Michael Manwaring

Michael Manwaring was a San Francisco-based Graphic Designer for forty years. Some of his projects included a history walk for the City of San Jose; an interpretive signage project for the San Francisco Art Commission that combines poetry, cultural and natural history on The Embarcadero Promenade, a two and one-half mile section of the San Francisco waterfront; and, environmental graphics, color and retail design for the HP Pavilion. He was profiled in Time Magazine, and his work was featured in the first exhibition of graphic design at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, In the Public Eye: the work of four graphic designers. In 1997, the Society for Environmental Graphic Design elected Michael a Fellow, and named him one of the 25 most important people in the field of environmental graphic design. In 2000, Michael received the Allied Professions Award of Excellence from the California Council of the American Institute of Architects.

Michael has taught at the College of Environmental Design UC Berkeley, Kent State University, and was an Adjunct Professor of Design at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco from 1976 to 2001. From 1991 to 1993Berkeley, Kent State University, and was an Adjunct Professor of Design at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco from 1976 to 2001. From 1991 to 1993, he co-developed and taught, with Suzanne Lacy, Dean of Fine Arts, City as Surface, an interdisciplinary course for artists, architects and graphic designers.

Michael Manwaring

Michael Manwaring

In early 2006, Michael relocated to Portland Oregon, where he concentrates on painting and sculpture.

Michael Manwaring interview with The Oregonian, Sara Perry

Michael Manwaring knew he wanted to "make pictures" from the time he was a kid. Much to his parents' chagrin, he also realized he wasn't much of a student. Today, the graphic designer, artist and teacher has retired from the bright lights of his successful San Francisco career to the calm surrounds of his Portland-in-residence studio.

Here, he shares his eye for Portland detail; the films, books and places that inspire him; and why it's important to him to value good design.

Q: Being relatively new to Portland, have you found any local architecture or places that delight your eye?

A: Mount Angel Abbey Library: It's a fresh Modernist masterpiece that looks like it was built yesterday and one of only two buildings in the United States designed by Alvar Alto. Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center: The exterior sign is gutsy and fabulously ugly. Our children will someday be fighting against any thought of removing it. The Central Library's granite staircase. A beautiful design for a beautiful building.

Michael Manwaring

Q: Are there any tips or considerations about "good design" that you could give readers?

A: Design permeates our private and public lives, so it is important that we support good design. Whether it is a spoon, a book, or a public park, good design is always concerned with function, form, and spirit. At a public level, good design says something about who we are as a culture. At a private level, good design urges us to acquire only those things that speak to us.

Q: Are there places or things that give you inspiration for your work?

A: Film: Anything directed by Tony Gatlif, but especially "Latcho Drom." Architecture: Baroque, from Bernini to Gehry. Art: Jean Lurcat tapestries, Fornasetti plates and furniture, and Giorgio Morandi's paintings. Books: They must have a mythic aspect, such as any fiction by Jean Giono, "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides and "Godric" by Frederick Buechner. 

Michael Manwaring

Q: Anything else?

A: I have a little routine where I'll go to the Portland Art Museum and randomly wander through collections just to see which works attract me on a visceral, nonintellectual level. The next day, after sleeping on it, I'll note which works stand out the most and what they might have in common. Usually a limited color palette is a big factor.

What stood out in my most recent visit? Beautiful white paintings by contemporary abstract painters Agnes Martin and Robert Ryman and a wood bodhisttva in the Asian collection.

Michael Manwaring

Q: Who are some of your favorite artists?

A: The list could change hourly, but here goes: Manuel Neri. I was a 19-year old San Francisco Art Institute student when I first saw his work. It looked good then and it still does. He had a show at the Portland Art Museum last year. His work is very human in feeling and touch -- you can see the imprints of his hands on areas of the body, which is very poignant and personal to me.

Then, I would pick Agnes Martin. Like Neri, she is Modernist and classical at the same time. Finally, Sigmar Polke. If Neri and Martin are about Classicism and silence, Polke is about contemporary life and a nonstop deluge of ideas.

2017 History of Graphic Design

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