Tokyo is full of bleeding edge international visual creators. The kind that cool-hunters would love to get a hold of years before their work gets filtered through the visions of ad agencies and local clients. One of such is PMKFA: Michael Thorsby, a 26 year old Swede currently residing in Tokyo doing some interesting contemporary design and illustration work.
Written by Ian Lynam
Thorsby’s work is Tokyo NOW. It is anachronistic, iconoclastic, and also very much of it’s time. It is unique, yet shares a vibe that many designers working today share- a melange of retro influence, innovative form-making, and more than a bit of humor.
His work makes me think of:
• 1970s Jean Larcher OpArt display alphabets
• faux airbrush
• old Letraset display typefaces existing in three dimensions
• a bit of 80s minimalism
• graffiti, but ironic
I caught up with Micke PMKFA the other day and we did a freestyle téte a téte back and forth about his work, influences and the state of hip-hop today.
What does PMKFA stand for?
It is a shortening of a Swedish thing but since some years back I just use it as letter combination and never think of the original meaning. It’s a thing between me and a couple of friends.
How did you start out doing design?
It started around 1998. I sort of wanted to make music but I’m not very good at that so I slipped into making graphics to express my interest in it. It started through music and I’ve kept a big foot in the music industry ever since, both on major and independent levels of the industry.
The same graphic applied to a T-Shirt
Any notable recent projects that you think were particularly fun or intriguing?
Hmm, I have a recent one that I got a big bag of good energy from. I co-worked and art-directed the album for Stockholm-based band Lo-Fi-Fnk (they’re big in 2006) and worked together with a great photographer. It is probably much cleaner than I usually work but I think it turned out well and it was a first good step for me to move towards photo-based artwork, something I have planned for a long time but so far didn’t really got the right project to start that transition.
CD packaging for Lo-Fi Fink
CD packaging for Lo-Fi Fink
Los Angeles stylish art magazine Arkitip asked you to contribute ten (!) pages. Well done!
You do interesting product and packaging design as well – is that a natural extension of your graphic work?
Yes. Making things and products is something I’ve been doing since I was a kid. I’ve always been excited to work with paper in three dimensions. I like the idea of putting something very flat on a object and creating depth.
Do you have any more planned forays into these realms?
Yes, a lot. But as it is harder to produce it’s not the easiest thing to do spontaneously. I would like to make some more earrings, and the styrofoam ghettoblaster that you can see at my site is something that I’m planning to improve so that it actually works and can play music using a source such as a MP3-player.
Yo! I’d love to have such a boombox for sure. Talking hip-hop: Biggie or Tupac?
I dont really rate any of them to be honest. Other people that deserves to be mentioned is Wiley, the most restless producer and MC in the world, always moving, Trim & Scratch, Newham Generals, Slew Dem, Digital Mystikz and last but not least 19 year old Skream, the biggest wonder-kid coming from the London-scene the last couple of years, new dubs all the time and he never dissapoints.
What kind of stuff are you working on at the moment?
I’m doing CD-jacket and promotion-material for a LA-based band called 8bit. Working with Ubiquity is nice too. Having talks with a Swedish indie-label to do stuff as well so there is a bunch of music stuff at the moment that makes me excited.
You are also working on some huge walldrawings?
A friend wanted something on his wall, so I said yes and thought it was a lot of fun to see the graphics blown up that big. I would like to work more on how I could really affect the room and make a drawing that had a better connection to the wall.
Did you use a projector to draw or were those freehand?
So far, projector only. The graphics I have used have been very strict and precise using repetetive patterns, so I kind of had to. I’m also looking forward to stop using a projector and work a little more random.
How did you come to work with Sweatshop Union in Osaka, exhibit there and produce apparel graphics for them?
It’s Our Thing – logo
Tee shirt design from PMKFA exhibition at Sweatshop Union in Osaka (Japan)
We came together through a common friend and then Matthias at Sweatshop Union asked me if I wanted to make a exhibition and I was up for it. Now we are just about to start our own little t-shirt label called It’s Our Thing. Proper images soon on my site.
Thanks a lot for the chat and good luck for future projects!