Michael Hersrud is a surface designer, print maker and graphic artist focused on practice-based research, with a specific interest in form-based experimentation as a mechanism to explore graphic phenomena and examine the process of making. In his digital design practice he explores algorithmic, iterative and systematic drawing procedures as a means to recreate and remix graphic vocabularies, intertwined between complexity and simplicity. In addition to printed work, recently Michael has initiated exploration into audiovisual interactions and sound design as part of his creative practice.
Michael received his MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 2006, a BFA from Minnesota State University, Moorhead in 1996, and pursued non-degree earning course work at the University of Oregon and Brown University MEME. Michael previously taught at RISD as a TA and Adjunct Faculty, and Michigan State University as a tenure track Assistant Professor. He is currently an Associate Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar (VCUArts Qatar) — an international division of VCU School of the Arts, part of Qatar Foundation, where he has taught for 10+ years and been integral in constructing the department and fostering a design community in Qatar.
In his teaching he specializes in design technology, visual narrative, experimental print processes, time-based design, experiential processes, audiovisual and senior thesis development. His scholarship investigates student-centered teaching and making through pedagogical-based examination. Domains of inquiry are centered around curricular development, modes of student engagement and critical analysis, cultural production, experimental image making, precedent inquiry, playful interactions, sound design, and 'extra-disciplinary’ design praxis. Within the department, he mentors 70+ students to engage in contextual and cultural design research in a 3-year program.
Michael has participated in academic conferences for the Design Research Society (DRS Bangkok), AIGA Design Educators (Nashville, TN), TypeCon (Buffalo, NY), Design Principles and Practices (Institute without Boundaries, Toronto, and St Petersburg University, Russia), and the College Art Association (CAA Los Angeles).
Michael was born in Fargo, North Dakota (which gained notoriety from a classic Coen brothers film) and grew up in a rural neighborhood on the Minnesota side of the border. Zooming out on a Google map, this is almost in the dead center of North America, which probably drove an intense desire to expand beyond the Great Plains horizons and see the world. Since then, Michael has had the opportunity to travel to 60+ countries on several unique adventures; off-road driving through wadis in Oman; riding the Trans-Siberian railway from Moscow to Mongolia; driving the perimeter of Iceland; spending 8 days on a boat in Galápagos Islands; hiking the top of Huayna Picchu in Peru before sunrise; partaking in Slovenian food festivals; wandering through centuries of Islamic architecture in Istanbul, attending “Omizutori” an annual Japanese Buddhist festival at the Todaiji Temple in Nara, Japan; and viewing several Moorish architectural sites throughout Spain, to name a few. These travels have been hugely influential in learning about people, culture, craft, creativity, environments, conditions, context, and ways of engaging from a global perspective.
Work Prior (to Graduate School)
Prior to working full-time in academia, Michael was a senior designer at Minnesota Public Radio and worked on brand campaigns with Prairie Home Companion and several other shows, and co-founded a small interactive & print design agency 'Frixsion' in Minneapolis in the late 90's which is now dissolved. He was a freelance designer in both Minneapolis, MN and Portland, Oregon where he worked on various branding and R&D projects for Nike, Best Buy, Intel, Target Corporation, and the Walker Art Center. He still prefers experimental mash-ups of images and text, misusing software, and 90's post-modern deconstruction styles over the clean slick language of corporate app design that emerged in the 2010's.
Special University Projects (Design Consultation, Service and Innovations)
Within the VCUQatar, Michael is a design consultant for several ongoing initiatives to improve administrative systems, workflow, curriculum and the student environment. Recently he participated in a 3-year curricular redesign think-tank between Qatar and the home campus in Richmond, the new curriculum was approved and is now being implemented for the first time in the Fall of 2019; he has collaborated with colleagues and students design workshops to helps restructure classrooms and improve studio life for students, including interior redesign of spaces and constructing new facilities and tools; he has lead initiatives to design and develop print & production spaces for student needs and faculty research; assisted with planning and implementation of international visiting artists programs and workshops; improved upon internal systems for promotion processes; co-developed VCUQatar's first online faculty reporting system in collaboration with colleagues in Graphic Design, the Library and Technology Services, and facilitated by an external vendor; he has consulted with the university to develop better systems of print production; he has redesigned, and is teaching, a graphic design history course that investigates ‘now and then’ with different weekly themes in an activated learning & research environment.
In partnership with VCU Arts Qatar and Qatar Foundation, Michael has collaborated on several design initiatives in Doha, Qatar including; 'One Second' a National awareness campaign project with VCUQatar and the Qatari Government Office Ministry of the Interior in an attempt to change local driving behaviors, specifically in regard to reckless driving by young adults and the importance of child safety seats; 'Tasmeem Synapse' brand development & motion ID for an international art & design conference in the Middle East responding to community collaboration and entrepreneurship; 'Art & Medicine' book publication based on a collaborative project between VCUQatar and Weill Cornell Medicine; and 'The Donkey Lady' an illustrative folktale book, based on stories collected in the Arabian Gulf.
Student Field Studies
In collaboration with colleagues in Graphic Design, Michael has helped create and structure several international field study programs from students including: a collaboration with the University of Winnipeg to construct housing for an all girls school in Damongo, Ghana; two trips to various religious, cultural, and gallery sites in Tokyo, Nara, and Kyoto, Japan; an expedition to visit various natural sites, indoor farming and design institutions around Reykjavik, Iceland; and a visit to ENSA, the National Art and Design School in Nancy, France to collaborate with graphic design students on an exchange project. Within Qatar, Michael has initiated and/or assisted with several local field studies to traditional market places, exploring design vernacular of the city, a survey of cultural heritage sites for on-site installations, desert excursions, and an expedition with a marine biologist and visiting artist to the Al Thakira, a rare mangrove site and the only National Park protected area of Qatar.