the tig blog.

5 Questions with Michael Nÿkamp

Aaron McCall

Every creative has their own style. And every creative has their own story. This is the first post in a series highlighting our interactions and hangouts with creatives outside of The Image Group. We’ve started these conversations in an effort to keep learning, to stay inspired and to engage in habit-changing dialogue. These posts will serve as a five-question stage to share some of the valuable insights uncovered in our interactions. With that being said…

Last week, our team got to hang out with Grand Rapids creative, Michael Nÿkamp. Michael is a pretty compelling dude. He’s a graphic designer. He’s an illustrator. He’s a whole mess of things. And to our team, his role can serve as asset and/or inspiration in both thinking and execution. Plus, he’s just a cool guy. Here’s a closer look at what Michael had to say:

TIG: Why did you choose graphic design as a career?

Nÿkamp: I didn’t really choose a graphic design career – it was a natural flow into the field from my education and working as an in-house design at agencies.

art history →  illustration →  new media design →  graphic design
Also, before my studies I had an affinity to anything design related, from architecture to smart designed packaging, brochures, marketing materials and books – it provided the impetus for me to follow.

TIG: What’s your process? Do you go straight to the computer, or do you sketch/draw first?

Nÿkamp: I typically never go straight to the computer and design, but I have adopted a 3 step process:

1. Understand: Discover client’s project objectives. Provide orientation and research.
2. Ideate: Define and develop strategy, exploration, concepts and refinement.
3. Execute: Delivery and implementation across all required deliverables.

Not all clients need the entire process; it can be adapted to fit their needs. For instance, if I’m asked to create an illustration for a client that fits my illustrative style and they have a direction already – no need for handling the 1st phase – but let me note: understanding the empathy behind what I’m illustrating is very important – and I’ll usually ask. Or, if a client just would like to utilize me as a consultant for the 1st phase of work, I can do that. Or perhaps they need me to be an art director for an entire project, I can do that as well, but that might involve the entire process. 

TIG: Has your illustration work led to other creative avenues for you to pursue?

Nÿkamp: With a strong illustration background while studying at college, I gained an in-depth understanding of light and shadow and how it works. I also understand human form, through ‘life drawing’ classes which gave me a greater understanding and expertise of how to do photo-retouch work. I used to do a lot of it – but not so much anymore. Also, with a background in illustration and graphic design (print and web) I have a greater understanding of how better to engage a company or organization in asking the right questions about a specific project before beginning it– I find graphic designers have a hard time understanding what information illustrators need in order to complete a project and vise-versa. Knowing and asking the questions has made me better at executing a project. Sometimes it is all in the details…

TIG: What inspires you and keeps you motivated?

Nÿkamp: Creating my own project illustration and work (found on my blog). Working on fun collaborative projects like, The Citizen Project. Mid Century Architecture Project. The Illustration League, of which I am co-founder and facilitator with Lucy Engelman. Working collaboratively with agencies and clients. Networking socially at local events (AIGA, IxDA, Design West Michigan, Design Week, etc, etc.)

TIG: What’s the story behind your Dutch Mafia project?

Nÿkamp: Simply, the story behind this project was born from my childhood experiences growing up in a Dutch immigrant family. The ornamental artifacts found in Dutch culture was the base which inspired the creation of the display font and icons. Everything from fancy accouterments—including Delft pottery, wooden shoes, and doilies—to the unique architecture, cultural dress, traditions, and folk tales all defined the font. The style is simple in form and believe it conveys a unique and playful cultural background of Dutch society. You can find the project here.

We enjoyed Michael’s visit and all of the great thinking and personal stories that show up in his work. He’s got us fired up about process and designs that breathe. We’re looking forward to what he does next, and to sharing more of our conversations with great creatives over cups of coffee right here.