Perry discusses design career

It may come as a surprise that the author of the book “Hand Job” is a graphic designer.

But “Hand Job” is a compilation of hand-drawn typography by world-renowned designer Mike Perry, who gave a talk titled “Make, Make, Make” at the Yale University Art Gallery on Thursday evening. Perry, 28, related an account of his early life and career to an audience of about 75.

Designer Mike Perry’s book “Hand Job” is actually a compilation of hand-drawn typography.
Cristiana Manole
Designer Mike Perry’s book “Hand Job” is actually a compilation of hand-drawn typography.

Instead of delving immediately into the his accomplishments, awards or work designing for The New York Times, Perry started his talk by projecting a picture from his childhood on a screen at the gallery.

As Perry moved through the slides depicting his early life, the audience saw his parents and grandparents, the house he grew up in and even pictures of his brother and him posing as rednecks, complete with mullets and trucker hats.

“One day, we decided to get in touch with our white-trash roots,” Perry said. “So we dressed up and took pictures at Wal-Mart.”

After this flashback, Perry talked about his college days and his decision to major in graphic design. After graduation, he said, he began working in a series of “craigslist-esque” jobs, such as designing customized T-shirts for shoppers at a mall.

Eventually, he landed a job at Urban Outfitters in Philadelphia, where he said he basically designed junk mail — e-mails advertising the store.. In order to convince himself that the job was meaningful, Perry said, he pretended he was designing posters.

“Every designer loves to make posters,” he said.

Perry then moved to Brooklyn and began working with different artists. After making money designing can art for Pepsi, he started a collaboration magazine and worked with photographers who had a multitude of ideas but no venue in which to make them happen, he said. He added that helping and supporting young artists might become a future passion of his.

Discussing his provocatively titled book of hand-drawn typography, “Hand Job,” Perry said a Google search of the word shows that his book’s Web site is almost more popular than actual sites about hand jobs.

“It’s fun to watch the hits on the Web site last only half a second,” he said, laughing. “It’s like people see the word ‘hand job’ and think, ‘Cool!’ and then see it’s really just a book of hand-drawn art, so they immediately close the window.”

At the end of the talk, Perry showed the audience some of his current projects, which include a ladder that physically enters a painting and an aqueduct model without arches.

Perry also said he loves to paint galaxies and showed one of his pictures of a star-studded sky that he called “Orgy.” He drifted into a pensive mood as he tried to describe his choice of title.

“Maybe the galaxy is really just one big orgy,” he said.

Design buffs in the audience said they appreciated Perry’s talent as a speaker.

“I’m actually really interested in typography, so I found it really inspiring,” Caroline Tracey’13 said.

Rachel Kauder Nalebuff ’13 added that she liked the unconventional format of Perry’s speech and the fact that he showed pictures of his family life.

At the end of the talk, Perry raffled off copies of his magazines, books and posters of his art.

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