Currently the Chief Communications Officer at Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians, Michael’s career path has been anything but boring. Last November, he spoke about what he’s done, where he’s gone and how he’s gotten to his current career point at In Haus Kreativ, an event dedicated to shedding some light on the local in-house design scene.
How long have you been in the field?
I’ve worked in communications and marketing for the better part of 20 years. I’ve been doing design and art direction for the last ten.
Where did you go to school/what for?
I received a BA in Communications from Penn State University, and later, a BFA in Visual Communications from Lehigh University.
What important milestones do you credit to getting to where you are now?
Perhaps not a milestone, but at an early age, I was fortunate to meet some extraordinary friends who introduced me to a new world of art, music, and ideas that I probably wouldn’t have discovered on my own. I was looking at and admiring the work of people like Peter Saville, Andy Takakjian, and a young Spike Jonze without realizing that their influence would eventually drive my decision to become a creative professional.
Another pivotal moment for me was the point at which I decided design would be my professional focus. Up until that time I had held more general marketing positions but had grown increasingly restless and admittedly envious of those I saw producing creative work for a living. In time, I realized that a career in design was a viable decision. Coupled with the extraordinary changes and possibilities brought about by the rise of the web, I decided to change course and pursue a degree in design specifically.
What advice do you have for new designers?
I would say: work really hard and learn as much as you can to build your value as a professional. At the same time, be able to communicate that competency to clients and employers. When it comes time to negotiate a rate or salary, you want to have a compelling list of services to offer and a convincing argument why you’re the person to solve the client’s problem. Finally, have fun and be grateful for having had the opportunity to choose a career you love. So many people are working with a lack of any discernible direction or passion.
Getting into design was a pretty calculated decision. I think it’s a career that plays to my inherent strengths. On one hand, I’ve always been compelled to make things, and I have the type of capriciousness normally ascribed to fine artists. At the same time, I’m incredibly drawn to organization and love the idea of creating order out of chaos. Some might argue that these seemingly diametrically opposed tendencies could be cause for a disorder diagnosis, but instead, the combination has proven incredibly useful in this field and I’ve found that it’s a set of characteristics that I share with many of my peers.
Favorite part of the job?
Without question, it’s the moments in which I become completely immersed in a project or task, simply enjoying the process and losing all sense of time and cognitive perspective. It’s rewarding to be able to match the challenge of a task with accumulated skill and just let the work unfold. I’ve found that this is also when some of the best results happen, which is highly satisfying.
Why should someone become an AIGA member? How has it benefitted you?
As someone who currently works in member services, it’s clear the extent to which AIGA is a quality organization with resources and programs that substantively support its members. On a chapter level, AIGA Central PA is run by terrific people who care and make great things happen for the local design community. The events have been interesting, educational, and are terrific opportunities to meet other local professionals. Becoming a member of AIGA is an investment in you as a designer and the profession as a whole.
Know a local designer who could use some recognition? Nominate a member to be a Feature Friday designer by emailing Bri their name, company and contact information.