Grandma + Bob Ross + Skateboarding — these are some of the things that influenced Michael McNeive of Drexler. Michael chats with us about how he got going in the creative industry, how awesome it has been to build a company and what he’s really looking for in a digital folio.
What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design? There are a few big creative moments that I recall pretty vividly. I remember seeing my Grandmother’s paintings and Bob Ross on TV. When I happened upon my Dad’s sketchbook of hotrod/car drawings I wanted to draw them. Drawing with my childhood friends everyday in our sketch books, on skateboard ramps and on random scraps of wood and drywall definitely lead me into a life of design.
Skateboarding definitely played a huge role. I was introduced to an aesthetic that resonated with me. I remember worshiping brands like Vision Street Wear, listening to Black Flag, and trying to redraw my skateboard’s art at a very young age.
When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started? I officially got started in high-school. The art studio scored a few Gateways with a copy of Photoshop… I started out by making stickers and t-shirts for my fictitious skateboard company. Then I helped layout the yearbook, learned flash, and started screen printing.
I think I finally “fell in love” with design in college. When I headed to college it was just this thing I could do… I could use the software, but I didn’t know how to design. I started to see the world through a different lens in college. Professors turned me on to new things, pushed me, and when I started getting positive feedback on the work I was doing, I knew this is what I had to do with my time.
Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.
Drexler creates digital experiences. We look at each client differently and bring a unique design and development approach to each project. We believe that there is no one size-fits-all process and hope that our work cuts through the sometimes homogeneous world of digital design.
What do you look for in a great portfolio? Because we focus on digital work the first thing I look for is a really nice portfolio site experience. If it’s simple and the work is presented well then you have my attention.
When it comes to individual projects in the portfolio I’m always looking for great typography skills, and thoughtful project descriptions. It says a lot when a designer can articulate the thought that went into the work they made. Personality is a big thing as well, we’re always looking at the about page, likes/dislikes, etc.
What has been your highlights since you started out?
First and foremost, building a company with my friends, and surrounding myself with team members (13 in total) who I respect a ton is definitely a highlight. I think I could honestly hangout with any of them outside of the office. It feels like a (sometimes weird) family.
I think just looking back at the types of clients and projects that I’ve had the opportunity to work on has been a big highlight. We’ve ended up working on some big names (Bose is a recent highlight) that I have always aspired to work with.
Finally, being able to support a family doing what I love everyday is totally awesome.
What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way?
You don’t know everything.
Forget what everyone else is doing.
Do the Research.
Trust your gut.
What advice would you give students starting out?
Stay up late and make stuff. Work on things that make you happy.Do it for yourself, not for recognition on an IG account, or “likes” somewhere else. If you have good taste and make good work good things will happen. Work hard. Also, drink less in school, start saving for retirement, and consider taking up a hobby outside of the design world (diversify).