Hello all! Today I am so thrilled to present an interview with Michael Tzynik, a former retail architect and current brand designer! I originally contacted Michael after finding his website because I have dreams of being a retail architect and wanted to learn more from him. He has worked for architecture/design firm Pompei A.D., during which he worked on projects for Urban Outfitters, Monsoon, and Accessorize! He currently is using his architectural background to take on a job as a graphic designer working on branding + packaging, and was particularly interesting for me to talk to because he studied at the same school I am at in Copenhagen!
This is the first interview on Punkrockparti and I hope to provide you with many more with talented creatives such as Michael in the future! Enjoy!
What originally interested you about architecture that caused you to choose it as a major, and where did you go to school?
I’d always been interested in architecture, and especially in the diagrams used to represent it. In grade school, I used to check out books of home plans from the library and study them intently. In the third grade, when we were assigned a project, where we could do anything we wanted related to space. I designed a space station, drawing the floor plans for the whole station, designing it like a big house in space. From then on I didn’t think twice about becoming an architect. I ended up going to the architecture program at DAAP [College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning] at the University of Cincinnati.
What was your favorite building in Copenhagen to explore while you studied here?
My favorite building in Copenhagen is Grundtvigs Kirke. It’s an amazing church you can walk to from the S-tog trains in the suburbs of Copengahen. I’d written an essay on it at UC, and it wasn’t on our study tour schedule, so I just took a trip out to it myself. The entire building is built of bricks, and on the outside it has a really unique, somewhat foreboding presence. But inside, the light-colored brickwork is so smooth and reflects the light in a way that the bricks just kind of fade away. It’s something I really didn’t expect, and would never have known about if I hadn’t experienced it in person.
Do you have any other creative interests on the side of your profession?
I’m very interested in transit design, both in the design of the systems and architecture, and in the branding and mapping of those systems. I’ve designed a few transit systems [unfortunately all pretty unrealistic] for my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, and I’ve created maps for all those systems. That’s probably my biggest hobby outside of my job.
What triggered your interest in retail architecture?
It really was the window displays at Anthropologie. Every time I’d go to Anthropologie I’d investigate those displays, looking at how they were built. When I was looking for an internship, I looked up who had designed the Anthropologie stores, and that’s how I found Pompei A.D. Unfortunately, they responded too late when I contacted them about an internship and I ended up working elsewhere for that quarter, but I let them know I was interested in working with them for my next internship, and that ended up working out.
Working at Pompei is what got me even more interested in retail architecture, especially working on Urban Outfitters stores. Each UO store starts with a unique concept, which allows for a lot of creativity, as opposed to most stores, which are applying the same kit of parts to different spaces. The more I worked there, the more I appreciated the work that went into creating that kit of parts, and I enjoyed helping create those kits for other brands.
Do you feel that your architectural education prepared you well to work in retail architecture? [I know that personally, my school is predominantly exterior design]
Yes. The things I didn’t know enough about [interior materials, fixtures, etc.] I quickly learned on the job, but most of the ideas from architecture applied in my job there.
How did you approach retail concepts when working on Urban Outfitters projects? Did you focus on what their brand represents or were you geared toward their seasonal concepts?
When working on UO projects, we were designing the store itself, not the seasonal displays, so we weren’t looking at their seasonal concepts. For each store, we had to create three separate concepts for the store, and the client would choose one to proceed with. Ron Pompei had worked with Urban Outfitters to develop a design language that revolved around unique uses of raw materials, and stairs as a feature space. So we always had that in mind while designing UO stores.
Do you prefer to approach a new idea through sketching or digital work first? What is your preferred computer program to design with?
I work better in digital. My sketching skills have never been to the level I’d like them to be, and I find working digitally lets me get my ideas across better. For architecture, most of my work is in AutoCAD and SketchUp, and for graphic design work I use Adobe Creative Suite [Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign].
How has your perspective on architecture changed since working in the field?
I think the biggest difference between school and work is in school you rarely move past what would be the Schematic Design phase in a real-world project. Then you have Design Development, Construction Documentation, and Construction Administration to go through before the project is built. The amount of time on an architectural project you spend doing concept design is really very short. That’s one of the biggest eye-openers my internships gave me.
I understand that you have recently transitioned to graphic design and branding. What caused this change and how have you applied your architectural background to this new, yet similar, creative field?
I’d always been interested in graphic design. I think half of my interest in architecture was the graphics used to represent it. In my projects in architecture school, I always put as much thought into those graphics as I did into the buildings themselves. So much so that during my final critique for my last project in school, one critic said it was clear I paid more attention to the graphics than the design of the building itself, which I have to admit was probably true.
I’d always done graphic design projects on the side, and while working at Pompei A.D. I got to work on branding projects for some pretty major clients. I realized that I enjoyed that work more, and that’s what spurred my career change. At my position there, I wasn’t in the position to learn what I needed to to further my graphic design skills, and that’s what prompted my job change.
In my new job doing mainly packaging design, my architecture skills of thinking in three dimensions come in very handy when considering new package shapes and structures. In packaging design there’s also a lot of system building—deciding what on a package stays the same and what changes from product to product, flavor to flavor, etc.—and system building I think is definitely a skill you learn from architecture.
What is your role in your new graphic design and branding position?
I’m currently a Designer with Beardwood&Co. The work is mostly logo design and packaging design, and I’m looking forward to some web design and environmental graphics work in the future.
Thank you so much to Michael Tyznik for his time and such informative answers! I hope that you have gained something from this or have at least enjoyed viewing his amazing work! Be sure to check out tyznik.com to view more projects and designs!
Thanks for reading! x. Paige