grammy for Best Recording Package at the 44th Annual GRAMMY Awards.
Recently he expanded the base of his work to include font design by opening Alphabet Soup, his digital type foundry. Currently he has completed ten unique font designs, and expects to add more soon. He currently runs his studio out of Hollywood, CA, sharing it with wife, illustrator Laura Smith.
Question: How did you get into design?
Michale’s Answer: Design has been in my blood since I was a little kid. From a very young age I would always seem to fixate on some amazing shopfront or signage. When I studied fine arts in college I found myself taking additional graphic design courses at night because I wasn’t fulfilled with painting or sculpture. After graduating I held a series of staff positions which all seemed to lead me down the road to where I am now.
Question: Where are you from, where did you go to school?
Michale’s Answer: I grew up in Brooklyn near Coney Island which permanently etched its colorful influence on my impressionable young mind. To this day you can easily see the influence it had on my work. I was extremely lucky to have attended and graduated from The Cooper Union in NYC, one of the world’s premier art schools.
Question: What are your tools of the trade?
Michale’s Answer: First and foremost my tools are pencil and paper. My finished work is produced on an iMac mostly using Adobe Illustrator (plus a bit of Photoshop now and then). In the earlier years of my career (before computers took over) I worked very much the way engineers and architects of the time worked—my finished art was executed with technical pens on drafting film. It was called “pre-separated art” and one could not really see what the finish looked like until it was printed (always a bit of a surprise). I feel extremely lucky to have had my feet in both analog and digital worlds.
Question: What websites do you go to for design inspiration?
Michale’s Answer: I do not go to websites for inspiration. I try to interact with and be inspired by the real world around me.
Question: What is your favorite movie, band, and artist?
Michale’s Answer: This is a question that doesn’t really have an answer. I like a lot of different things, but don’t usually quantify one over another as my “favorite”. That said, I can say that I recently saw the movie “Amélie” and fell in love with it all over again. It’s so well done on so many levels. Likewise, as far as music is concerned, I just listened to GIrl Talk’s (Gregg Michael Gillis) album “All Day”. I think he’s just a brilliant artist who can create mashups of the most unlikely combinations of old and new songs—that all work incredibly well. And I absolutely adore the graphic design work of Louise Fili.
Question: If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
Michale’s Answer: Anywhere? Really? Well, since I was a kid I wanted to be a space traveler, so what I would really like is to set foot on another planet—Mars would be great, or even the Moon.
Question: When you’re not designing, what do you like to do?
Michale’s Answer: I like to travel, see shows, stargaze and goof off.
Question: If you could meet anyone (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
Michale’s Answer: I only knew my grandparents when I was a small child. If I could, I’d love to be able to talk to them now as an adult, and find out more about my roots, and where and how my ancestors lived.
Question: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in design?
Michale’s Answer: I really wouldn’t know what to tell someone starting out in this field. It’s changed so much from when I started. I can say that if you want to succeed in this field that you must pursue your vision passionately: if you don’t you just won’t make it, and even then there are no guarantees of success. The other thing I would say is do not be seduced by digital media—it’s no substitute for understanding graphic design and studying its history. Assuming that you can be good at it because you know how to work Illustrator or Photoshop, is like assuming that you can be a writer just because you know how to type.
You can see more of Michael’d art and designs at his website.