On February 7 at the Seager Gray Gallery as part of the Arts Commission’s First Tuesday Artwalk, Schwab will join Chamber and City officials to unveil that logo, along with a line of merchandise bearing the image, including posters, stainless steel water bottles, felt tote bags, hats, bound leather journals and more.
“We were looking for a unifying image for Mill Valley, and we were drawn to Michael because of his amazing track record for encapsulating the core values of places and organizations and distilling them into a single image,” says Kathryn Olson, a Mill Valley Chamber board member who spearheaded the logo project. “He absolutely nailed it, and we’re thrilled with the result.”
Along with the new Mill Valley logo, Schwab will showcase an array of his other Mill Valley-related work at Seager Gray on Feb. 7 (6-8pm, 108 Throckmorton Ave.), including designs for Peet’s, Mount Tamalpais State Park, the 2013 America’s Cup and Muir Woods National Monument, among others. Food will be provided by Mill Valley Market, with wine from Angels & Cowboys and Cannonball Wine Company. Schwab’s work will be on display for the rest of February at the Mill Valley Chamber & Visitor Center at 85 Throckmorton Ave. in the Depot building.
Schwab, 64, calls his creation of the new Mill Valley logo “a fairly daunting project. To create an image for a place as magical as Mill Valley, a place that has meant so much to me personally and to so many people here in Marin.”
“I wanted to approach it from a very broad point of view,” Schwab adds. “It’s about the mill and the trees and the water and the woodsy coziness of the town. I really wanted to portray the natural quiet beauty of Mill Valley because that’s the number one aspect of the town that people just love.”
To do that, the San Anselmo artist started by taking photos from a distance, along the Pickleweed Inlet portion of the Richardson Bay, near Acqua Hotel and Piatti restaurant. Schwab begins every design project by sketching with pen and paper before inking it with a mechanical pen. He then scans the ink drawing to turn it into digital artwork.
“It needed to be an image that could print well and also have some romance and drama to it,” he says. “I was hoping to evoke a woodcut and wanted it to feel handcrafted even though it’s a logo. It has a handcrafted feel and it evokes the historic romance of Mill Valley.”
Schwab grew up in Oklahoma, first studying graphic design at East Texas State University before moving on to the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He later attended the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, and found work under art directors for the likes of Rolling Stone and West magazine, as well as A&M Records.
A visit to San Francisco changed Schwab’s career, as he was deeply drawn to the city and the open space that surrounded it in every direction. He connected with Chris Blum, the creative director for Levi Strauss & Co. via their agency, Foote Cone and Belding, and created his first of several iconic posters for Levi’s.
Having long developed a reputation for utilizing an interplay of positive and negative space to create iconic images that are strong and simple yet always contemporary, Schwab has created an illustrious list of clients, including Robert Mondavi, Sundance, Apple, the US Postal Service, The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, Major League Baseball, the 2002 Winter Olympics, Polo Ralph Lauren and the San Francisco Opera. He’s also created portraits of figures like Muhammad Ali, Elvis Presley and Lance Armstrong.
Schwab says that he’s at the point in his career that he’s not taking every job that comes his way, instead being much more selective “because I know how much passion has to go into them.”
He calls the Mill Valley project “a joy,” noting that Olson “was fantastic to work with and gave me creative freedom. It made for a beautiful graphic image that I’m very proud of and I’m hoping we can all be proud of for many, many years.”
Schwab says he’s looking forward to the unveiling on Feb. 7, adding a dash of a spoiler: “I had the trees and the mountain and the water and it was just sitting there waiting for the red-tailed hawk in the sky.”