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Archives: Michael Tymbios | Firsts and Pivotal Moments

Reflecting back on definitive moments in his career so far and reminiscing on some that hold personal significance, Michael Tymbios is the next graphic designer to share his archives with us. In 2010, the year after graduating from the AAA School of Advertising, Michael completed a Bachelor’s degree in graphic design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. With experience working as a freelance designer for Publicis Machine and as an art director and designer at iKineo, he is currently employed at Deep Agency. Michael co-founded First Thursdays Cape Town with Gareth Pearson in 2012, which has since become a monthly highlight in the Mother City’s art calendar. Also worth noting is that he created the playful banner we’ve been using for Graphic Design Month – if you’re familiar with his work it’s easy to spot his signature in it.

Michael’s archives begin with a vinyl graphic created in college and lead up to a recent installation project for the CCDI. The 8 years of work and learnings between these two highlight the importance of trying and the fact that sometimes, the most rewarding experiences are those that don’t go according to plan.

Skateboard Graphic (2007)

01 ÔÇô Skateboard - Michael Tymbios  

In my first year of college we were asked to design and execute a skateboard graphic. As we were not allowed to use computers in our first year and the thought of my wonky hands painting a skateboard made me want to vomit (it still kind of does), I had a brainwave to use adhesive vinyl to create the graphics. It seemed like a good way to create planes of flat colour and a hell of a lot better a prospect than trying to gouache an entire deck.

I can’t recall exactly what I was thinking but I assume it had something to do with fossil fuels. Growing up, my father did lots of watercolours of ships so perhaps there is also a nod to that in there? Anyway, hardly reinvented the wheel here, but looking back this was something of a pivotal point for me in terms of creating images, materiality and conceptual thinking.

Spread from Antauen! (2009)

  02 ÔÇô Antauen - Michael Tymbios

This is a spread from a book that I wrote and illustrated as the final project for my undergraduate studies. It’s an interwar story, featuring a pretty cosmopolitan cast of marine researchers who set out to establish a homeland for Esperantists on Franz Josef Land (which is actually an island). So I wrote this story, designed a whole bunch of bizarre paraphernalia (badges, canisters, maps, etc.) and called it my project. The name Antauen! is Esperanto for Onwards!

The year before I had visited my grandmother in Germany and I came across a series of three postcard-etchings from a polar cruise that her step father had embarked on in 1929. I think that was a big inspiration for undertaking this project. Those types of artefacts, imagery and naivety.

Critical Mass Poster (2010)

03 ÔÇô critmass_may2010 - Michael Tymbios

I was scratching around on an old hard drive looking for images for this feature and came across this old poster that I did for one of the Critical Mass bike rides that we used to do back then. Those were really special days. I often wonder how the internet affects our perception of time – like does it fuel nostalgia because everything is suddenly very transient?

Adidas Three Stories (2010)

04 ÔÇô ThreeStories - Michael Tymbios

I was busy with my post-graduate studies in design when I lucked into getting the job to design the visual identity for a series of parties/viewings/events/exhibitions that adidas threw at the then Woodstock Industrial Centre (R.I.P) during the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

It was a big job with a newspaper, way-finding graphics, emailers, posters, exhibition graphics, tee-shirts, flyers – the works! A lot of firsts. My first experience working on a global brand, my first litho-run and my first real job. The visual identity centred on a piece of lettering for “Three Stories” which I drew from some of the sign-painting in the neighbourhood. Saleem’s Cafe? Proto-gentrification? I don’t know – it was fun.

Woodstock Cycleworks (2011)

  05 ÔÇô Woodstock Cycleworks - Michael Tymbios

I swopped this logo for a beautiful red Diamant Track bike. Nils is a real mensch and I’m honoured to have played my little part in the amazing, beautiful world that he created out of nothing but a real, no-bullshit love for bicycles. Everything about this project had a great energy. Dave, Nils and I painted the sign ourselves one night. We threw a little party to celebrate the opening. I designed some tee-shirts that always seemed sold out. The shop outgrew that premises and the sign got painted over and Woodstock Cycleworks seems to be going from strength to strength. I really need to do some new tees. Soon!

First Thursdays Cape Town (2012)

  06 ÔÇô FTCT2012 - Michael Tymbios

So I met Gareth Pearson one morning on one of those Critical Mass rides. We realised we both liked bikes, cities and design and we both realised we really wished we had become architects. We then decided to do some projects together. We came up with a gazillion different ideas. None really worked out. One day Gareth told me about this thing he saw in London called First Thursdays. We decided to try it out here. So off we went. Emailed some galleries, organised our own little pop-up show in an empty shop front, designed this little map and printed them. The rest is all present tense. As a designer and co-pilot, I’ve had the pleasure of watching our little project grow from behind the screen of a Mac. From this little A6 (!!!!) map, with 6 points, printed digitally in a run of 250 up to an A5 up to an A4 which has now become an A3 with over 40 stops.

Parliament Exhibition Poster (2013)

07ÔÇôParliament - Michael Tymbios

This poster formed part of a small set of graphics that I quickly produced for an independently organised exhibition at the new defunct Roeland Street Studios. Someone decided to pay homage to the government down the road and as the graphic designer in the gang, I felt I had no choice but to play along. Flags are one of my favourite things in the built environment. The flags that are flown at the end of Roeland Street at Parliament are such a staple in my lexicon. I really enjoy referencing an environment or context with visual cues in my design work. Come to think of it – I have no idea why we didn’t make flags for this show.

Reliable Locals (2014)

  08ÔÇôReliable Locals - Michael Tymbios

Where do I begin? This project was tough. It was ambitious and looking back perhaps a little naïve. At my previous agency we proposed a campaign where we would feature one business out of each of the 22 regions that the Yellow Pages covers. Thankfully the budget only sent us to one business per province. Blessed with the best mini-crew we hit the road and attempted to tell the stories behind the numbers of the Yellow Pages. I learnt a hell of lot here. Through pitching concepts, to designing responsive websites, to driving from Potchefstroom to Hazyview through the night on 4 hours of sleep to missing flights to running out of petrol in Polokwane in the dark and huffing from a jerry-can with a town planner called Ericks to seeing first-hand how much has and hasn’t changed in this country of ours right through to realising that the project that nearly killed you might never see the light of day.

I shot all the stills on the campaign. This is from a powder coating yard in Potchefstroom where a local bodybuilder and ex Mr Universe finalist manufactures his own gym equipment. Something about the eye contact here sums up what was one of the most intense and testing yet rewarding yet disappointing projects of my career.

S/O to Batandwa, Zunaid & Bebe Thatho. It never ends until it stops.

Creative Capital Window Graphics (2014)

  09ÔÇôCreative Capital - Michael Tymbios

This was from a project where my last agency and local architecture firm SAOTA collaborated on creating an interactive ‘museum’ in the street-facing windows of their showroom and office. The opening exhibition was titled “Creative Capital” and showcased the work of local painters, designers and architects. The graphics framed the individual screens of the installation and the typography gently hinted at the fact that the work was best experienced from left to right. The vinyl application was slightly hellish but I’m still kind of fond of this. The ‘museum’ ended up only having one ‘exhibition’ but it was still a great project.

Run Jose Poster (2014)

  10ÔÇôRunJose - Michael Tymbios

Sometimes one of my very favourite things about being a graphic designer is the fact that you get an opportunity to help out on someone else’s project that you would probably have no other way of interacting with. I knew Dave Meinert  had done a film about Jose so when he put a call out looking for a designer to help put a poster together for a film festival and Kickstarter campaign I knew what I had to do. A cool little poster for a great film about an amazing human.

CCDI x Better Living Challenge Exhibition (2015)

  11ÔÇôCCDI - Michael Tymbios

This is a very recent project that I completed for the Cape Craft and Design Institute at the studio where I currently toil (Deep Agency). This exhibition has a duality as it introduces the Western Cape Design Strategy as theory and the Better Living Challenge as practice. I designed everything including the structure (which has a footprint of around 12m2) in Illustrator along with all the graphics and a set of tear-off information pads. I think I drove the carpenter slightly up the wall with my hard-headedness around the design and the insanely tight deadline but I have nothing but praise and respect for the level of finesse and finish that Richard Smith brought to the build of this project. The exhibition was meant to be broken down after the Design Indaba but someone decided it had a brighter future and it was moved and rebuilt in the public foyer of the Western Cape Provincial Government Building. So that’s cool.

This way for more Graphic Design Month features!


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