Michael Braley

If you’re an AAF regular, you already know Braley Design’s work, including our 2014 and 2015 Interactive Social events and the 2016 ADDY awards. Their design for Jock McDonald’s book, The Woven Perspective, won Best in Show at this year’s Lexington ADDY Awards.

AAF: So what is Braley Design? Is it just you, or is it a group?

Michael Braley: Braley Design is a partnership between Kate Davis and myself, with me as Creative Director, and Kate in both creative and account direction roles. She has a BFA in apparel design from the Rhode Island School of Design, and her experience for over 20 years was in managing creative teams and partners—so that’s integral to the success of Braley Design.

AAF: Can you tell us a little about your background?

Michael Braley: I grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and graduated from Iowa State University with a BFA in Graphic Design. I moved to San Francisco after college and worked there for 12 or 13 years, then moved to New York for six or so years, then Kate and I moved down here in 2012.

AAF: Now that you’re away from the coasts, where does most of your work come from?

Michael Braley: It’s still mostly from the coasts—New York, San Francisco, LA, Portland, Seattle, but we do have a few clients in Chicago in Lexington.

We’re fortunate to be working with a number of clients right now who have very clear objectives for their projects, who respect our expertise and perspectives, and who are affecting positive change in the world.

AAF: What kind of projects are those?

Michael Braley: We’ve been working on brand identity and visual systems for Pando Populus, a platform for people who care about big ideas and the Earth. Last summer, Pando hosted a conference in Southern California with more than 800 speakers, and we were initially asked to design the branding for the conference. With the public success of that conference branding, Pando has asked us to expand the brand and systems in 2016.

We’re also designing a 250+ page book with John Bielenberg and his company, Future Partners. They’ve written a book called Think Wrong, which they define as “the ability to overcome biology and culture and change how things are to how things might be.” It’s very exciting to be collaborating with these mavericks in the industry.

We’re also thrilled to work with The People’s Music School this year. It’s the only completely free music school serving Chicago-area children, and they’re celebrating their 40th anniversary this year. We’re developing the brand and identity for their 40th year. Working with these types of clients really makes our work as designers so rewarding.

AAF: How do you choose your projects?

Michael Braley: Most of our projects come through referrals or past relationships with clients, designers, writers, or artists.

AAF: Who are you influenced by?

Michael Braley: Ed Lehner—a design professor I had in college. He taught me how to really examine and employ typography with care, precision, and attention to detail. Also, my dad is a graphic designer and cartoonist, and I grew up around design and art. Mom taught elementary music, and I also enjoy teaching design to college students. I try to visit one or two universities a year to lead two-day design workshops, usually focused on identity design or typography. I find this one of the most enjoyable areas of my practice; it keeps me on my toes and connected with design education, students, and faculty.

AAF: A few more silly questions—what was your first album?

Michael Braley: The Grease soundtrack, double album. My first 45 was Juice Newton, Queen of Hearts.

AAF: What’s the best/tastiest thing you know how to make?

Michael Braley: Frozen pizza.

AAF: And what would your dream Jeopardy categories be?

Michael Braley: 1930s – 1940s Dutch graphic design, and 1980s Major League Baseball.