Meet the Artist of the SUPPLY.com Site Release Illustrations

The SUPPLY.com site has seen its fair share of updates over the years. In 2012, the dev team began naming these site release updates after retro video games. Starting with Asteroids, Bomberman, and Contra, this tradition celebrates everything from site search improvements to the supply.com domain migration.

Since the practice began, the dev team always fantasized about creating a gallery wall of mementos commemorating their achievements. Last summer, after discovering gifted Mississippi-based designer, Michael Norris, on Dribbble, that dream became a reality. I recently chatted with the artist of the beautiful illustrations that adorn the fishbowl wall.

Who/what inspired you to follow your creative side when you were young?

I initially became interested in graphic design growing up in the 90’s because I really liked a lot of packaging design and posters. At the time, I didn’t know there was such a thing called graphic design. I just thought it was advertising. I didn’t really know there were things you could put together, like typography and drawing, that could be used as a communication object for companies and their branding. I initially went into fine art, but once I got into the University of Southern Mississippi, I was really drawn to the technical side of it.

michael norris sketchbook beginning of art process

Michael’s sketchbooks – his first step in the design process

After checking out your work, I feel like I’ve got grasp on your style – flat colored, vector art with heavy emphasis on the little details. What about dense vector art appeals to you?

I got into vector art because I always liked symmetry and geometric design. I’m a big fan of Saul Bass, Paul Rand, and all of their designs from the mid-century design movement in corporate America. I felt like it was really interesting to be able to take something and simplify it to the point where it could express with what it needed to, without being over the top. Often, I think that people in the field feel like they have to prove something. But in reality, most times, less is more.

With vector illustration, I just really like how you can do little things, like using no lineart or adding shapes, and make something look completely different. You wouldn’t really be able to go back and try that if you were working by hand; you’d have to restart the entire piece. Whereas with vector art, you can try different styles and colors so quickly. Neither you or the client has to wait to see the results.

supply.com site release illustrations made by michael norris framed on gallery wall

The Gallery Wall: The SUPPLY.com Site Release Illustrations, by Michael Norris

project albert design was michael's first illustration for supply.com

Project Albert – Michael’s first work for SUPPLY.com

When did you first encounter SUPPLY.com and what about this project appealed to you?

I just started my Dribbble account last January and Matt Hobbs got ahold of me last summer. He wanted to see if I could do some work for you guys. We exchanged a few emails and he told me about this really cool idea about these little mementos commemorating your breakthroughs as a team.

I really liked the emphasis on 80’s arcade games. I grew up on the Nintendo and the IBM PC Junior and it was really fun to illustrate them. The Excitebike illustration is one that really stands out to me. At the time, I was working on 2 or 3 at a time. One day, I was driving and thought to myself, ‘How can I make this Excitebike one different?’ It’s about a race, not a particular character. I thought, ‘Why not cut a NES in half and show a race going on inside of the console. It really turned out okay.

What advice do you have for other illustrators out there?

  • By putting limitations on the size, the colors, I’m forced to be as creative as possible with what limitations I have. Working under constraints is one of the best ways to push yourself further in any job. When I do whatever I want, I feel like, ‘Oh, I’m not happy with that.’ When working with limitations, there’s a sense that I accomplished something. I think that’s a really great standard to keep for yourself, so you can work on something new.
  • I’ve never advertised. Having a good presence online is essential – having a website, being on Twitter, being on Instagram. You need to show you’re constantly working and continually updating something, even if it’s stuff you’re not getting paid for it. That’s how you get work. A lot of my work has come from when people say, “Oh, we really like this bag you did,” and I just did that bag in my free time.
  • Figure out what kind of style you want to do because whatever you produce, you’re going to get people who want you to do something in that style. If you’re not happy with a style, don’t show that off. Illustration is a print media as well as a web media. Photography helped to expand my horizons on what I can do. It’s good to have a lot of different venues that you can touch base on.

michael norris poster illustrations

A collection Michael’s recent work

Follow Michael on:

Dribbble: https://dribbble.com/norrisworks

His Etsy Store: Beastie Studios

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