If you aren’t familiar with Mike Davis at this point, chances are you’re not paying attention. As part of Minneapolis’ Burlesque crew, he has been pumping out amazing work for the better part of a decade. His work brings to mind the 1960s-1970s output of heavy hitters like Milton Glaser, Herb Lubalin & Alfredo Rostgaar, 1980s pop-culture ephemera, and maybe a little graffiti culture for good measure. But its the way he combines those influences with his own illustration style, centered around clean and simple lines, bold colors and an ever-present sense of levity, that keeps his shit fresh.
Just about two years ago, Mike started the So Much Pileup blog to post some design artifacts and inspirations. One of our favorite regular features is the “Philately Friday” series, where he posts a collections of postage stamps from around the world. We asked Mike to put together a “greatest hits” of the series, and talk to us about his affection for the philatelic arts.
So, when did this love of the philatelic arts first begin? Did you collect as a kid or anything?
The stamp collecting is an intersection of my collecting bug and my love of graphic design. As a kid, I loved Star Wars & G.I. Joe action figures, M.U.S.C.L.E. figures, Matchbox cars, and other toy series. I loved laying them all out and arranging them in different scenes, so maybe that’s where the collection obsession gave way to the graphic design obsession? Wow now I feel like I’m talking to a therapist. Anyways, I think the first stamp I came across online that sparked this fanatic collecting was this one from Bulgaria, 1980 (pictured below). I believe I saw it on the fantastic Grain Edit website and set out on a hunt to find it. Obviously I saw all sorts of stamps growing up and liked the Star Wars ones, the Muppet ones, remembered the young Elvis VS fat Elvis stamp debacle, but never really thought of stamps as a graphic arts medium until I saw that Bulgarian stamp.
How long have you been doing the “Philately Friday” series?
I started the So Much Pileup blog in August of 2008 and the first Philately Friday was August 22nd. I’ve only missed about 5 Fridays since then, mainly due to being out of town.
So coming up on two full years now. What do you find so continually interesting about them?
These things are tiny little posters. It’s a great challenge to tell a story or create a provocative image on a 1″ square piece of paper and I love seeing it pulled off. I’m a fan of the big, clunky, stripped-down graphics from the ’60s and ’70s, so a lot of the geometry-based designs really speak to me. More than anything, they’re a perfect escape from the computer. I sit here with my face planted against my monitor staring at Adobe Illustrator all day. It’s so great to turn my chair around, pull an album off the bookshelf, and look through all of these tiny, brilliant design artifacts.
Do you feel like it has informed or influenced your design?
In early 2009, I was asked by DJ BK-One to design the CD & LP packaging for his album of hip hop beats made using samples from Brazilian records. He was telling me about the sparse, colorful designs from the ’60s that he liked and wanted to take a similar approach with his album artwork. I showed him some of the Cuban and Brazilian stamps from my collection and he really connected with them. I ended up designing the artwork to look like a postage stamp (shown at the top of this post) which he was really in to.
Collecting these images, have you found there to be a “golden age” or a particular artist or country that has really their shit together, philatelically speaking?
The stamps I like are all from the same time period as the records I like too – late 1960s through early 1980s. As far as locations go, Israel really seemed to have the stamp design game on smash. South & Central America, Australia & New Zealand, and certain chunks of Europe like Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands are also reliable for having consistently solid designs. A few standout designers whose names keep popping up with stamp designs I like are Asher Kalderon and Dan Reisinger from Israel and Stefan Kanchev from Bulgaria. It’s also cool to see well-known artists like Peter Max and (movie poster artist) Bob Peak crank out stamp designs. Oddly enough, I’ve only found a thin handful of good designs from the United States. With all the great design that’s come from our country, I’m wondering where all the killer stamps are!
You can see more of the Philately Friday fun every uh… Friday, at Mike’s So Much Pileup Blog.