We had the good fortune of connecting with Michael Osborne and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michael, what is the most important factor behind your success?
A few things come to mind, but I suppose hard work, more hard work, and harder work is the obvious answer. It’s helpful that I was fortunate enough to work at something I truly loved and was passionate about. Being a designer wasn’t really like a job- it’s just who I was and what I did. That doesn’t mean it was easy. It wasn’t. But if more people loved and were actually passionate about their work this would be a much happier world. Being diligent about my work, in a consistent manner, and surrounding myself with brilliant people was always a good formula for me and my business. There is much to say about showing up in this way Every- Single- Day.
Most of my answer to this question has been written in past tense because after 36 years in business, I closed Michael Osborne Design and retired three years ago, which leads to this story: Someone once said to me, “It’s a good thing you’re a such good designer…you can’t do much else.” I always took this as a compliment (albeit backhanded) but as it turns out, it’s also not true. I’ve taken up woodworking and have been thoroughly enjoying it. I’ve made several pieces of furniture, and have taught myself to design and carve spoons, knives and other home products. I have always been naturally drawn to the beauty of wood, and the design part comes intrinsically. I’ve been posting on Instagram: @michael0250, and have connected to a whole new world of makers. But I have to say, I go to my wood shop each day, work diligently, and strive to learn something new with each project.
What should our readers know about your business?
As I previously mentioned, after 36 years in business in San Francisco, I recently closed Michael Osborne Design and retired- but those 36 years were quite the ride. I’m a Vietnam vet, attended Art Center College of Design (GRAPKG 1978) and in 1981 I started my business in SF. In the beginning it was just me- I did everything, and made every mistake possible. Over the years I only grew the office to between 12 and 15, trying to hire the most brilliant people I could find. My “farm team” were my students. I taught advanced package design at the Academy of Art University for 27 years, and for much of that time all my designers and interns came out of my classroom. You would know exactly who to hire or not hire after spending 15 weeks in the classroom with them! Gradually we worked on larger and larger branding and packaging projects, and never grew the office beyond our means. With the right people in the right jobs, it’s amazing how much work you can get done by working hard and focusing as a team. I never hired freelancers, dedicating myself to my office “family”. Striving to do better work for bigger clients, winning awards and gaining recognition were always goals, but I’d be lying if I told you that money wasn’t a motivating factor-anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying, or lazy.
This wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention my favorite project(s) ever, which was designing several stamps for the USPS. My first Love stamp in 2002 was like a project that floated out of heaven and landed on my desk!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
In the Bay Area that trip could go on for a long, long time! I’d start in Napa Valley, Calistoga to be exact, at the Indian Springs Resort. They have an Olympic sized swimming pool with naturally heated spring water that stays at about 100° year round. It’s about body temperature, so when you get in it’s hard to know when to get out! Great place to stay and eat at their restaurant Sam’s Place. Up and down the valley there are tons of sights to see, things to do, and wine to drink, but for eats my favorite is Mustard’s Grill. Sit at the bar and have a superb glass of wine from right down the street, and order the smoked and grilled chicken wings. Heaven on earth.
A visit wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of our numerous beaches. For me, the harder to reach, the better- and going at low tide is a must. There are several spots between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz that are out of the way, that may require a short hike, climb, or descent to avoid the crowds. The rewards are bountiful! Amazing wildlife, and stunning views that will inspire you for a lifetime. After all that I think we’d have to drink margaritas and rest by our pool for a couple of days.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I dedicate my shoutout to the dozens and dozens of Michael Osborne Design’s dedicated employees for over 36 years. I have been fortunate in my career to be surrounded by brilliant designers, project managers, production managers, accountants, sales people, interns and others, without whom I could not have survived.
All photos by me, with the exception of the photo of me which is by Jane Anderson.