We had the opportunity to talk with the very talented Michael Nÿkamp about his strikingly simplistic, award-winning design and illustration work. Michael was born in Ontario, Canada and now lives and works in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His company, mkn design is a small and experienced illustrative studio that ‘works with a diverse group of clients across a variety of industries’ including Herman Miller, SpartanNash, and Whirlpool. He is also involved with many side projects, including a collaboration with Citizen Project a collective of designers who seek to create ‘projects with a purpose’, and The Illustration League a Michigan-based network of illustrators teaching, exchanging, and enhancing the ideas and practices of professional illustration.
We were drawn to Michael’s collection of Mid Century Architecture line drawings recently featured on Dwell, which is just one of his latest explorations in achieving his minimalist style in architectural illustrations.
As a child, Michael knew he wanted to be an artist of some kind. That is what led him to the well-known Sheridan College in Ontario where he studied Fine Arts, Illustration, and New Media Design. After college, he ran the gamut of job experiences in the world of design. He’s done everything from web design, graphic design, to illustration and so on.
Michael is always seeking out innovative ways to find meaningful expression through design. He specializes in ‘visual identities, printed matter and illustrative solutions with an emphasis on understanding empathy to solve clients design problems.’ He uses his experience and attention to detail to create branding and imagery through thoughtful design and illustration. His award-winning illustrations are exemplified by his design philosophy of finding ‘balance and simplicity’ in his work.
Some of Michael’s creative influences include Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, and Alexander Calder.
Michael has been working in the field of design and illustration since 2000. He started his company, mkn design 13 years ago. His strong suit is graphic design and illustration, but he also focuses on creative strategies, research, and insight work. Some of the other design services mkn design offers include art direction, book design, editorial design, brand and visual identity, web design, and packaging design. On the illustrative side of things, he offers editorial, iconography, and infographic services.
As creative director, Michael places a great emphasis on design and illustrative craftsmanship. He works closely with his clients through the creative process. “I think it’s important to recognize what I’m designing for. The ability to empathize with my clients helps me to gain understanding so that I know how to best design for their needs.”
His company is guided by the mantra of “Making the complex simple and the simple beautiful though illustrative design to elevate brands.”
Mid Century Modern Homes Collection
Illustrative craftsmanship is a big part of what I do. There is extraordinary craftsmanship in architecture as well.
I started this illustration series as an ongoing project in my spare time. The primary reason I have been creating this project is that I love mid-century modern homes and have a great deal of respect for the architects who designed them. The mindset of mid-century era architects is all about creating the uncomplicated design by utilizing straight lines from exterior to interior.
From a creative perspective, this is a process that I relate to – creating simplicity without complexity. With this series, I’ve set out to take something physical and interpret into a simple illustration. Mid-century modern architecture lends itself well to this process, and I attempt to demonstrate this connection throughout my work.
This project started when I was asked to do an illustration of a friend’s mid-century house. I enjoyed the process, and they loved how it turned out, so I decided to do a few more. Now I do commissioned pieces for people who want illustrations of their home. My hope is that if I start collecting enough of these homes I can do an entire Mid Century Modern home series, and from there get the images reproduced to sell prints. There are a lot of possibilities with this project. People seem to be quite taken with their minimalist appeal, much like the appeal of Mid-Century homes themselves.
Design and illustration is a process of Simplification. Just as with any process, it can be messy, but the end result can be beautiful. Simplicity = Clarity.