In conversation with Michael Storrings

IN CONVERSATION WITH

MICHAEL STORRINGS

I've admired the work of artist Michael Storrings for many years, praising it from the shelves throughout my many to trips to New York City while visiting stores like Bloomindales, Bergdorf Goodman, and Saks Fifth Avenue, to my time living in Toronto and Vancouver where I've come across his visually appealing work at my favourite bookstore, Indigo and popular stationery store, Staples. 

I had only seen the beauty of his work through his puzzles and Christmas ornaments, however, and what I was unaware of, was that Storrings was also Creative Director at St. Martin's Press, one of my favourite book publishers. I had unknowingly held his works of art in my hands for many years before discovering him in stores.

And an accomplished Creative Director Michael is. He has designed book jackets for New York Times bestselling authors like Kristin Hannah, Jackie Collins, and the Kardashians. His book cover designs have earned him many awards, including ones from the American Institute of Graphic Artists, the Art Directors Club, the Society of Illustrators, Print Magazine, and the New York Book Show.

I chatted with Storrings recently about his career in publishing, his artwork, COVID-19, New York City, and the most memorable character from a book he's read (which, surprisingly, is the same as mine). 

Michael Storrings by Philippe Matsas

You're currently the Creative Director at St Martin's Press, where you've designed covers for New York Times bestselling authors Jackie Collins, Kristin Hannah, the Kardashians, and more. What did your career look up until joining the team at SMP?

My career in publishing has been a wonderful journey. After graduating from Parsons School of Design with a degree in illustration, I took a job at Berkley Publishing doing mass market mechanicals. There weren’t computers back then so everything was done by hand with xacto blades and rubber cement. I worked there for about 5 years and then took a Junior Designer position at Harper Paperbacks, a newly created mass market division of HarperCollins. I was there for 5 years until I took an Art Director position at St. Martin’s Press where I was in charge of the Trade Paperback division. 2022 marks my 25th year with St. Martin’s Press.

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

As a Creative Director, you're involved in every aspect of the work from concept to finished product. What part of the process excites you the most?

My favorite part of book cover design is the evolution of the concept. The path to a cover for me generally develops as I create. I can start out with one concept, which may work, but generally it leads to another and another until it clicks, and I get that feeling inside that says that’s it!

The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont

Not only are you well-known and admired for your book jackets, but you also design stunning Christmas tree ornaments, puzzles, and prints. Where do you draw most of your inspiration from?

New York! This energy of this city is amazing, a melting pot of people and culture. I am always looking and observing everything around me. I am inspired by the little details of life like walking a dog or baby, or a couple sitting in the park. I tend to look at happy moments and try to capture them in my art. My art is a bit of a fantasy and I like creating a world that I think is ideal and can escape to.

NYPL Winter (photograph courtesy of Michael Storrings)

We're living through strange times right now. How have you had to adjust your professional life over the past couple of years? I assume more working from home, less travel, never ending Zoom meetings. 

We have all been working remotely these past couple years. Surprisingly it has been a favorable experience for my team at SMP.  We are in constant contact with one another (more than in the office) and Google meet allows for more collaboration on design.

It’s created a well-needed societal work/life balance.

MS Bookshop (photograph courtesy of Michael Storrings)

You live and work in the best city in the world. What’s an ideal day in New York City? Tell me the best coffee shops, restaurants, and stores. 

An ideal day would be a sunny day in Spring, walking on Greenwich Village streets under a blossoming tree tunnel with my pugs to get a deli coffee. My favorite deli for coffee is at the corner of Eighth Ave and 12th Street, Arturo’s for Pizza, and Soho Art Materials for the best sketchbooks and paints.

Who is the most memorable character from a book you’ve read?

The person that I still can’t get out of my mind is the character of Jude from Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life.  A person who has experienced the best and worst of life has to give.

Michael Storrings puzzles (photography by Thomas Kuoh)

To learn more about Michael Storrings, visit his website and follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. You can also shop his online store here.

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