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Design Spotlight: Michael Wykowski

December 18, 2012
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Today’s Design Spotlight shines on Michael Wykowski of Mawmaw Cards – his unique illustration style and labyrinth cards really bring a smile to my face!

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I’ve been working as a graphic designer and illustrator for… well, let’s just say many years. My experience in the arts has lead me through drawings, watercolor and acrylic paintings, a variety of mixed media, illustrated calendars, t-shirts, band posters and CDs, commissioned portraits, animation, music production, mosaics, printmaking, theater posters, comic strips and single panel cartoons, children’s book illustration, postcards, blah blah blah, and of course greeting cards. Lots and lots of greeting cards.

I began creating maze cards in 2010. My first maze card was made for my friend’s daughter who was turning four years old. I had previously made children’s cards that I thought were wonderful, but they never received much attention from the little tykes. I’d spend hours crafting an image and verse that were in a moment cast aside without the least bit of interest. The kids were more excited at opening and playing with the envelope than the card.

One day, I noticed that most activity books for kids always contained a number of simple mazes. Many of these were really nice pieces of art. Since I’d never seen a card with a maze I thought I’d give it a try. It was a wild success! For the first time, a little kid actually was interested in a birthday card. She studied it, played with it, and showed it to her friends and sister — and they seemed to enjoy it as well. Even the adults were fascinated. It was a revelation.

Since then, I’ve created many more mazes for birthday cards, holiday cards (my “Love Cat Maze” card won honorable mention this year in Kate Harper’s Most Unusual Valentine Cards blog), and even an anniversary card that features a double maze (one for him and one for her).

One of my favorites is PenguinPark Maze. It’s a birthday card that’s appropriate for any age, gender, race, or religion. It’s bright and colorful and adventurous and FUN! As a friend said, “Everyone loves penguins, and mazes are cool.” I only posted it a couple weeks ago on GCU and it’s already becoming one of my best sellers.

When designing a maze card, I begin with a concept and shape for the maze. I then start sketching the maze with pencil and paper (and lots of eraser). It’s all done freehand.  I determine the complexity of the maze based on the age of the intended recipient — the younger the person, the simpler the maze. With a good maze, it isn’t immediately apparent which path will lead to the “finish.” The challenge is in designing clever dead ends and fitting the paths into the form of the maze. After I layout a satisfactory solution to the maze, I scan the sketch and use it as a template in Adobe Illustrator. I then carefully trace out the maze with the pen tool — straightening lines, perfecting curves, and adjusting proportions. Finally, I add my backgrounds and characters and choose a color palette and type font(s).

As I’m working on the design and production of the maze, I also consider the inside verse. I usually try to find a verse that is a celebratory play on words that are related to the occasion and image. Sometimes it comes to me quite naturally. Other times I have to get out my dictionary, thesaurus, and rhyming dictionary and rack my brain for the right blend of wordplay and sentiment. Hint: I find that long walks or drives quite often help to shake the cobwebs.

I continue to design cards in a variety of illustration styles (many examples can be seen on my website. I’m always working on the next fun idea (and, so far,  I’ve had no shortage on that count). But for now, the variations and greeting card applications of my mazes seem almost infinite. I plan to provide GCU with many, many more. Thanks GCU and the GCU Community for allowing me to share my A-mazing cards.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 18, 2012 2:53 pm

    What a terrific read this morning. Your writing skills shined as well. I enjoyed visiting your website too and seeing your array of wonderful creations. Congrats on this GCU Designer Spotlight. Lj

    • December 19, 2012 1:15 am

      Thank you for the kind comments, LJ. It’s funny that you mention my writing skills. I spend so much of my time concentrating on creating images and short verses that it was a real struggle for me to explain myself and my art in the form of a blog. I don’t have a blog of my own for precisely that reason. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  2. naquaiya permalink
    December 19, 2012 4:00 pm

    I love your styles and am impressed that you dive into Illustrator to make those mazes look so good. This is a great story and I had forgotten how cool little mazes were! Great job & great story!

  3. December 20, 2012 8:54 pm

    Wonderful read, it’s always great getting to know a fellow artist. You have many talents on your plate. Darling maze card!

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