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Rest, Relax, Read Series Final Covers.

Designer/Illustrator: Mikey Burton
Design School: Kent State University
Purchase Prints: Mikey Burton Shop
Typefaces: Hand-lettered typography
Genre: Classics (for the young people!)

Mikey Burton is what I wish I could be: a designer/illustrator. The slash in the middle ("/") is what separates most creatives, but there are a few who really can do it all. Be sure to check out Mikey's online shop, where you can purchase lots of sweet screen prints. Thanks for sharing Mikey.
— Nate Salciccioli

I was born and raised in the heartland of America...OHIO. Growing up, I always liked to draw, but as I got older I realized I didn't want to be a starving artist. So like most in this situation, I decided to go to college for graphic design. I don't think I knew what that meant at the time; I kinda thought I would be designing CD packaging some day (FYI, I've only done one CD package ever). Without much looking around, I went to Kent State University which was close to my hometown. Luckily they happen to have a top notch, 5 star design program.

To the suprise of myself (and my parents) I did very well in design school, and was invited to take place in their accelerated combined Master/ Bachelor's program. So, while in "grad school" (AKA senior year part II) two of my friends and I were very interested in the resurgence of handmade gig-poster art. We were fascinated by this, and were eager to try our hand at it. Also, there was a lack of poster art happening in Northeast Ohio, so we took it upon ourselves to fill this void. We taught ourselves how to (poorly) screenprint and gave ourself the moniker, Little Jacket (taken from an LCD Soundsystem song "...little jackets and borrowed nostalgia from the unremembered eighties").

We had done about 3 posters for local venues around Cleveland. After that, one of the same venues asked us to do a poster for the upcoming Modest Mouse show. From there we started getting emails from people about doing 'real work'.

I continued to work with Little Jacket for about 4 years in Cleveland, but at the end of 2008 I moved to Philadelphia. By day I work at 160over90, and by night I work on my own freelance projects. Sleep is for the weak.

For me, it's a very organic process. So much of my work communicates through typography, it all naturally relates to design. Likewise, so much of my design has some form of handmade aesthetic, it all seems very illustrative. Am I just a designer who has an illustrative way of designing, or maybe I'm a designy illustrator?

I think it all comes down to the fact that I have a specific way of solving problems. I would like to think it's not a style, but more of a certain approach to design. Whether it's design, illustration, or a combination of both, I would like to think I'm using the most appropriate solution for each project.

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Fahrenheit 451 initial concepts.

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Animal Farm initial concepts.

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The Great Gatsby initial concepts.

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Lord of the Flies initial concepts.

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To Kill a Mockingbird initial concepts.

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The Outsiders initial concepts.

Mostly from old ephemera. Ohio was filled with lots of thrift stores, flea markets, and garage/yard sales. I like to find old type-specimen sheets, equipment manuals, vintage textbook, old LP's... I’m fascinated with how past designers had to come up with ideas and solve problems using limited resources. Like, for instance, figuring out how two colors can work harder than four. It helps me get to better solutions myself.

As for older designers... Oh man, where do I start... Lester Beall, Push Pin Studio (Milton Glaser & Seymour Chwast), Hatch Show Print, Sister Corita Kent, Sagmeister, Mo Lebowitz, Modern Dog Design Co, Lance Wyman, Saul Bass, Pentgram, Alvin Lustig, Roger Dean, Hipgnosis, Charley Harper, Gerd Arntz. More Current: Aesthetic Apparatus, hammerpress, Yee-Haw Industries, Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr., Studio On Fire, Dirk Fowler, Alan Kitching, Mucca, Paul Sahre, Felix Sockwell, Hoefler & Frere-Jones, Office(SF), Draplin Design Co., CSA Design.

Two of my favorite design resources:
Handbook of pictorial symbols: 3,250 examples from international sources
By Rudolf Modley, William R. Myers

American Wood Type: 1828-1900
By Rob Roy Kelly (good luck finding a reasonably priced copy)

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Inspiration: a series of vintage colophons / matchbox labels. See more here and here.

For this series I forced myself to keep a sketchbook and draw more. My favorite pen (passed down from my buddy Joey Parlett) is the Pilot P-700. You can draw with it on any substrate and it doesn't get clogged up. Another interesting technique I started using during this project is a blending/transfer pen. I'll take photo copies and transfer them right into my sketchbook, then sketch over the transfer. The transfer process also produces a lot of interesting textures that I often use in the final. The only problem is the best transfer pens have the worst chemicals in them– make sure to use them in a ventilated area.

Another favorite tool of mine is my crappy black and white laser printer. I by chance installed the toner cartridge incorrectly, so now whenever I print something out, I get great chalky mottled textures. So, I create vector shapes and print them out through my crappy printer, and then scan those in.

Yes. This was my Thesis Project for my MA. One note of interest... I finished school in Spring 2005, but didn't graduate until May of 2008. Kent State lets you finish your final project on your own time (horrible idea), and I went several years working professionally without finishing my degree. At the beginning of 2008, my professional work had come to a screeching halt, so I decided to take time off and finish school (finally). All the work done for this project was made from Jan to May 2008.

When I started my Thesis Project, I was at a point in my professional career where i had created a lot of posters but never had the opportunity to design a book cover. I had always been interested in book cover design, and i felt that posters and book covers share a similar relationship. So I took this opportunity to create a series of book covers of classic books that would appeal to junior highers. I wanted to make these books appear to be something a 14 year old might actually want to pick up.

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Rest, Relax, Read Series Poster Ads.

Aside from inventing the project, there were several things I did before I dove into the design. The first step was of course re-reading the books (I did pick a few that I was not familiar with). I would read one of the titles, start roughly sketching out ideas for the cover, and then move on to the more final versions. After this, I would just repeat the cycle and from time to time revisit the other previous ideas for the other covers. It was a really smooth process for the most part (and very enjoyable).

One major part of this project that I spent a great deal of time with was naming the campaign. This project was positioned as a summer reading campaign, so I decided to play off the Rest and Relaxation theme. So it became Rest, Relax, (and of course) Read. By making these words sound like a mantra, it takes away the lazyness vibe and makes it a bit more proactive. Also the 3 R's played out nicely into the R cubed logo that relates back general education vibe. As for the style, I look at a lot of vintage colophons (printer marks) to make it feel like a little seal of approval.

Before working on this project, I'd always been really good at starting sketchbooks, but horrible at finishing them. I made it a point to keep a very thorough sketchbook. It was a great exercise and I learned so much from the physical act of drawing. I don't like to have blank spots in my sketchbook, so I always force myself to fill the page. Often the process of trying to come up with one extra sketch will result in my best idea.

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Sketches right out of Mikey's sketchbook.

My struggle was trying to make these books work as a cohesive set. While the themes of these books are similar in many ways, the setting of each book differs greatly.

The first book I started to work on was The Outsiders. It was my trial run and I was trying out a lot of different styles to figure out what was right for the audience. From there I moved on to Farenheit 451 and after that, Animal Farm. I feel that the visual style came out of these two books and after that I went back and revisited The Outsiders and came up with the final solution. When I was solving the other three books, the style had been established so it was more finding the idea for that particular title.

My favorite cover was one I didn't use for The Outsiders. I love the simplicity of it, but it just didn't fit in the series.

The objective of this campaign was simply to get young adults interested in summer reading. I chose 6 books that deal with the theme of questioning authority, and i paired that idea with an edgy illustrative style (strongly influenced by rock/movie poster art). It's supposed to make reading (for lack of a better word) cool. Also, by making a cohesive set, young adults will want to keep reading these classic titles, and hopefully feel like they are part of a bigger group. Harry Potter readers shouldn't be the only ones having fun.

I think the most effective aspect of these is how clearly and straighforward they communicate. I was trying to come up with very simple ideas that would get jr. highers into reading, but I think they also appeal to a broader audience (which is ok too).

I learned a lot from this project, but mostly it just reinforced things I already do. For me, this whole project was about making a better working process. I found interesting ways to help me visually solve things. It was fun to spend a few months just really focusing on this.

11.23.09 // Robin Cailloux said:

I’m confused- can we purchase these books? I would love to own a collection. Where can I get these?!!


11.23.09 // Nate Salciccioli said:

As far as I know Robin, this series was developed as a school thesis project, and was therefore never commercially published. We featured it because the designs were too perfect to pass up. I agree, these would be the versions I'd want to own. If any publishers are reading this...


11.23.09 // Ian Shimkoviak said:

these are all breathtaking. I love the poster-like silkscreen quality of them. The sketches are wonderful and all point to a very developed way of thinking about the deeper visual meaning behind the work.

Hope to see more from Mikey!


11.24.09 // Chris Gilbert said:

Wow, these are phenom!! I'll take one of each, please.
Great post guys.

Here is some more tasty icons from scandinavia to feast on.


11.24.09 // Lucie Stericker said: