My Best Work: Mikey Burton, From Mishap To Miracle

My thesis project means a lot to me because it has a unique story that still continues to unfold. In 2008, when I started working on this, I was unemployed, living with my parents and not finished with school. Growing up, I was more interested in watching TV than cracking a book. I feel like if I would have taken more time to read when I was younger, I’d have had an easier time comprehending things as an adult. So, the whole reasoning behind my project was simply to get young adults interested in reading.

By pairing an edgy, illustrative style (strongly influenced by rock/movie poster art) with books questioning authority, the project is supposed to make reading cool. Also, by making a cohesive set, young adults will keep reading these classic titles, and hopefully feel like they’re part of a larger group.

Mikey Burton's New Covers for Old Books

I spent four months reading, sketching, designing and illustrating. I got a little too wrapped up in the work I was producing and forgot that this was a school assignment that had a paper due along with it. I noticed the deadline for the paper was less than a week away and I hadn’t even started yet. I feverishly spent the next few days writing and haphazardly turned the whole thing in.

Unfortunately, no matter how great the design work was, my paper was absolutely horrible and substantially brought my grade down to barely passing. I did graduate and receive my masters, but the whole experience was something I just wanted to forget. I put the project out of my mind for the next few years until I got an e-mail from Steve. Steve really liked my project and wanted to feature it on his design blog. It took me a few minutes to realize who Steve was. Steve. Steve Heller. STEVEN HELLER! And the blog he was referencing was The Daily Heller. I was ecstatic. And it made me realize the work (minus the paper) was a legit thing.

The other opportunity to come out of this project was my collaboration with Out of Print Clothing. Out of Print takes the beautiful and forgotten out-of-print book covers from yesteryear and gives them a new life as T-shirts. Every time you buy a shirt, they give a book to an underprivileged child. They approached me about producing a selection of my covers as their first artist series. Knowing that my book covers are getting books into the hands of children (even in this roundabout way) makes me feel like my initial idea actually became a reality.

The project
“New Covers for Old Books” Thesis
The Designer  Mikey Burton, Philadelphia; www.mikeyburton.com
The school  Kent State University, Kent, OH
The year  2008



Additional Resources for Young Designers

    • “The Graphic Design Business Book” Those just starting in the field or seasoned professionals will find that this comprehensive resource is full of sage advice from an array of top professionals in the industry. Get “The Graphic Design Business Book.”
    • “Design Dossier: Graphic Design” Kids will be encouraged to experience design firsthand in this interactive series that encompasses a variety of learning styles, develops creative problem-solving skills, and expands the ways in which kids approach challenges. Get “Design Dossier: Graphic Design.”

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