13 June 2022

We Asked Designer And Writer Michael Sun About What Inspires Him & The Answers Are Chaotic

Michael Sun is a man after my own heart — or, at least, my extremely online brain. The designer, writer, podcaster and FBi Radio host says his daily screen time average is “literally 18 hours”, and he always has at least 200 tabs open in nine different windows at any one time.


But as a multi-hyphenate, he’s learned to embrace the chaos and harness it into his work, whether his pop-culture podcast with The Guardian Australia or his signature design style. Pulling from everything all at once but especially the internet’s fragmented, ever-stimulating feed, Michael’s work is thoughtful, silly and hyper-self-aware — perfect for the range of events and artists who regularly commission him, from queer reading nights to SOPHIE-inspired parties.


Thanks to Samsung’s support and love of creative Aussies — as their Galaxy S22 range and Galaxy Tab S8 Series provides the perfect tools for big-thinking on the go — we chatted to Michael about his work, his advice on pursuing a creative career and how procrastination is, unfortunately, all part of the process.


What is your preferred art medium?


Graphic design, writing, and everything in between. I love mixed media works that take found photos and text — an old screenshot buried deep in the camera roll, an angsty Notes app diary entry — and incorporates them into design. Or vice versa: using design / visual elements to supplement a written essay.


What does creativity mean to you? And how would you describe your style?


Embracing insanity, for better or for worse. My style is mildly — or fully — unhinged. Simultaneously ‘many thoughts head full’ and ‘no thoughts head empty’. Yassified. Not to quote Bo Burnham, but: everything, all of the time. More is more is more is more!


Where do you draw inspiration from?


Everywhere on the internet. This is definitely something I should be telling my therapist instead, but my daily screen time average is literally 18 hours, which explains everything about me. As grotesque as it sounds written down, I draw a lot of my inspiration from meme culture: not the superficial aesthetic quality of memes, but more the way that meme language — in all its super-saturation, hyper-irony, and capacity for oversharing — infiltrates and defines my offline life.

What are the essential tools you use to help your work come to life?


Noise-cancelling earphones, through which the soundtrack for The Social Network is playing at 100dB at all times to drown out all existential dread. A spoon, so I can guzzle peanut butter (crunchy, obviously) like a large rat. And any device with a screen.


What does your creative process look like? 


Procrastinating until the last possible second — and then another few hours — via spiralling and/or scrolling. Then having a lightning bolt of inspiration and working manically until it’s done.


What piece of work are you most proud of? Can you describe the story behind it?


I love this print I designed last year! I call it my cake print, and it reads like one of those @afffirmations — “I can have my cake and eat it too” — alongside a series of confessions beneath it, vaguely touching on my relationship to food, my procrastination tendencies, and my love of frogs. I made this in a fit of boredom at the start of last year, when I decided to challenge myself to create a trio of prints.


This was the last one in the series, and my favourite — I still have it hung up on my wall, and it is very touching to me when people send me photos of it in their own space too. My eternal gratitude to anyone who has my silly little stream of consciousness displayed in their home!

What are some of the biggest challenges that come with creating?


Myself! I am someone who has at least 200 tabs open in nine different windows at any given time. I simply do not have any shred of focus or discipline — but I like to think of my hyper-active consumption habits as actually ~ research ~, even if it’s only subconsciously giving me ideas for my work.


What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start creating visual art?


Make sure you’ve reckoned with the financial sustainability of it all before you start. Are you treating your practice as a solely personal venture? Do you plan on creating work for others — friends, strangers, clients? How will you balance commercial work with pursuits you’re passionate about to avoid creative burnout? Asking yourself the uncomfortable questions will provide an ethical baseline to draw from if you’re feeling uncertain or precarious about your decision.