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Associate creative director of TEAK, Michael Chessey is the creative voice charged with polishing its identity and maintaining the consistency of the brand—which includes a site redesign for the studio and a soon-to-launch full-browser, interactive video experience. His high-profile work includes a pair of campaigns for EA SPORTS via Freestyle Interactive and a Kohler spot with Isobar. With a formal education topped off at the Art Academy of Cincinnati for Commercial Art, Chessey also spent considerable time at the School for Creative & Performing Arts in Cincinnati Ohio, where he focused on design, art and modern dance (he still credits his career success and design prowess to the latter school). In the mid-90s, he split his time between digital and design work in the San Francisco Bay Area and rock climbing in Yosemite.


An iPhone, A Spork and A Carabiner

If you have a degree in what field is it? Commercial art.

Which designer (or design studio), other than yours, do you most admire? Sweden has great rock climbing, and is just across the Baltic Sea from Estonia, which is a lovely country. Stockholm is also home to North Kingdom; its interactive work is consistently delightful and elegant. The Adidas Teamgeist graphic novel game is a great example and was a real inspiration for me when it launched. I’m also pleasantly surprised by the work they do for the Swedish Armed Forces. I tried to enlist. I’m still waiting on a reply from the Försvarsmakten.

What’s the strangest request you've received from a client? “I do not believe in grid systems. If you continue to use them, please do not refer to them in meetings.”

If you weren't working as a designer what would you be doing? Adventurer. Climber. Full-time dad.

What well-known identity is most desperately in need of a redesign? The United States.

From where do your best ideas originate? My best ideas often appear somewhere between stages four and five of my creative process. This “creative sweet spot” is sitting on the couch with my wife, laughing, around 10pm, after some bourbon.

How do you overcome a creative block? I go to the gym and spar. A friendly punch in the nose clears my head and reminds me how much I love my job.

What’s your dream project (not client, but project)? A rich multi-channel campaign featuring an interactive sight with video, data visualization and social integration, on too small a budget and timeline. Kind of what I’m working on now.

Do you have creative outlets other than graphic design? Yes. I dig refinishing old wood furniture, knife making and modifying my clothing.

What’s your approach to balancing work and life? I take care of myself first and foremost. This perspective is not a selfish one, it’s self-centered. If I’m strong, happy, healthy and productive then I’m a good influence on family and coworkers. If I do not take pride in myself, my health or happiness... who will do it for me? Who will follow me? Who will love me?

What product/gadget can you not live without? iPhone. Spork. Carabiner.

What’s your favorite quote? “Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men.” —Miyamoto Musashi

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Find a small, nimble boutique shop that is getting noticed in the area of your interest (interactive, typography, film, etc). Work hard. Rinse. Repeat.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? How to deal with pretension.