Michael Tabie of Two Arms Inc. talks to UF students

In ArtnDesign, Design on November 21, 2010 at 1:27 am

I crashed the Vox Graphis graphic design club meeting on Thursday, Nov. 18 and wound up sitting in on a pretty cool Skype interview with UF alum Michael Tabie, co-founder of Two Arms Inc., a Brooklyn-based design studio.

Since I didn’t conduct the interview and didn’t record the interview, I’ll give you what I can of my semi-coherent notes.


Tabie’s interests especially in the earlier days of school were in the areas of printmaking, screenprinting, graffiti and lettering.

He got into design to avoid starvation in one of the more traditional fine arts. Getting into the graphic design program highlighted for him the difference between art and design.


As a born-and-raised Floridian, it was more or less just not wanting to be in the state anymore.

He did a tour of L.A., Boston, Chicago and Austin before ending up in New York.


In New York, Tabie did freelance work before landing a full-time position at an agency. Ultimately, he decided he would be happier freelancing and working with a partner.

“It’s stressful. Crazy. New York. Business. But I love it,” Tabie said.

Agency work can get frustrating because there are so many approvals and the design can get beaten into the ground eventually. [New designers] will have to have their time with a big agency working with high profile clients and then they can decide where to go from there. Some designers work at huge agencies and love it; others choose the freelance life.


Tabie said he and his partner, Karen, design better together. One will come out with an idea and the other will come out with something ten times better. The process grows from there.

With their current workload, collaborations aren’t always possible and the work is divvied up for maximum efficiency. Right now they are handling five to seven projects in a two-week period with 30 to 40 projects on the board. There’s always a balance to speed and quality.


With a strong portfolio of posters, Two Arms is also known for using textures you want to try to touch through your screen.

One trick Tabie mentioned is just copying a piece of paper over and over and over again until all of the imperfections from each pass start piling up.

And while they love to do posters, not all of the work they do is rock and roll.

Plus there might be a little more money in the more boring projects. If they break even on a poster, they’re happy.


Really heavy metal.

But Pandora’s always good because what comes on, comes on. There doesn’t have to be a meeting about what goes on next.

Also, The Black Keys and Bill Monroe are good for some bluegrass.

And the new Girl Talk album.

“I want something consistent and not too poppy or electronic. Although Girl Talk is quite possibly the opposite.”


“Go where you want. There’s plenty of work. Just go do it.”

A lot of grads are hung up on having a job lined up before they go anywhere. But it can be really hard to get interviews in a city, like New York, if you aren’t actually there and ready to go.

But you can just pack a bag, bring your computer and head where you want to go. The worst thing that can happen is you have to go home.

Also, nowadays, Facebook, Twitter and blogs can really help to get the word out.

Directly soliciting venues works. You can go to a place like the Knitting Factory or whatever venue is big where you are and say, “I got some posters. Wanna see some?”

Going to open calls is also another way to get work.


Keep your website name as simple as possible. If you can get you’re name as your domain, that’s great.

Also, don’t bring 3D examples of the work. Take some nice pictures and get a simple book made up on Blurb or another photobook site. Dragging a bunch of stuff around is probably going to be more of a hassle for you and your potential employer than anything else.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: