Michael Perry

Michael Perry likes
being busy, and it shows. In the past year, he’s participated in
an art show, edited and art directed his own magazine, and released a
book of hand-drawn type published by Princeton Architectural Press.
He’s now working on a second book, Over and Over, a catalog
of hand-drawn patterns, due out this fall. “I worry about
spreading myself too thin,” says Perry in his apartment-studio,
stacked to the ceiling with bookcases full of magazines and design
tools. “Luckily, I’m young and I’m figuring things

For Perry, self-exploration happens while he’s
working. “You have to make things to figure out what you’re
doing,” he says. Perhaps this explains his love of lettering and
patterns, two visual forms that require a serious level of attention.
Or maybe his love of patterning has a simpler explanation. “When
things repeat, it feels good,” he says.

This positive momentum
is the driving force behind all the work he does, whether it’s the
playful type illustrations spelling out “Versace” and
“Givenchy” in a New York Times Magazine spread or the
patterns he contributed as one of 18 artists commissioned to create an
engraved design on the back of Microsoft’s Zune MP3 player. Perry
says he repeats certain shapes until they become a pattern, adding more
complex patterns-within-patterns until the finished product becomes
something else: a color or a texture in its own right.

Growing up in
Missouri, Perry wanted to be a painter and cultivated a love of drawing.
He enrolled in the painting program at the Minneapolis College of Art
and Design, but switched to design because he liked the freedom it gave
him. In 2003, he moved to Philadelphia to work for Urban Outfitters, and
his hand-drawn aesthetic helped define the company’s overall
graphic style for the following two years. He worked in direct
marketing, hiring freelancers and assembling packets of type and other
visual material to present to the art directors working on the catalogs.
Eventually, he realized he wanted to be in that art director position
himself. He moved to New York, worked briefly at the design firm
Helicopter, then went freelance.

Since that time, he’s designed
books for Mark Batty Publisher and Chronicle Books and created
illustrations for Zoo York, Saatchi & Saatchi, and Jane magazine.
“Some people do things because they can, not because they have
to,” he says. “I definitely have a ‘have to’
thing going on.” He calls it “generating

Perry’s most ambitious pile yet is his own
project, a magazine called Untitled. The first issue had a
fashion focus, and included photographs, styling, clothes, and designs
by friends and collaborators. The second issue, due out this spring,
will feature swimsuits layered with drawings on top of the photographs,
a postproduction effect.

Upcoming issues of Untitled could
stray from the realms of fashion and design. Perry wants to collaborate
on an issue with his brother, who is studying biomedical engineering.
His sibling would supply science-related content, and Perry would do all
the creative content and organization, a task he relishes: “It
feels good to do that rather than [being] a money-making machine for
someone else.” Even if it involves biomedical engineering?
“It’s hard to say no,” he admits. “I want to do