Mike Nicholls

Understand you have value:

As much as is great for (young designers) to have internships at big companies… know that you could also do your own shit too. Have a vision for what you want to do for yourself, and not be so reliant upon working at (any) company. You have all of the options. Your value is not defined by where you work and, if it is—flex that. But know that THEIR value is up because they got you there. That’s how you have to see it.”

—Mike Nicholls, Founder, Creative Director, EIC

Nuances of the Black experience.

That’s my guest Mike Nicholls, He is a creative director, brand strategist, publisher, visual designer, and illustrator. He’s been translating ideas into visionary creative solutions utilizing his over 20 years of design experience and natural talent. Mike is also the founder and creative director of Umber Publishing, an independent publishing house based in Oakland, CA. He visually designs and illustrates the perspective of the contributor, from curation – to content and final magazine design.

We discuss the nuances of the Black and Brown reality and why a publishing platform such as a magazine allows the community to archive their own perspective.

I hope you can appreciate the way we nerd out on typography, culture, and the return to a tactile design experience. Enjoy!


Full Transcript

Mike N
In order for you to really sit with that, that thought, sit with that perspective sit with that idea. You have to really like, there has to be almost a primary experience, right? Just imagine listening to music as the primary experience, not listen to music, why are you doing something else? Why do cleaning? Why are you cooking? Why are you running errands, but like just sitting down on a chair, doing nothing else. But listening to music. All that focus is that one particular moment is so when you’re reading a number, really any kind of print media, you should feel the culmination of the life experiences in that one moment. That process of discovery to present like, Oh, I just found this this cool new thing. And only you can experience it is in print. You can’t actually go online and see what I’m looking at. You know, there’s a whole nother level of intimate engagement with the stories with the narratives.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
Welcome to work some process, the podcast and asked the hows and whys behind creative work. Take a ride with me, designer and educator George eristic. As I learned from my guests, there’s no one way to being a creative, but endless possibilities fueled by passion, determination, and of course process.

That’s my guest, Mike Nichols. He’s a creative director, brand strategist, publisher, visual designer and illustrator. He’s been translating ideas into visionary creative solutions utilizing his over 20 years of design experience and natural talent. Mike is also the founder and creative director of our publishing, and independent publishing house based in Oakland, California. He visually designs and illustrates the perspective of the contributor from curation to content in final magazines. It’s for that drive and determination that I might have on the show. We discussed the nuances of the black and brown reality and white publishing platforms because the magazine allows the community to archive their own perspective. I hope you can appreciate the way we nerd out on typography, culture, and the return to tactile design experiences. Enjoy.

Hey, Mike, welcome to the works in process podcast. Nice to have you from Oakland.

Mike N
Thank you. Thank you. Thanks for being here, George.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
Yes. I know you’re swamped with all new things going down with a number and but we’ll get into all of it. But I kind of want to do something really quickly in the beginning. Before we get into your work and your creative process. I’d like to start each episode with a rapid fire q&a session. Are you ready? Alright, so it’s just this or that questions? Right? Either or coffee, tea?

Mike N
Coffee!

George Garrastegui, Jr.
paper, digital.

Mike N
Paper!

George Garrastegui, Jr.
black or brown?

Mike N
Black!

George Garrastegui, Jr.
Philly or Oakland?

Mike N
Oakland!

George Garrastegui, Jr.
art, or design?

Mike N
design!

George Garrastegui, Jr.
Helvetica or knockout?

Mike N
Helvetica. Ooh.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
Here’s our either or, Roots, Wu Tang or digital underground

Mike N
roots!

George Garrastegui, Jr.
Of course, of course. I love it. Black thought is awesome. So cool. That’s just like quick, a no brainer. And then I have some word association, right? The first thing that like kind of you think of when you hear these words …

Creativity.

Mike N
Hard.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
determination.

Mike N
Long

George Garrastegui, Jr.
business

Mike N
hard.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
failure.

Mike N
necessary.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
Community.

Mike N
Everything.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
Education

Mike N
indifferent

George Garrastegui, Jr.
mistakes.

Mike N
necessary

George Garrastegui, Jr.
skills.

Mike N
Needed

George Garrastegui, Jr.
history

Mike N
in different

George Garrastegui, Jr.
opportunity.

Mike N
Access.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
Accessibility

Mike N
desired

George Garrastegui, Jr.
future

Mike N
now.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
And the last but not least process.

Mike N
Everything.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
That’s great, right! I love doing these because it gives us like gives you no time to react. So you just got to answer. Right. And it’s a great understanding kind of like get us loose and stuff. And you know, as we move into the beginning of this, I really want to get a little bit more into the introduction of you getting into art and design. Right? So where’d you grew up? And were you creative, artsy as a kid.

Mike N
So I grew up in North Carolina, Charlotte, North Carolina, and I can remember all these drawing. I can’t remember when I was not drawing. I feel like it was something I always did. Um, so my dad’s visual, visual artists. He was a painter, muralist, designer, all of that. I think I didn’t grow with them. But I just remember seeing them paint when I was like, really young. And so on that image of him painting in his room in his his room, like it’s stuck with me, but like it kind of Was it was in the recesses of my brain It was like really kind of pushed back towards the back. Indian, I put myself in the front and just do what I want to like in terms of just drawing. So it’s like I’ve always been, I don’t know if Archie was a word, but always just was a drawer.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
So did you feel that you know, looking at your as your dad as a kind of a visual artist? Do you think family or school played a larger role in you becoming a designer or creative person?

Mike N
I’ll say school. Because Because I didn’t grow with them. I didn’t really have a image or a example of what that means to be an artist. And it I think it was once a guy just drew pictures, Drew motorcycles, Drew comic books, Drew graffiti. I just drew things, right. And so it wasn’t in school where I realized designer is a thing, you know, saying, I didn’t think about that when I was when I was younger.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
Okay, okay. What was your first creative job and how did you stumble into it?

Mike N
My first creative job was designing t shirts for this event in Atlanta called freaknik.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
Freak now,

Mike N
I’m dating myself here being myself. I graduated from high school in 94. And I lived in Atlanta, went to door instead of Atlanta, and I lived in Atlanta. At the time when all these people were moving down there from the east coast. On the west coast. It was like a hotbed of just like a lot of energy, a lot of different energy not not too many locals, right. I mean, the locals were there. But I was more attracted to the people who aren’t from here, they’re being there. Anyway, so free. Niki is this large event, primarily for folks who went to HBCUs. So all these black people come from all over the nation to come to Atlanta party. Growing up in a single mom household, and my mom was very religious and strict. It was too much of a positive vibe. I was like, This is too much for me. I can’t deal with this. This is not my scene. I love to dance. I love hip hop, but I didn’t like the party aspects. I didn’t want to just dance and hear music. You know, Wu Tang River. Protect your neck was like the one that got me like, I’m just wow, he’s just like, dude, just do all these crazy things. Anyway, free money comes like okay, this is not my blog. This is not my scene. But how can I participate? Oh, I can design t shirts. So frequently t shirts was like the thing back then. So I said what normally the T shirts are really you know, women with you know, the clothes on or bikini is really just like, you know, Daisy Dukes all all the whole nine. They just do. It’s really short, short shorts that are jeans. Anyway, so alright, so I’m gonna design a freaking t shirt and sell it. And so I designed it, I drew it in color pencil. I laid it out in Illustrator. So I’ll be using illustrator since 1995. That’s why I’m an illustrator. I wasn’t Illustrator. Before it was windows or desktop, it was like codes, and then it appears. So I laid it out at kinkos because I didn’t have a computer at this point. So I laid down the kinkos printed that out. And I sold all those t shirts. So me, my roommate, and my best friend. We just went around Atlanta and sold out every t shirt. I don’t know if I made any money, but I saw every t shirt and then the last day of free beak. We see one person walked by with the T shirt on. I’m like, we’ll move all my friends asked me who sold it to him like nobody knew who sold it to him. But he was just walking down people it was Piedmont Park, near downtown Atlanta. And that was it. So that was my first creative job. So even then I was entrepreneur without really, I didn’t think about it as entrepreneurship. I’m like, well,

George Garrastegui, Jr.
I’ll just design a T shirt. That feeling has to be so amazing to see all the work come together and then to see somebody finally like wearing your shirt. When did you consider yourself a creative

Mike N
secre that’s even that’s like a new thing, right? Like it’s a noun before it wasn’t like a now like, you know, creative like you were creative but you weren’t like a creative. Maybe it wasn’t until maybe around but as an adult in my late 30s early 40s I oh I’m a creative. I’m like a I’m a I’m a noun not i’m not creative. I am a creative was like later on like because I think a lot of things that I did. I didn’t attach to me I call myself a designer and illustrator but I didn’t attach to like a bigger vision of what my passion or my skill set or my approach is I just oh I’m just a design. I’m just I just do this thing that I do. But as a creative as I Oh, I’m a it’s a whole other thing. Now we think of a creative like that means you do anything

George Garrastegui, Jr.
That’s actually a good distinction, right? Where you know the noun versus, and how we start to look at it. Because now it’s it’s a, it’s a thing versus just kind of being what you used to be a descriptor, right? Like, now it is a thing. And it encompasses so much more than, than what people tend to throw at you as, like, what the definition of creativity or creative means. It’s like, No, no, it is me. It’s all encompassing. You know, sometimes nobody’s gonna give you that title. You just got to kind of come up on your on your own. I agree. I think that’s one of the things that it takes time to get there to find the word umber. For me,

Mike N
Omar means brown pigment from the earth.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
Simple, right? So as we shift to that, right, and as we talked about it in kind of like a pre interview. typography is really what drew me to Humber when I first saw it. I’m a sucker for bold condense typefaces and umber logo is that so when I saw that I was like, instantly became a fan. Right? I looked at I looked up on your Instagram, I looked up your your website, right I it’s been a while since I ordered a magazine. And so when I ordered it and got a couple of copies in my house, right, it it just reminded me of, of sitting at a bookstore and thumbing through a magazine for inspiration. Right. So for me print is nostalgic. It is. It’s something that that kind of connects you to two things. But here’s a two part question, explain what number The magazine is to our listeners. And then why printed media

Mike N
ombre magazine is a graphic journal, highlighting D creative perspectives of black and brown people, meaning black people, indigenous people, Latin Americans and marginalize people of color from around the world. ombre is a an art book of the scullery, design, illustration, typography, stories, narratives, perspectives, that’s what it really entails when you when you hold it. And so why print, that is the best way to authentically archive your perspective, and not be reliant on external media to tell you a story. If you print something, you have to print it. But you’re the you’re the push to have to print it. And then when you print, it is a commitment to that thought, that idea. And so I knew from jump, to be honest with you the idea for sonnet oh six saw no six, print, the whole phrase is print is dead wasn’t really there yet, it was still some rumblings there was like little things kind of, you know, shifting, I think around that time is when Facebook kind of started thinking Oh, six, somewhere on there, oh, five or six. Because AOL, of course, there’s my space. So I just held fast to that premise I had 15, over 15 years ago, that this is gonna be a print magazine. So for me print is necessary. Print is printed print is the thing that it just is the like, this is the way to make sure that the stories that you want to tell is being told it the way you want to tell it. And it ensures that you can kind of I don’t say control the narrative. I don’t like that worker tone in there, too. You can be intentional with the narrative, you can give it focus with the narrative.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
Yeah, and I mean, thinking, obviously control, the narrative has different connotations. But I think what you mentioned is is also being able to archive your perspective. You just said that, and I think that that is that is something where in history, probably the stories of black and brown people have not been told by black and brown people. Right. So the realities of those stories, and the nuances of those stories are not written by the people who actually experienced those. And that’s one of the first things I got when I just heard you say, like, archive your perspective, because that is such a, I guess, a powerful term to think about it that you’re in control. And it’s different than controlling the narrative, because narrative means you’re trying to persuade somebody, you know, I think this is more like, Look, there’s so many different ways to tell this story, especially when you’re thinking about black, brown, indigenous and people of color, right? You can’t lump those people into one big thing. There’s so many differences in that, that we should be allowed to space to be able to be the ones who tell that story. Right. And so I definitely, I definitely hear that and then kind of doing some more research, right. I read in a print magazine article he had with Steven Heller that you consider numbers approach to design and this is very heady, but as part cerebral subtlety provoq Have and wonder. So with all of those things, can you explain numbers visual style to somebody who hasn’t seen it?

Mike N
I will say that ombre looks infield, old and new at the same time. ombre is a convergence of art, and photography, and lots of lots of letters and typefaces. It’s a space where you discovered things that you didn’t know about prior to. So it is like a playground of these huge images over is a collage. That’s what it is. It is a visual collage, filled with images, and text, and photography and stories. Like it’s just it’s like, yes, it really is a collage. And the what unifies all of this collage, Enos is that it’s printing only two colors, black color, and a brown color.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
And so that last part leads us to our next question, but before that sounds like you were describing it to a non designer.

Mike N
Yes.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
How would you didn’t so let’s let’s go for it, how would you design it to a designer

Mike N
umber is a graphic journal that puts design and visual art, the focus of storytelling,

George Garrastegui, Jr.
a lot more succinct. Right, it just, you know, like when you’re talking to people who get it right, you just have to say a little bit of words to kind of make it all resonate. And but both definitions do the job. And because you mentioned the idea of it’s old and new. And it’s printed in two colors. I mean, literally, if you’re looking at my screen, my next question is, what was the design decision to be a duotone magazine?

Mike N
design? That’s Oh, well, if there’s only two colors, maybe cheaper to print in four colors? I think it was, it was like it was in the same breath like Oh, the cool if it’s only two colors, and then it probably would be cheaper to print. And then the fact the name is Amber, black and brown people, people of color, you can get a whole lot of shades but with black and brown ink, you get a whole I mean you can get you can get Puerto Rican you can get Chinese up Cambodian you can get you know, Indian like there’s a lot of range in those in that color palette.

Unknown Speaker
So it’s uh let’s get a little nerdy real quick what Pantone color is your is your brown

Mike N
731 say

George Garrastegui, Jr.
I knew you say that designer knows that off the top of their head, especially if you print in two colors. Is your black, Jet Black or is your black and nuanced black.

Mike N
Black is black. Oh, but what I started to do now is we were very let’s go nerdy in Photoshop. I created a third color I made in Photoshop, I made a duotone literally like you make something black and white first grayscale, and then you go into sending however you get there you see, do a tone. So I have the black and the 731. But I adjust the levels. So you get like this weird sort of like this brown slate color to the third color for our last issue. Okay, so that one is more like it’s just a it’s just the odd color like it doesn’t fit. So it’s almost like my, my metal like the metal type. That is like, just on it just feels nice.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
Yeah, it gives you It gives you some variety to it adds maybe another dimension. You know, and I think that probably speaks to what you’re talking about is is this multitude of color that you can pull from just those two colors and of course, it probably a tribute to the fact that the paper that you have and it’s kind of an off white, right? It’s not really true white right? It’s also matte which is beautiful. I mean the matte paper is such such a distinctive quality to it versus like the glossy magazines which are supposed to feel so finished.

Mike N
With this they feel like actually matte paper and uncoated paper feels more expensive than glossy paper. Because I’m like glossy you’re trying to look glossy, you’re trying to look a certain kind of way. But if you’re understated like you could wear friends you can wear that that jeans shirt, right if you’re obviously religious or not. This is a very distinctive jeans shirt that feels right for me. versus trying to get a shiny shirt with glitters Illa Hey, look at me like look Look at me glittering like no, this shirt says something this so this is I’m giving you I’ve given you a statement of my institutionality of like quality without me being over your face bringing back the shiny shirt era

George Garrastegui, Jr.
so like in the first I think it’s the first three issues under the logo, you have the tagline, that which I feel is really poignant, right? It’s called the creatives thinkers. Graphic journal. very intentional. Why did you call it that?

Mike N
That tagline started in Oh, six. So that’s always been a tagline. And I was trying to once again, we haven’t talked about this yet, wherever but ombre design wise, was inspired by immigrate, which was started in 1984. They stopped, but 20 years 20 years later, and oh five, I believe was the last issue. So I was like, I know there’s gonna be a graphic journal, right? I want people to feel like a journal like is very journal something personal, something very like his journal with journaling something you’re kind of getting vulnerable, you’re getting really particular about your experience, and your perspective, right? and creative thinkers because like is for the creative thinker, the people people who think outside the box or within the box or open up the box. And then look at the the spaces in between the box in the corner like is really is that creative thinking or are you just don’t take life for face value.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
So I mean, if you think about it, and the inspiration of emigre and and kind of a lot of where those those magazines in the 80s come from what other inspiration does does umber pull from? Is it now is in on top of that? Is it because of ombre? Or is because of Mike Nichols? Or you know, because some sometimes it’s it’s the same. But sometimes we can kind of compartmentalize and say well, I know the intention for this is a little different than me in my own visual sensibilities. Right. So,

Mike N
um, bear in mind that this is pretty intertwined. Really, dude, like, Damn, now I was like, I don’t need to beat him. I’m the only one out here. Like, I have to be some other black person, person of color who geek out about fun in particular kind of way. Now your average, like, Taipei designers are very just like, you know, uptight like there’s there’s some you have to be up so uptight about loving Helvetica. You know, I’m saying like, there’s a way where you can appreciate it. And be cool, be chill, be weird, be awkward, but not being so uptight. And so ombre was my to be honest with you, it was my way of making myself big, showing a bigger in the world. As I you know what, I don’t see a lot of magazines reflected my viewpoints or my perspectives. And I see black or brown people in magazines, but it’s usually within the space of that vibe. So if you have Wired Magazine, they’ll have black or brown people in there, but they’re fitting that niche of that kind of aesthetic of wire, right? or whatever, but you never see a full suas if you go to somebody’s house, right? Who has Indian, everybody in the house not gonna have the same personality, you got different kinds of Indians within this one house. And so I want to make the same thing to where it’s like this is a house full of black or brown people. We’re not all the same. We have different interests in, in in aesthetics, but because of our identity, and our heritage and our background desktop, that’s a unifying factor. But really we’re into whatever we’re into. So that’s really what umber was really just like a way for me a calling out to was like, Am I am I alone? Am I really alone? You got to ask me somebody else out here like me. Visually design was inspired by vibe magazine was the one. The first magazine that I saw that was different vibe vibe came out in 93. I was a senior in high school. And at this point, I was already a fan of the source. I remember seeing the first source cover was heavy D was on the cover. That was the first source I saw that had to be 9291 somewhere around there. And this time, they’re like is a full It was a color magazine. I remember the font The letter was yellow, bright yellow, there’s heavy, tropical background, whatever in the background. I remember seeing that this rim shop in Charlotte sorry if this plows fan of word up magazine essays all you know Ebony to a certain extent you know all these mags right on magazine. But five was different. By was artsy fartsy five was like black and white photos big format. How they had they kind of had a kind of knockout fight kind of vibe with so not so much that the mass head but when Snoop Dogg was on cover a vibe he just came out. I think he maybe did one song with Dr. Dre did cover I think it on that corpus of Bow Wow. Like in purple or pink letters. Right? That’s it. This is different. I just was like Like, obsess about vibe, you know, I’m saying and then I feel like you kind of wind down a bit Academy became more traditional ish in his look and feel as it as it progressed, but by those first two years was like, you know, so really Umbra is a mixture of vibe and emigrate. Okay, those two analogies in terms of like, vibe is all about kind of focus on hip hop culture for the most part or black culture, or urban economy back then. And then emigre is more like my my mind how my mind works in terms of as a creative thinker. So those two magazines I would say, kind of directly influence how umber was, you know, this is before your research magazines and this was a researcher magazines?

George Garrastegui, Jr.
Oh, yeah, I don’t think you need to in that sense we’re we’re you know, we’re around the same age and and vibe also for me back in the days blase, blase, but you know, those magazines which are which are challenging the norms, right play just trying to challenge the source and, and vi was becoming the urban version of Rolling Stone, and with music and pop culture, and things like that, but also format, I think format for you, it was a big thing, because by the original versions were like Rolling Stone size, which back in the days, Rolling Stone was almost like a square, it was almost like 11 by 11. It was a big, huge magazine. And then eventually, you know, like, everything we got got smaller, and you know, it had less impact. But those definitely tried to shake things up to you know, in Quincy, obviously, Quincy Jones starting, you know, vibe magazine with that to kind of be like, urban culture is on par. Right. And we know today urban culture is courage is culture. Like it, you know, that is it is what it is, we can’t deny that. But But looking at those influences, and I love that, I guess that mixture of thinking of yourself as somewhat of a vibe, and somewhat emigre, right, we’re talking about design and, and aesthetics in a certain like, maybe scholastic way or historical way, and then taking How do you meld and blend and this and take this urban culture who’s now either that’s been thrust upon them, or we’ve been thrust upon it, or whatever, and how that mixes? I think that’s a great description, because those are some of the things that I noticed when I’m looking through the pages and looking at how you’re deciding, you know, not only worrying about colors, right? Because that, like you said, the color gamut can can can shift but how you’re, how you’re breaking up features, how you’re introducing illustration, you know, how you’re doing some of the illustration, you know, obviously, as a labor of love, and and you’re you’re calling to say, am I the only one out here, who, who thinks the same way. And sometimes the only way to do that is to say, Well, shit, I’m gonna have to do something, and see if people connect with it, right. Like, I think that’s one of the things that that as black and brown creatives we don’t think about, we have to put it out there first, like that T shirt moment, when somebody else connects with that T shirt for you, it now is like, Alright, I’m here. It’s such a thing that we don’t even think about that in a sense where like, we don’t even recognize that, oh, we have to just put it out there. And you know, it just because of either the way we’ve been brought up or the way that’s been, it’s been put upon us to be like, maybe not have that confidence and stuff like that. But when when you feel that, that what you’re doing, has a point has an audience, you know, sometimes you just have to scream it from the rooftops and see if somebody else is listening, you know, and that’s what I’m hearing you doing. And when I’m looking at you compare yourself to those things, what I’m noticing, and you mentioned it before, right? It’s about images and writers and artists. How did you start to go about collaborating with his various creatives to create an establish some kind of visual language for this, right? We know colors plays a big deal. We know content starts to play a big deal. But now this influx of it’s not just you, you know, how do we start to allow other creatives to start to help you build this visual language in this kind of cultural community thing out there?

Mike N
Yeah. So the first issue of ombre I’ll say this, whatever is in regards to number in terms of working on designing it, I’ve come to find out realize that is really my art practice. layout is an art form. It is a higher form of collage making, right? So my joy of all doing this under is like making designing. That’s where the KIDDING ME comes into like do literally I’m designing when I used to design in college, it is the same, the same stick to my process has not changed from when I was forced in school to design something off of a typewriter with no computer. The first issue of armor was all my friends. There was maybe two or three people who I’d never met before everybody else like I knew them personally on a personal level. And so I’m like your adult you Don’t you want People Magazine. So really in a way to where the way I curate, in the beginning was more just like vibes and feelings and energy. And Dan, my stipulation was I have to do the art. That’s the only thing to do it. And so because once again, I consider Amr be my art practice, because before it is, are you to work at it at agency worked at a design firms work in house different as I’m always on other people’s shit, never doing what I want to do as an artist. And as a as a designer. So for me, it was like, let me design the way I want to design. And hopefully people like it is like any artists, visual artists, recording artists, they put the music out there and the work out there. And hopefully people like it, you know, some people are trying to make art or make music to appeal to certain people. I didn’t really do it that way in the beginning, I’ll just try to do it. And so then, like I said, every issue of armor is based on the theme. The first issue was was vulnerability. The second issue was relationships. And so still trying to figure out what that means to curate based on the theme, and I try to pick things are very kind of like expansive, where does it get locked into? So like, Yeah, let’s do it. article about being married. You see, I’m saying that he’s not so specific that way. It couldn’t be too. Now I’m trying to curate based on the theme now. Oh, I wish all relationships, what kind of relationships, the relationship between an artist and a model from the models perspective, right? The relationship between a designer and a computer, the relationship between war and peace, right, these are very kind of nuanced conversations, but there’s still about relationships, as I curate based upon that. So really, I tell my contributors, you’re just along for the ride, I’m worried I’m doing all the work, you just give me your perspective, you trust me with your vulnerability, your perspective to give it the light that it needs to be given. Knowing that 11 like take your, your perspective, your idea, your thoughts, and kind of like, distorted and for the masses, you know, I’m saying this, really, I created St. Umbra as my creative practice going forward, I’m going to start opening up to get more people to actually like, help out with the design and, and be a part of the, of the process. But in the beginning, I really want to do most of it myself, just to set the tone. Just to get the vibe, right? And became it’s still kind of my baby too, right? And so that’s really how has really worked where it’s like, first he was like, bring in my community who I know and love. Because I was inspired by Isa Ray when she started before the insecure she had this web series called awkward black girl. And I remember her talking about she said, Yeah, you start you start your community First, start with your community first. Did you get us involved but build from that ground base first. And so that’s how I really kind of started with the determining the stories. But now for the third issue for the sound dish have started to expand outside of Oakland outside, you know, even for even a second issue. Darrell does artists from Amsterdam, she’s Armenian, she’s a type designer or work is incredible.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
Yeah, the only the only issue I don’t have the second issue

Mike N
that was sold out. I know. That’s, that’s why I don’t have it sold out. Um, so so anyway. So that’s really how it started have to wear. The theme determines who I who I’m bringing the fold. First is my community of people who I’m inspired by, in some ways, people who I refer to Hey, my, this person is dope. But the submission process is organic. There’s no like, oh, give me your ideas. And we’ll put it we’ll think about it. I can’t do that. Because of this process. What happens is that the making a number is building community is building a network of people to every issue, every piece of lumber, every feature, there’s a story behind of how we met, how we got here, who inspired who, who follows who on Instagram, right? There’s I want to make sure that that always is a part of it. At least for now. There’s some point I’ll have it more, I guess democratic, but

George Garrastegui, Jr.
no, but it’s but I think if it becomes organic like that, it allows itself to have, I guess a more personal structure. And literally, I gotta say you You must be reading the same document that I’m trying to interview from because you just like literally just kind of hit the next couple points that I’m gonna be doing. You already beat me to it. Because I was gonna mention, you know, especially with the way you’re curating as I guess is now a great word. Beyond print. umber is an experience. And I think that you’re you just mentioned, you know, you’re you’re breaking down the experience of the people in here, how we met what we’re doing, and you’re establishing and building trust. To allow your collaborators to work with you, but also trust you in the fact that if they’re giving you raw work, you’re going to make it the entirety or the entity that it that the theme happens to be versus just okay, it’s going to be in the front is a department page. And it’s going to be this right. And, you know, it seems to me that you don’t really know what it’s going to be. And so you got kind of all the pieces together and inside, okay, this is how it’s going to start to flow because of the trust and collaboration between people. And I think that’s a very different way of thinking about a magazine, I worked at a magazine before and you’re kind of really systematically thinking about what’s in the future. Well, what’s in the back departments what’s in the intros, right, and these little moments. And it’s nice to hear that it’s really a connection to the collaborators, you have to help build this with you, even though it’s your curatorial process. You know, even if it’s people that you know, or not, there’s enough trust to build this thing with you. Because I guess they all believe in, you know, what that theme is, or just the umbra as an idea.

Mike N
You hit on the head, because it’s really about the narrative being told, is more important to make sure that, like you said, it fits in the front of the book back of the book for a while, like is not, I want you to feel like the highs and the lows, and would you kind of ease into it, yellow drawing in the middle. And then by the time you get to the end, you’re kind of like, oh, wow, I want to go do something that I feel that I went through this whole journey, this whole experience of discovery, and imagination and inspiration, and just all of these compelling stories and ways of approaching life. But it’s really about the stories, I tell my contributors that listen, tell your story. You don’t have to preface it as a person of color because you’re around your people go in talk about it, right. And then it really is a part of a collaboration. Because there’s some times where I’m actually working together on the piece. We have, like, different talking, you were talking like this, right? There’s our boy, you just said that? Well, if you put this in here and put it there and kind of you know, make this kind of this organic experience, and so on bombur definitely isn’t experienced man like it’s experienced that only can really be done in print. Like the way this approach is, if it’s just a digital experience, I think it may hit may go flat. Right? Because I want you to leave here. Like if you’re reading about this woman who is who’s based in Copenhagen, she makes sound art. She literally whips a white canvas with a black whip. She has this whole process where right for the sound issue, I saw her documentary, here in Oakland she was here was visiting, and doing a show over screening. And so you out, you heard her reactions of people in the audience, like gasping and fill it all just kind of emotions. But it had to be a visceral experience already, just get a snippet of in the magazine. Now go and discover more, right to the rabbit hole of the experience of this woman who is doing this incredible art. And so yeah, man, it’s a journey.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
I mean, it’s interesting, right? That you’re like, I mean, let’s just say old school and the fact where you know, you would learn about somebody, and then you go to the rabbit hole. Today, we’re in such a rabbit hole nature, where the first thing you do is experience the endless scrolling and an overexposure of somebody that that, you know, you see something new, and you kind of, unfortunately, go Been there, done that, because you’ve seen almost every thing that’s happened, before you even get to really truly sit with it. It seems like you’re making conscious decisions to almost go against that.

Mike N
For sure. Like, I mean, I’m still unconscious, because I’m very apprehensive, I can count my app on my phone is like I got like maybe 18 apps, that’s it even that’s it’s too much for me. And for me, too, is easier for me to read something in print then on screen, just like the light is coming in my face constant wherever the case is too much. In order for you to really sit with that, that thought sit with that perspective sit with that idea. You have to really like it has to be almost a primary experience, right? Just imagine listening to music as the primary experience, not listen to music, why are you doing something else? Why are you cleaning? Why are you cooking? Why are you running errands but I just sitting down on a chair, doing nothing else, but listening to music, all that focuses at one particular moment. And so when you’re reading umber or any any kind of print media, you should feel the culmination of the life experiences in that one moment. Use all of that, just to be like surgeon through your body. Right and then you can make a decision if you want to go deep or not and go online or have fun. More with someone else, I have tons of people who would buy lumber, and you know, buy a bunch of copies for their friends after after reading it for me. And so that process of discovery to Prosser like, Oh, I just found this this cool new thing. And only you can experience it is in print, you can actually go online and see what I’m looking at as a whole nother level of intimate engagement with the stories with the narratives,

George Garrastegui, Jr.
and allows you to be in control of like, what you find, instead of trends or media telling you this is the new hot shit that you need to know. You know, you experience print, whenever you’ve bought it whenever it comes out, or whenever you’ve ordered it. And you learn about it on your own time. Right, which goes back to your idea of you taking control of just when this is rather than somebody else putting it on you.

Mike N
The only experience a lot of I feel like I can have that it is Wikipedia. That’s the only experience where you are what you want. It doesn’t tell you you should at least probably go to the homepage, you are looking for what you want. You’re driving that engagement you’re like well, I want to find out about Michael Jackson. Let me just go in here I want to find out about Steven Heller, let me just go like is your sort of like it’s like a like a library right? So that’s all all my experience I know of to where you can kind of like you’re not being told or encouraged. What do you what you should be looking at or doing I had this other conversation recently Torres like I want to emulate that experience of digging into craze for people who are not in a in the hip hop as much like digging the crazy as when hip hop producers were filing these rare music samples from like record stores estate sales, the whole nine and a you’re digging literally into crates to find his gym. Right and so reading ombre is a very similar experience when you read the record sleeve of a record the idle sleeve that you open up the liner notes you kind of like when you listen to music you have to sit your you want to read what’s on this piece of paper on this cardboard right and so digging in the crates or digging into the stories into the narratives like that’s all a part of is very much hip hop Let’s just be

George Garrastegui, Jr.
real with no doubt no doubt

Mike N
numbers not experienced because I would say this I didn’t say this earlier today hip hop really defined my my creativity I grew up in a south by guarantee you I knew from jump hip hop was not just rap music for some reason I think within the span of two or three months after all this graffiti Oh is oh you rap to all your dance oh and your DJ like I knew from jump all of the aspects because in the beginning, these hip hop videos will show everything right there will show the DJ scratching you see somebody doing graffiti, somebody rapping you know I’m saying all of the breakdancing it will all happen at the same time. So culture as a culture and so for me appreciating graffiti started my love for typefaces and typography. You know I’m saying and in hip hop, you know, inspiring my love of just rapping is fine. But as far as my love for words and you know a DJ is far my love for music. You know, I’m saying like my first experience with hip hop really was Herbie Hancock. Oh, man. So I’m just like it was Herbie Hancock and and Jamel and and those are the two ages. Okay, this is what is this. But I didn’t know Herbie Hancock was a jazz artist. I thought we just say hip hop duo on the keyboard. Same idea, right? And then you realize that Oh, shit, he had 30 plus years of experience before this moment. And now he’s going someplace else like just that from 84. Like, do his plans for 15 years old Miles Davis, you know, I’m saying it’s like, oh, Lord, have mercy, man,

George Garrastegui, Jr.
the amalgamation of what hip hop is and what it’s become and where it comes from? The idea that that you can kind of almost make something out of nothing. You know, and I think that’s kind of what we that’s what we work with as, as our baseline. And you’ve mentioned so many different things, right? Like, I’m trying to parse all the amazing stuff out. But, you know, one of the things is, you’re not trying to let the format tell you what to do. And with that, you have large format magazines, you have little digest kind of magazines or little ziens that are called you know, that that I think are dubbed like black and brown perspective. Right? So it’s allowing you to kind of change up format, you know, change up size, change it, just like, you know, I want to feature two things instead of a whole magazine. Right. And then recently, I think, I think it’s probably the beginning of this year, I received the email that the brand is expanding. Like I was like, okay, you’re doing all this. I’m already following you. We are trying to get you on on the show. And then boom, you now now you’re starting Two new publications one called tone and one called slumber and I remember slumber wood kind of was a feature at least and one of the one of your issues can you share anything about those new upcoming projects?

Mike N
Yeah yeah for sure. Um So yeah, slumber was an issue one, two and three. It wasn’t in four because I knew I was gonna eventually have its own you know, space so slumber is an adult magazine of sexual expression from the black and brown perspective. And so like you mentioned slumber has always been a section in number. Whereas really talking about sexual experiences, desires, erotica, nuts, pouring some less point just feel like it’s like hard no pun intended is like our It is not that doesn’t know on stuff around that, but not really. But really, I’ll say more Vivek is it isn’t a space where really, if you think of robotic is more of like, these sexual themes or the narrative that leads up to you, eventually, expressing your sex or having sex, you know, stays the lead up to what the foreplay. So I really want to create a print magazine that shows our perspective on it. But a lot of times when you’re looking at media in regards to slumber or in regards to erotica, if they’re showing black and brown bodies, nine times out of 10 the person who is filming it or documented this are not black and brown, you can appreciate somebody is formed a body or you know, what makes them sexy, but it doesn’t have to be exotic five, it doesn’t have to be like looked at in a very, like, you know, who look at this kind of way. The Gay the male gaze, you know, I’m saying or just any kind of gaze, you know, so I really want to want to create a magazine that, you know, you’ll see the nipple, it’s like, you see some skin, but there’s another side of that conversation too. There’s a vulnerability of it. There’s a nuance of it. There’s just the accountability of of this experiences. And so that’s what what’s the number is going to be an in tone. Woof man. So tone is going to be a printed magazine for the for thinking black man. So there have been some black man magazines out there, right? The one I can remember the furthest most was Ebony man any man came out like 8380 it was like roughly four or five years it didn’t last long. Just basically Ebony for for men. Then as a magazine called untold, which is based in the UK. This tone is more about less about how you see black men more about how we see the world our perspective of how we exist in the world like think of MF DOOM or Batman right is less about Bruce Wayne or, or the guy behind MF Doom is mass is more about mF demons perspective, Batman is more of a symbol of justice or whatever he represents. Right is less about Bruce Wayne more about Batman. So Tom be more about our perspectives. Our lifestyles are nuanced, but not so much how you see black men, because we already this narrative is already already been kind of explored, right. And so there’s other online media as for black men, which are which are great. And you know, I want to even to even leverage some of that as well to like, Hey, you got an online article. Maybe we could do a print version of the article, right, give it a different kind of look and feel to so Tony’s gonna be special man, like tone is gonna be special in a lot of ways. Meaning that is going to be a chance for us to tell the full range of experiences of the black man. Right? Not just not just oh, here’s a man with with a wife and two kids and got a perfect life. Oh, here’s what man is all built, got muscles, whatever. There’s also the black man likes to hike. There’s a black man who, you know, who enjoys reading comic books. You know, I’m saying as a as a black man who may not look maybe a little pudgy, but he’s a great cook, you know, I’m saying like, there’s all these different ways where we can explore our experiences as black men that will do in tone.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
It’s such an important aspect that you continue to lead to mention. There’s nuance and, and variation in the conversation that is not necessarily being totally focused. And I think that’s where you’re trying to fit in.

Mike N
Well, here’s the thing to also to be authentic about it, like not trying to pander on that, too. There’s a way it’s where you can like, kind of lean into like, oh, as a, right, like, no, not just do your thing, but just be you. You know, I’m saying there’s a swear word. Some sometimes these stories are being told, but it’s being told in a very sensationalized way. Like very, like, you know, there’s a whole press thing about like, not like, most of our lives as black or brown people, definitely by people just like, like anybody else’s life, get groceries, you know, I’m saying do whatever. A lot of times, the society will remind us that we’re black, right? society will tell us that we’re black or brown was there, they’ll they’ll remind us right in a way that’s not really that big If it’s us, and so even if you’re trying to benefit us, it really isn’t. There’s a narrative where they’ll just hold on this narrative of, of our struggles, which is real, right. But we have other experiences too, you know, I’m saying so. So those two new magazines are going to be really, really special. And along with number and bvp. See so far? I know

George Garrastegui, Jr.
you got four and and you mentioned something when you’re talking about slumber, you know, the idea of decentralization of the form and the male gaze on imagery and things like that, who, who gets to control how that’s going to be looked upon? And I wanted to ask you, like, you know, obviously, tone you mentioned is obviously for the forward thinking black man but the the the audience of slumber? Are we going to be experiencing this from different perspectives from the female from the male from the non binary? Like, you know, what is the variation that we’re going to have, so that you’re continuing to tell that nuanced perspective?

Mike N
So I will say this from jumping probably definitely from my POV, because because I’m starting it. For one, I don’t think one is that I’ve done tons and tons of research on magazines, I’ve definitely doing a bond a lot of erotica magazines of late, you know, I’m saying this picture, my son doesn’t come to the studio. So, slumber would definitely be looked at from the perspective of, I would say, probably would be leaning towards hetero intentionality around it. But it’s almost like, you know, not saying that we want stories around like queer and non gender conforming, that all of that would be there, but the experiences would definitely be more so suited around what my interests are, right, then is almost like, if I want to introduce somebody to an experience or around kink, or whether it’s like, like, queer BDSM, I’m actually just like, bam, give it to you, because there’s already magazines that are already doing that, that will be like this, you’re here for this experience. Right? So let’s just have it. But if you’re kind of curious about it, maybe you’ll see it as lumber in a very good way to kind of as an introduction airy piece versus like this piece of solely about that, right? You know, I’m saying so, almost like kind of, like, easy win, versus like just given it to you. No pun intended raw.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
And I guess you know, you got you got to stay true to it. If it’s going to be from your perspective, right? You don’t want to be inauthentic to kind of showcase something, just making sure that you know, obviously, like you’ve done enough research to know that, that maybe that is the introductory point versus the knowledgeable perspective, right? So getting people in a bit more comfortable with some of these things that may be in a in the black and brown community. We’re not so easy to talk about or things like that.

Mike N
I want to be real with you. I definitely was something I was really kind of like, full disclose like, Okay, I got a shotgun shot, make sure everybody’s included shot, make sure this shows like trying to make sure all the dentists I yell at none of the be you and then just even my experience, or whatever around it is it’s kind of like dated someone who was who was queer. And being with her kind of, I was all I didn’t know you, I didn’t really have an understanding of what that world was. And so the way to see it, you just have to I would introduce somebody else to it the same way. piecemeal like little it’s a bits thing. It’s an itty bitty things, and then you decide to do an explore more. Same thing well under right, I might give you a whole story just enough for you to want to take the drama on your own. And so yeah, you’re right. Like I think all of this, let’s just be clear, like ombre isn’t, isn’t a vacuum of just me. I’m publishing. There’s other people, there’s amazing people out and working with that are helping me with this vision, I have whatever, but I’m speaking my truth, as I’m leading with that. And so then as as Aubrey evolves as I evolved, and those things will shift, wherever but it’s better to come at it from your perspective. So you know that you’re not trying to listen, speaker, I’ll talk about panning a little bit. I never wanted to come at something to where it’s like, I got to make sure that I include this person to meet my quota. Because a lot of companies will do that, where they’ll say, Oh, we got to make sure we meet our quota of black or brown people we got like you listen, who who’s coming to your house? Who you eat dinner with? I mean, not in the pandemic. I mean, you know, that’s where you met basket, but really, right, who you really spending intimate times with, who you really talking with, I think that should reflect what you have in your presentation. And so you always make the joke, whatever. Like, I don’t think some of these magazines are trying to make white magazines, right. They’re just bringing on their people who they know, right? their community, you know, I’m saying so, you know, a lot of the the magazines I’ve seen in regards to erotica, like most of it is white people. Right? You know, so you will see a few black and white people here and there. Mostly it just is there’s a lot of white folks in there. And so, once again, I’m a reflex, and I’m so fortunate to say is where I’m at reflects my community, who I actually, like, share time with on the phone, where the zoo, whether it’s like, going to hikes, whatever, like these are people who are really actually care about, you know, I’m saying I want to make sure that their, their perspective is being heard. And so, some are gonna take that same approach with somebody.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
Yeah, and I think that’s really important, that’s really important to make sure that you share their perspective and, and, and not try to, I guess, pander to other people, but not also sugarcoat it, there’s a reason why things are created for certain people and and the audience gets it or they don’t, right, and you’re either gonna take them on a journey, or they’re going to not be part of it. And that’s okay. You know, not everybody’s supposed to like all the things that we do. You know, that’s why it’s called nuanced, right? That’s why we, we have multiple things. And also, us as individuals, all don’t like the same thing. So I think having the ability to have multiplicity in what we like, what we’re able to experience, what we can experience, I don’t know, I think it’s going to be really, really clear. And really, really, I guess, engaging to make sure that the community that you’re building starts to have other outlets, you know, that number can’t provide everything, you know that you’re able to do this. So when we when we talk about these new magazines, because we could talk about this honestly, we could probably geek out for a long time. But I want you in one sentence to describe how visually tone is going to be different than number.

Mike N
But tone is going to be in full color. I’ll be using a sparkler for the blue. So you do a five color process. No, no, check this out. Okay, this is our secret. Okay. I’m replacing the cyan with a Pantone

George Garrastegui, Jr.
Ooh, nice.

Mike N
So that will so the sparkle will always be there. So anytime. Music will be held to make make full color. But hey, think about that shit. Damn.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
Yeah, that’s why I’m like, Wait a second.

Mike N
No, if I tell them that. Oh, for Cyan.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
Oh, yeah. If you just cyan you put your 95 or something like that. You definitely get.

Mike N
I can just tell the printer tours like anytime you see a science playing. Yeah,

George Garrastegui, Jr.
it’s a spot color instead.

Mike N
Yeah,

George Garrastegui, Jr.
I wanna I want to see some I want to see some printing plates on that. I want to see some of the press sheets on that. Because that just seems depending on how light or dark your blue is. Right? Because cyan is such a such a nice kind of like mid tone.

Mike N
Yeah, yeah, this blue is a little on the slightly darker Cyan.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
Yeah, that’s gonna give some richness No.

Mike N
Yeah, once again, you there were black people so like you get some really, you may get some things that you probably wouldn’t see before because of that, so So Tom would be unique in that way. You know, ombre will still be black and brown and BBP slumber I’m not sure yet. So I may even do three colors for slumber. I want to get some some flesh tones in there, for obvious reasons. So yes, I’m not I’m not sure yet. Exactly. But for slimmer, but I think is that it’s not gonna be just black and brown, though. I mean, it’s definitely perspective of people wherever. But there may be a little bit of like, some nice rose color in there. You know, I’m saying and so some I met introduced one other other color for, for slumbered.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
That’ll that’ll be interesting how you how you started to take that color theory with that. So as you started talking about, you know, shifting perspectives and things like that, right. You know, obviously, the 2020 has been like a shit show in multiple ways, right? Where you mentioned, we’re dealing with a pandemic, we’re also talking about the murder of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. And just the the upheaval of, of how that’s shifted, the design industry, advertising culture, the way people get hired, our ability to socialize, you know, so many things have been changed, you know, and looking at some of the things that you’ve created, you know, it looks like the magazine had, you know, launch parties and events in San Francisco or Oakland, how has the events of the past year shifted plans for you? And really, how are you interjecting safety and resilience into what and how you produce work in the future.

Mike N
So we did end up having a release party for our same issue, a sports athletic movement, issue. And um, so what we did is, I was like, well, the space we had that was is is called is Renegade running is a black and brown own running store in Oakland. They opened up during a pandemic, a physical brick and mortar store opened up during the pandemic. And so I went to the store, I just loved the energy to the owners, which is great. And so I was like, Well, if we do our release party here, the space is huge, right? How can I how can we do it? How can we keep people safe? And so what we did is we had to wear three time slots where you can come in Right, either four to five, five to six, or six to seven. And Dan, there was a limit of how many people can come per per slot per time slot. And so 15 people at the most for four to five, five to 615 people six to seven. So, uh, so that’s how we did that. And we had like hand sanitizer there, but everybody had a mask, and we kept the doors open. Because normally our events so sort of the big things that amber does, right, like lash with 19, we have a sound issue. And our sound issue, we had a bank have headquarters, and headquarters is in Oakland, and so in Dallas phenomenal do like it was incredible. I have people who are featured in the magazine actually performed that night. It was incredible. And so I’m going for for this year, you know, also all the photos just been dead for for the same issue outside, right, this one woman who’s gonna feature she’s a power lifter. So we did work out in the forests, she was she was lifting up logs, she was like literally lifted up logs. And so so we did our photo, normally we’ll have the photo shoot in the gym. So that’s really how we kind of shifted the were focuses on outdoors, and locked on to for the photos. Sometimes we do live shots, sometimes we just we source photos as was already out there and existing. So I probably did the same thing for this year, this year, maybe a little different from last year, I mean, with you know, that gets the vaccine is going down now and but I’m still gonna approach it as if I did last year, and just keeping everything very separate and very just like on his own. And so, in terms of an event, I don’t know, I mean, we got four publications coming out this year,

George Garrastegui, Jr.
it’s not gonna be the same that everybody’s used to it’s just the challenges of this and I want to call it new normal because that means the other thing was normal was good. You know, it’s just different. So you know, as as there’s so many things going on. And obviously you’re you’re challenging yourself with with new themes for your for different concept magazines and magazines that are coming out. What has been the most fun to create.

Mike N
I love what you see behind me. But that is my vision board Fatone. So every issue I make those things, those vision boards of physical vision boards, so those are fun, just to kind of like, like cut up magazines and make these little shapes, whatever. That’s always fun. The most fun cover was the same issue. This cover that of all covers I did that was the most freeing fun cover. Okay, got it. It was like fun to do as I Oh, let me put this here, put that there. It doesn’t have to be like all kind of like, sophisticated just like just playing. Right? Right? What did that code feel? Like? You know, so like, like the, with the playing of sports. And so that was a fun cover.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
So as we as we start to shift towards the end of this conversation, right? Is this imagine a really informative conversation? Um, you know, you’ve our designer and creative strategist for over 20 years of experience. What aspects of the creative process Do you still struggle with?

Mike N
organization? Does that make sense, I can be something very impulsive in my design, oh, let me just do this. Right, but then I’m missing out the thing I was supposed to do before. So just kind of organizing the process, I think has been the most the most challenging. And that’s why I love having themes. So I can kind of narrow my focus and not be all over the place. Right? That’s all black and brown ink. So tone is gonna be a challenge. Yeah, the most challenging part is just organizing my thoughts around being organized in my process, my process is good as solid, but just refining it and making it better. And here’s the thing is gonna be challenging, getting other people to do some of the design for me to let go. Because, you know, Fatone I definitely have other support on this, I guess people in mind, I want to want to partner with whatever for that. ombre is always gonna be my baby. I mean, that’s the one I’m never like, bvp I may have other folks can be part of the process. The challenge for me is going to be like, good a point where like, okay, Mike, you can do it all. You just can’t do it all

George Garrastegui, Jr.
now. And I think I think maybe part of that is to is to continually remind yourself what the point of the project is. And the point of the project is, is forward thinking black man, like how do you make sure that the people you on board, the people you bring they’re the the people you collaborate, are helping you with that, because then at least maybe, that then frees you up, right? Because it’s not like you have to control the thing because the other person gets it too. If you did, leave it in their hands, or, you know, here, here’s a couple of pages to do. You don’t have to be micromanaging them because you know, you’re all kind of in it,

Mike N
draw this spot on because that’s really literally what you know, the process of being tourists like, I want Tony to be uniquely different from those be some similarities in terms of like the approach but I want you to feel different Fatone will probably have a life of his own balance that there’s going to be its own little thing that would be on the And then I think of under publishing as a creative Think Tank. All like the crazy Oh, what do you do is when we do that, but then the output of those creative processes is the publication,

George Garrastegui, Jr.
and I would never be good, it’s gonna challenge yourself to kind of change and rethink the way you you, you do things and obviously having one issue one magazine as your baby still, it’s still, at least as you’re rooted in that, but then the other ones being like, to make these successful, you do have to kind of let go a little bit, right, like the, the kid has to go to college, the kid has to start, you know, doing his own thing and everything, you can’t just be like, you live at home forever. Like, you know,

Mike N
I visually see that when you said,

George Garrastegui, Jr.
um, so now with With that said, right, and thinking about what you’ve been able to do over the course of your career. And, and, and thinking about what has changed in the way you were taught or the way you were, have grown up to be this kind of like artistic or creative individual. But knowing everything that’s happened so far, and knowing everything that you’ve been doing, what advice would you give that younger self heading into the industry today?

Mike N
Do you always share man, small step, big impact, keep a small, very attainable, and do it, be aware of what’s happening, but don’t pay attention to like, Don’t try to follow, don’t try to make Don’t try to be the next somebody else. Right, you can be inspired by somebody, but don’t try to be that next person, be all an individual self. And so I will say really by young that you I always say like started just make something really cool for yourself, about making, you know, make it really small, but they just print a lot of them and just give it out for put it out in the world, right and see what happens. But you know, you can respect people, you can be aware of what’s out there, but don’t follow this shit.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
So on top of that, with the influx, and the way that, you know, we need to have more black and brown people in design in creative, you know that, that most schools have been cutting the art programs and the music programs and all that stuff, right? Because nobody else understands the arts. Right? What kind of support do you think, you know, is needed for young creatives coming up today,

Mike N
a partner with this one, what as long as Asian clean direct project they’ve been teaching design for for 15 years now, giving free classes for students, I wish there was a way to where nothing was on job on the job training. But when I worked at kinkos, it was the best experience because I could just print my shit out, I can actually have an idea and then see it come out on this big machine, right. So just that the visualization of that you can make something and then it appears the visualization of a you could draw something, then it becomes something bigger. So I think the best dude, if it wasn’t a pandemic, like I would, it would be great to just have a summer just hanging out. You know, I’m saying like, my son, he’s, he’s 10. Now he’s already an illustrator. He’s my illustrator, since he was five, he’s already drawing, designing and doing this. I mean, he’s doing it because he sees me doing it. You know, I’m saying he already kind of because he he’s been, he’s seen me doing. Right. So I think seeing somebody doing the things that they love, and they they are proud of doing. That’s almost that’s all what you really need to see just the person doing it, seeing an example of a being done. And then you decide for yourself, at some point, if you want to do it for yourself. Access zoo, is the main part. And so as much as is great for them, they have internships, and of these big companies, design agency or tech firms like also know, you could also do your own shit too. Or if you work before that a company have a vision for what you want to do for yourself and not be so reliant upon working at this company, you have to have all of the options, you can work at this place, he’s already in that place, or for that brand for that company. And that’s okay, if you’re gonna work there forever, right? Your value is not defined by where you work at. You know, so your values are defined by our work to this place. So NEMA values up in some ways it is flux that but know that their value is up because they got you there. That’s a big I see it, okay, you’re benefiting I mean, be humble about it. But like, really knowing all the aspects of where you can see yourself in a world where it’s funny to one even even if it was like like a almost like parallel play. You do your thing I’m gonna do my thing. And then if you just kind of pick us Oh, what are you working on? Right just that little just being in the same proximity You know, I’m saying of kind of being even if you’re not a designer, but just seeing Oh, well maybe I want to do my own business for something else. It’s not designed right but just yeah, so he once again there’s nothing wrong with these working these big companies, but that shouldn’t be the end all be all. This happens a lot in the Bay Area, right? People always want Nast want to work in a big company. Hey, I work here. Wow, look at me. I’m I made it like, it’s like, that’s great to have it. But this also be like, Hey, I’m on company, you don’t say like, Hey, I just started my own thing. Right. You know, I didn’t get a cosigner to do it my way. All those things are valuable right? Now one is over or above the other.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
Right? I think that that’s true, like people feel that that the success of the big name is more valuable. The other thing and I and what resonated just recently, when you’re just talking about, you know, the sitting next to somebody and just kind of like mirroring and shadowing somebody, they don’t have to be creative, but they’re, you’re an entrepreneur, you know, maybe you’re an interview person, and they’re looking at that, right, they’re looking at all the other aspects of who you are as a creative individual. And learning from all of those different things, right? Not just Mike, as a designer, not just Mike as an illustrator, not just Mike as a this, they’re noticing Mike as a person, those intangible things that you almost can’t teach, they’re learning, because they’re just kind of picking it up. They’re picking up the respect, they’re picking up, you know, how you talk to people, and you know, how you deal with money, or how you deal with business opportunities, right, like, those things kind of get lost currently. And and I think, you know, going back to that, that what you gain with maybe being at a smaller company, that’s what you gain, because there’s so much more intimacy there. It goes back to honestly, number nuance, it goes back to that little thing, understanding that there’s value in more of those little things than just the magazine, talking about community, you’re talking about people, you’re talking about, where are my people, right? Like, you can just be in this room, and you don’t have to code switch, because we’re all in the same room, and we all get it.

Mike N
The thing about to George is that, I know that whatever I’m doing for ombre has to happen for the next thing to happen. I’m not gonna be like, Oh, I’m This is my all by now. But I know this, this has happened for the next thing to happen in my life. Right? Right. So launching this crowdfunding campaign for republishing in March, and just really getting that to really grow and blossom like that has to happen in order for the next thing to happen in my life. Right? You know, I’m saying, so like, there’s like, you got to get it out. And then who knows what the next chapter is going to be? After this thing is all out in the world, you know, some

George Garrastegui, Jr.
right, but it’s got to be out there, and you got to promote it. And you got to let people know. So you have this crowdfunding campaign? What else is happening in the future with Amber, Mike and all the other things that are that are going down?

Mike N
Yeah, so the goal is with this crowdfunding campaign, it was a big goal I’m not going to lie to you is that it’s a big, you know, definitely big goal. very lofty. But, you know, I think it’s doable, even within the pandemic, in a way to where, you know, this crowdfunding is not like perks per se. Every pledge you make, you’re getting a physical copy of lumber. So here’s the thing. Whatever happens with the calf crowdfunding campaign, these four publications will come out this year. They can’t be Well, that was to grow. Number two, I can bring on more people to help out with some of the design editorial marketing aspects, you know, I’m saying to help her grow. So this crowdfunding campaign is to grow our readership, and to grow number to have a bigger, bigger footprint, outside of just the print print magazines. So really, Dad, you want to make sure that people know that this is not crap. Oh, do you pledge $10? Eagle over handwave? Like, no, no, you’re getting something with 10 you’re getting? You’re getting you’re getting BBP digest with your $10. So thinking of it more of as pre orders, right. Okay, versus just as a perk,

George Garrastegui, Jr.
right? And, and what’s the timeline of these things?

Mike N
So the goal is March 16.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
And that’s for everything or just number itself, or you can sitting under under umber. Publishing as one.

Mike N
Yeah. And it’ll be for 45 days. And then after the campaign is over, and we get our funding, yay. And it also part of pledges is subscriptions. People are asking for other subscriptions for the past four years. And I was able to do because only doing one copy a year, right? This time we do into the for publication, you’ll get either a subscription for one year or for two years, which will include all of umber tone BBP and slimpar. Alright, right. Then if you don’t want to get the summer you know, if you just get this number, well, you get just the tone or you get the individual as a as a pledge, right? And so the next year, nine publications,

George Garrastegui, Jr.
Oh, you’re being aggressive?

Mike N
You got to go hard go home and man and so it’ll be two issues of slumber next year, two of GDP, one of a number. So this The theme for this number is wealth, which is going to be phenomenal conversation, like once again, a new one Authentic conversation about wealth and a black or brown perspective, where it’s not just about your assets, or your finances about the mental aspects of wealth, right? You know, I’m saying like land is wealth, right? Your your mental state as well,

George Garrastegui, Jr.
that is just about it’s not about money only.

Mike N
That’s exactly right. So that’s happening in den. So you get the inside scoop. I like it. The theme for next year’s number is typography. Oh, boy, I tell you now, Lord have mercy. The three copies of tone next year.

George Garrastegui, Jr.
That’s it, that’s a good slate, that’s a good slate. I mean, look, what’s so much on your plate. I love that you’re breaking it up. I love that you’re diversifying what you’re talking about with either the the different topics and the themes that it’s allowing you to go deep in something that’s not too focused, you know, it’s broad enough to have variation. I think that adding these new publications allow you personally to grow, but the brand to start expanding and showcasing the fact that the the black and brown perspective is not singular, it is different, it is unique, it’s broad. And I think that’s going to be one of the things that that having these multiple publications is going to allow number publications as a brand to start doing. And I really enjoyed the fact that you’ve given me some scoops, you know, I’m just gonna blow it up when when this episode comes out. No, but I i think that just is it a testament to the fact that you’re trying new things, and really excited about where this whole thing can go? Because you’re taking it, you know, far beyond, you know, what other people have been doing. And there’s been like you said, black and brown magazines, and you’re not trying to step on those toes of who’ve come before us, you’re trying to elevate the conversation to be it is from the perspective of us. It literally is the fubu model, right, like for us by us. Right? You know, and I think that’s really, that’s really great, because it’s nobody should be telling our stories besides us, especially when you talk about the nuanced perspective because otherwise, you’re just gawking. You’re just looking at it from a different thing. And like sensationalizing us as an entity versus a people. And what I see you doing is is creating community as a people, this crowdfunding campaign is gonna blow up. I can sense it, it will probably hopefully be within when, when this episode gets released, you know, so hopefully, we can use it as a way to promote. But I really, Mike, I, thank you so much for being on this episode. I think there’s so many nuggets, I think my editor is going to be hard to find out how to how to cut, we may just have to be a long episode, because there’s so much in here and and you’re so giving with your time and what you’re trying to do and what your what your intentions are.

Mike N
One more things on what to add to going forward is that also we’ll be curating and creating online content for under publishing. And so that’s something that people have been asking for. But I rather bring on somebody who is more like skilled at that than me, right? Who has more of an understanding of what online experiences and the user journey of, of somebody online, I don’t want to do just not in a blog, I want to just not like post, I want to be something that is uniquely different and fits within the brand or just within the vision of lumber publishing. And so this crowdfunding will allow us to do that. And that will happen in next year. 22 we have

George Garrastegui, Jr.
of content online, so Well, I mean, once again, another another amazing aspect to building and expanding this brand. So before we head out, where else can I learn about Mike Nichols are a number

Mike N
of this site needs to be updated, but this is Mike Nichols, calm. And I ch o lls.com. This is Ember calm, and the crowdfunding campaign actually will be on our website. Okay, well, thing it’ll be you go to our website. And there it is. So then you can also can follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at this is number 10. If you want to free listeners, you can buy you can still buy a number. If you go to the website, you can still buy two copies

George Garrastegui, Jr.
except issue two.

Mike N
Instead issue two which is Listen, I’m if there’s enough, I don’t know how to go about like, hey, what a reprint a reprint. There has to be no people who want it. Of course, of course. Lastly, I would say to former publishing, probably 20 to 23 will explore publishing other people’s stuff Oh nice. That’s like a soft like I don’t know yet. You know, we may do that. But we got to figure out all this stuff first, and then we’ll see what happens next year. And then lastly, we’re going to build out our our content studio we’ve highlighted and featured over Add contributors, right? These are like phenomenal artists, writers, photographers, designers, creative thinkers. And so, you know, we’re getting to the point where like, a lot of times we work with brands and they want to be a part of numbers like, okay, you get to add, we can do a whole we can do more than that, or your whole package of things, you know, I’m saying is that something that we’re going to explore too. So

George Garrastegui, Jr.
that’s I, once again, just just adding more and more aspects to this and giving more and more people opportunity. And like you mentioned before access, Thank you, Mike, for the for for this for this episode. There’s so many gems in here, I can’t wait to re listen. And basically keep on doing what you’re doing, bro. Design wise, community wise, and guess pushing the envelope for yourself and get more comfortable being uncomfortable, right, especially with that tone issue because it’s gonna be it’s gonna be hard to give up that control. But I think like we said, it’ll actually make the whole thing so much grander, because there’s a bigger purpose. Once again, thank you, Mike. This has been works in process.

I want to thank Mike again. I’m so inspired by all the new ventures he’s creating with number publishing, and its approach to creating experience with the printed form. I’m glad we were able to chat about the future of armor, and how we’ll continue to add nuance to the black and brown experience. The works in process podcast is created by me George Garam sticky Jr. and this episode has been edited by hearsay productions. Thanks so much for taking the journey with me and I hope you enjoyed this episode. be social, and let’s connect on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. And if you liked the show, don’t be shy. Feel free to leave us a rating or review on Apple podcasts. And until next time, remember, it’s not always about what you create but how you create

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

An educator, designer, and a creative catalyst, George is a native New Yorker who started a podcast in 2017, because he didn't like to write. He also wanted a way to learn and chronicle varied ways or making. We hope you enjoy his journey.

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Episode 17