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Member Spotlight: Mike Kooiman

By Holly Eamon


When Mike Kooiman is not tirelessly balancing the design projects he directs for clients of MSP-C (a division of MSP Communications), he channels his creative energy—and inner geekiness—into a separate sector of the publishing world: writing about comic books.

Kooiman began his professional journey as a production designer before refreshing his education at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. From there, he worked his way up to the art director position at City Pages before his digital interests led him to MSP-C in 2013, where he currently works on several accounts, including Fortune 100 companies and others in finance, cloud-based technology, and education.

What is the most challenging part of your job? Satisfying all stakeholders. At a certain size, some projects have the potential to become “design by committee” monsters.

What MMPA events have been especially helpful? At the yearly conferences, things I’ve found most useful concern new digital technologies and speakers who tackle the subject of creativity from an unexpected angle—something other than show-and-tell.

What is the most useful career advice you’ve received? Essentially, my first boss at City Pages encouraged me to be assertive.

What is the most memorable project you’ve worked on? I’m proudest of my first “Best of the Twin Cities” issue as art director of City Pages. It involved an insane amount of concept and styling, and the results were smashing. That said, I’m in the middle of some projects that I’ve always considered “dream projects,” so that may change!

What are your go-to sources for design inspiration? I’m a brainstormer, and I work “atomically,” assembling my designs from a broader base. I may go to the library and investigate a topic and then spin its essence into a new visual concept. If I’m listening to an artist/designer talk, I’ll take away their philosophy much more than any of the physical aesthetics. I have never looked to other designers for inspiration. Frankly, if I need to get something out the door quickly that’s on-trend, that’s when I take a quick look-see.

What skills are most important for someone in your field? A modern graphic designer needs to understand the digital landscape; one should understand the platforms and technology that affect our designs. That means occasionally spending some time in blogs or at least skimming a regular email newsletter. I don’t think one has to be a master—things move too quickly to master anything—but you can certainly keep yourself versed.

What skill would you most like to improve? User experience.

What are your hobbies outside of work? I am a comic book megageek and a writer on that topic, a fitness instructor, and an avid cook and gardener.

If you didn’t have to work, what would you be doing? Most likely you would find me reading comics so that I can write about them and reading books about food-related topics.