The Digital Designer – Michi Muzyka ’02
For over a decade, Michi Muzyka has been a designer by day and fine artist by night. By combining her technical design capabilities and her traditional drawing and painting talent, Michi has exhibited how analog art skills can be embraced in modern times.
She began exploring the basics of an art education in Middle School with Art Teacher Richard Marcucci, someone who Michi calls a mentor and friend, not just a teacher.
“Mr. Marcucci is an amazing person, and I attribute where I am in life to him,” said Michi. “He was the kind of teacher that brought something out of every single kid that went through his class, and he helped students cultivate an art career track. Even after MFS, he came to a lot of my shows to support me.”
After MFS, Michi graduated cum laude from Drew University with an art degree in 2006. With Drew’s broad art studio curriculum, she further developed her drawing technique but also was exposed to more sculpture, installation work, the art gallery world, and digital art. All of those art elements were reflected in her senior year work – mixed media cut paper illustrations.
Michi then worked for a few years in Moorestown before she realized that she missed creating art and decided to apply to graduate school.
“Mr. Marcucci once said to me that I would make a really good art teacher and that stuck with me,” said Michi. “At Drew, my professors told me that to teach I would need a master’s of fine arts so I started putting together a portfolio and going on portfolio reviews.”
In 2008, she enrolled at Pratt Institute in New York to study digital fine art, concentrating in digital imaging. She chose to continue working on intricately cut paper artwork, but, instead of cutting her paper illustrations by hand, she slowly integrated her digital training to help digitally cut pieces for large transformative installations, like her thesis show.
Her thesis, Memories of Decay, was an installation that questioned what would happen to man-made artifacts after humanity ceases to exist. Her work presented “an allegory of the decomposition process, composed of manually and digitally cut paper ‘organisms’ reclaiming the earth.” The white cut paper shapes that were made to resemble fungus were draped over painted antique furniture pieces to complete the narrative of civilization being disintegrated.
“I do installation work because I’m not just building sculptures or an individual piece, I am transporting an audience to another world when they walk into a space,” said Michi. “My work brings a wow factor for galleries because people can walk through, under, and be encapsulated by my artwork.”
After earning her M.F.A. in 2011, Michi rejoined the workforce just as the digital artwork field was significantly expanding with the debut of the Apple iPad in 2010. Her employer, Callaway Digital Arts, was one of the first to build children’s books on iPads, and Michi was creating the digital illustrations.
Next, she moved to Vidyo, a video conferencing application for businesses, as a user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) designer. As the UX designer, she considered the psychology of user interaction with the Vidyo app and outlined a functional flow chart for all elements of the app. As a UI designer, Michi developed Vidyo’s visual identity, including the logo, color palette, icons, font, and screen design.
“My job is to understand the user of our product and all the different endpoints that the user is trying to get to,” said Michi.
In 2014, Michi transferred to Stealth Travel and built two travel apps, Totom and Gozengo, as a Senior Visual UX Designer. Once she completed those projects, Michi traveled to Bogotá, Colombia in February as a Visiting Professor at Universidad de los Andes. She taught a Designing Interactive Technology seminar with the university’s Future of Digital Publications M.F.A. class.
“I do want to teach someday, but I keep getting distracted with the working world, making products, and learning everything about UX/UI,” said Michi. “But now I’m building apps as a freelancer so I hope to start teaching part time.”
Meanwhile, Michi is also preparing for an upcoming paper show about birds and nature in April in her current place of residence, Jersey City. Although she now considers her paper art as a side hobby, her fine art work will remain an influential and special part of her life.
“Art is about making metaphors for life and things around you,” said Michi. “It’s an opportunity to express yourself and comment on the world in a different way that people can relate to. Art is a process of self-exploration and I really value the fact that I experienced a great broad arts curriculum at Moorestown Friends to begin that. The Quaker education also influenced my life, being accepting of everyone and appreciating moments of silence. Especially in the art world, I appreciate sitting by myself and giving myself time to think.”
Michi is the daughter of Middle School English teacher Deb Casne and sister of Lauren Muzyka ’99.