The Dramatic Simplicity of Michael Schwab

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There is something truly magical—or, more appropriately, wonder-filled—when art pushes us to see the world differently. I love it when art reveals what something is as much as what it isn’t. There is no better example of that in the design world than the work of Michael Schwab. In an era where design trends tend to push the visual to be glossy, dimensional, or “affected,” the art of Michael Schwab stands out.

When I was in college, trying to figure out what great design was, I was introduced to Schwab’s design and was immediately captivated by it—and have been ever since—because it’s dramatic, bold, and beautifully simple. It’s so simple that I, like many other creatives around the world, have tried to replicate his look. But I found out quickly that something so incredibly well crafted is not easily copied. What is great about attempting such an exercise, though, is that the process reveals a secret: The art of interpreting something of such elegance takes incredible discipline, practice, mastery, and the ability to remove oneself from the process. But more importantly, it taught me to see the shear beauty in the details of the simplicity around us.

Michael says, “For me it always starts with a pencil and paper.” And I’ve discovered that using pencil and paper can take many forms—for instance, just sitting quietly, observing something and trying to imagine it in its simplest form; appreciating the object for what it is. This is what moves me in Schwab’s work, and I believe this is why his work continues to stand the test of time. His use of line, shadow, color fields, black, negative space, and his incredibly pure aesthetic is what makes his work so memorable and unique.

Michael has been featured in every design magazine and has worked for some of the biggest clients in the world. His work is unwavering in its quality and impact, but to me it’s the simplicity of his presentation that is the most incredible. As he says, “The basic premise of my work is this: The message must be succinct, immediate, and legible from ‘way across the room.’” Any design that achieves this can be truly magical.

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