In 2006, at 25 years of age, Mike Perry published Handjob - A Catalog of Type, a book on handmade typography, in a crucial moment for graphics, when the public was beginning to understand the difference between the warmth and beauty of dirty type made by hand with respect to digital fonts. The book became the springboard that launched Mike's career. Since then his irrepressible artistic verve has lent itself and adapted to different media, reaching a vast public and fascinating various brands. To lose yourself among his galaxies of vital colors is like meeting him in person, or like leafing through his new - and unmissable - book: Wondering Around Wandering, a charge of creative energy and optimism.
You've been drawing ever since you were a child. When did you realize you had found your own voice?Having your own voice is like a journey, where you're constantly trying to figure things out, it's something that has basically been with me since the beginning. I think the word you used, "voice", is the correct term, because I feel that I've not only developed my own "voice", which is partly innate, but I've now also developed a vocabulary: my works are like many pieces that when put together create a creative path, a coherent body made of shapes, colors, symbols and iconographies that define my voice and my relation with the world.
In general when people look at your work they feel a sense of wonder and joy. What's your secret?I am on this incredible journey of wonder and joyfulness that has brought me so much happiness and positivity. I have enjoyed a level of success in my work that keeps me inspired and growing, I have a beautiful family and a dog that makes me smile.
This morning I listened to a TED talk where this guy was talking about his battle with depression and how certain days he was unable to even get out of bed or move, because there was so much anxiety involved in doing even the simplest tasks. I am the exact opposite, even my delusions are probably joy-based, maybe I'm just floating in this big bubble where everything takes on a positive light. I've been thinking a great deal about how much of my identity depends on the particular chemical makeup I inherited from my parents, and how this has determined my outlook. We are all born with a particular neurological configuration that influences the paths we are on and you just have no choice but to make the most of it. I recognize that there are struggles but I see them as hurdles to overcome. Maybe one of my future goals should be to help get rid of the stereotype that you have to be depressed and complicated to be a creative person.
There's definitely a connection between your personality and your use of color. What are the most exciting discoveries you've made with color?When you are a kid you have your favorite colors and you obsess about them, but for the last 8 years I've been color neutral. I like all of them, and don't want to feel limited by a palette. In the last 6 months however I've been focusing on blue, which I find very powerful and rich. Experimenting with blue has allowed me to discover and explore its variety. I've even been trying to wear mostly blue outfits, as a form of existence.
Every color is just out there in such abundance that sometimes I feel like using color is almost too easy. Fluorescent pink is so strong and positive that sometimes I wonder if it does the job without me having to create the content, because it just says everything in itself.
Imagine you have to produce some work on very tight time constraints. Do you have a method for generating new ideas quickly?I think it's through the continuous generation of ideas and content that things start to fall into place. There's almost a level of control over the work that comes in now. For instance a year ago I decided I would draw people, while before my work was much more abstract. Choosing to focus on figures really informed the commissions I started getting. People suddenly realized my work had become more figurative and were asking me to do more of it.
This decision has led to the ability to quickly produce figurative work because I was so accustomed to doing it all the time. I'd fill sketchbook after sketchbook with drawings of people and it just turned into a spontaneous process because I was accustomed to it and had become fluid and efficient. I work with a small team and once you get used to pulling off projects on a large scale then smaller projects with very short deadlines, even of just half an hour, become simple tasks.
What are the biggest difficulties in your creative routine?The biggest issue is getting people to pull off my ideas. I'm now in a position where I'm able to pitch projects to clients and not just execute their briefs. Pitching an idea involves a whole new series of problems; you have to convince the client it's worth investing in.
You recently designed the logo and the animated title sequence for Broad City. Did you pitch that?No, they came to me. The interesting thing is that I finished the project and went to the release party of the show, and while I was there talking to a guy who works at Comedy Central he told me I should try pitching a TV show idea to them. I spent the last month thinking about it, because working with moving images is one of the things I've always wanted to do.
What's the latest project you pitched to a client?I've been working for a few years with Duvell, the Belgian beer company, who have always been very supportive of my work. It's become a partnership, I know them and what they're looking for. So now we're about to pitch a more experiential and complicated idea, it's exciting and I'm looking forward to exploring more of these opportunities in the future.
Do your ideas take form verbally or visually? From drawings or from words and concepts?It depends. It all starts with my sketchbooks, which contain drawings and words. They're my most prized possession, a very intimate and spontaneous space. They're an opportunity to experiment, make mistakes and note down my observations of the universe. That's my creative process.
I would honestly like to write more. Working on the TV show idea with my English friend James Stoden has given me the chance to train my writing skills: it's a whole different ballpark.
So your next creative adventures will be increasingly connected to film and storytelling?Correct. Making images move is something really powerful. I hope it will soon play a bigger role in my life and practice.
All images have been kindly granted for publication by @ Mike Perry
Interview by Fabio Falzone