Behance Creative Q&A: Mike Winkelmann

Mike Winkelmann is a graphic designer from Appleton, Wisconsin, who as has created and released a picture every day for the last 10+ years. He’s also produced a series of live visuals that have been used by electronic music artists deadmau5, Taio Cruz, Tiësto, Amon Tobin, Wolfgang Gartner, and Flying Lotus.

Behance: When did you first find the creative spark? When you were young? Maybe later?
Winkelmann: I think this started in college. I was more interested in websites, so I started making these little videos with my webcam as a way to get to go to my website. Then slowly I put more and more time into the videos and started teaching myself graphic design etc. By the end of college, I had a degree in computer science but know I wanted to be a graphic designer.

Who or what nurtured that initial spark? Did you have any early mentors?
Not really to be honest. Because I didn’t go to art school and was mostly surrounded by programmers, I didn’t have anyone to show me the path through this industry. When I graduated school and got a design job, I was the only designer most of the time, so I didn’t have anyone to look up to there either. My parents were always very supportive though and were very nurturing when it came to any creative endeavors, so I always felt like that was an option.

As you’ve developed your style over the years, who are some of your influences?
Oh man, right now so many. Tt’s really hard to single people out at times. There is such an amazing wealth of inspiring work right at your fingertips. As far as some of my very early influences I would have to say Aphex Twin and Chris Cunningham. Aphex Twin because he really embodied this sort DIY as it was just one person with their computer in their basement making amazing art. He didn’t need anyone else. Just a computer. That is something that really inspired me and still does. I’ve alway been very interested in what one single person can accomplish with a computer.

When you start a new project, what’s your process? How do you gather your ideas, how do you execute them, etc.?
Haha, I wish I had a better answer. For long projects like short films, they sort of slowly materialize over time (too much time). I don’t really have a clear or efficient way of tackling these, though I really wish I did because I feel like I waste a lot of time chasing dead ends. That might just be part of the process though I guess.

For something like everydays, I just dive right in and start throwing ideas down. There isn’t enough time to have some super formal process; you need to just get it done.

What have you been working on recently?
I have been working on a short film in addition to everydays and VJ clips, but it’s still got a ways to go as I’ve been quite busy with client work. On the client work front, I’ve been doing concert visuals, AR concepts, album art, etc…. lots of fun stuff.

What’s something the art/design world is too focused on or What is the art/design world not focused enough on?
Hmmm, that’s a very good question. To be honest, I spend very little time thinking about sort of macro trend stuff like that. Not to say I’m like in some vacuum not affected by trends, but I just honestly don’t really have the ability to think long term / big picture stuff like that as I’m focused more on the day to day things I have to do/want to do.

What’s a skill you used to use all the time but don’t use anymore? Or, conversely, what’s a skill you never thought you’d need to use but can’t work without?
Oh man, so many. That’s the thing; if you want to keep up with technology, you have to know when it’s time to let shit go. Which, as you get some experience, is kind hard because it’s admitting on some level that the thing you spent time learning is no longer relevant. I look at some of the previous web technologies that I learned that are pretty much totally irrelevant now. That’s never easy, but I think it’s necessary to keep up with the increasing pace of change….

Where does Behance fit in your creative life? Has anything noteworthy come from you being a member?
Behance is great because it is both a great platform to show work on and also a huge source of inspiration for me personally. Checking out what’s new on Behance is absolutely part of my daily routine; it’s just an endless supply of amazing work being put out by people all over the world. I think the format itself lends itself to a bit deeper dive into a project as well.