Michael Haddad is a designer and illustrator based in Canada who spends his time flitting between designing, art directing at Beau’s Brewing Co. — a family-run brewery based in Ottawa — and taking in various illustrative commissions. His drawing work has appeared in The New York Times, Monocle., Wired, Fortune, The MIT Technology Review, The Standard plus many others, establishing himself as a sound and talented freelancer in the industry.
During his time at a design agency in Ottawa where the team shared a space with Ottawa Magazine, Michael had full access to their back catalogue and current issues — this is where he sourced the inspiration and drive to take a leap into the illustration realm. “I would always pick up the issues and one time I noticed the illustrations and thought to myself ‘I could do that’,” he says. “It’s basically applying the same methods I’d use in designing a conceptual logo, while expressing an idea or concept in a concise image. I then bugged Jane Corbett, the AD, and asked her to give me a shot. Eventually she gave me a spot and I had my first published illustration.”
From there onwards, Michael landed a position at Beau’s Brewing Co.: well-known as a “cool and prestigious place to work” in the region, “especially for an illustrator or designer”. After freelancing in illustration for a couple of years, he saw the opportunity at Beau’s as a great investment: “I get to work with an amazing team of talented designers,” says Michael. “It’s my ‘full time’ gig and illustration is more of a side thing, but I really just work constantly and enjoy them both.”
As for inspiration, Michael explains that “I don’t think you should shy away from sharing your influences”. Citing his work with historical points of reference, he technically combines more traditional ideas with post-modern twists of everything. “I love the history of illustration, art and graphic design. I think it’s probably obvious, but I love everything: push-pin, French comics, paperback sci-fi, pop artists like Lichtenstein and Tom Wesselmann, xeroxed punk flyers and combining these influences into (hopefully) something new,” he says. “For the editorial stuff, I try to make it conceptual, which means combining elements in a clever way to express an idea concisely. The idea is the most important, then I apply a certain style to it. I try to use humour where appropriate.”
One of his most prominent commissions is his illustrative work for The Standard. “The team at The Standard had seen some of my more psychedelic and surreal landscapes floating around the internet. These included program covers I had done for the National Arts Centre in Ottawa (Prélude). The Standard is opening a new bar and restaurant called Narcbar, and commissioned me to create menu covers: food, drink and a matchbook cover,” says Michael. These images feature dreamlike scenarios throughout, colour blocking and hand somewhat levitating in hyperreality — as some of his more adventurous drawings, each one clearly demonstrates his ability and diversity as an artist.
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