Michael Schwab was born in Oklahoma. He discovered his artistic talent at school. According to his own recount: “I was the kid that people would ask to do posters, or drawings for their reports, or posters for sports rallies, or whatever. I was always available.” During the 1950-60’s, he became interested in lettering and graphic design, inspired by artists like Big Daddy Roth, the Mad Magazine, Fillmore posters and record album covers. Still in Oklahoma, he heard of a graphic design department in “this little school in Texas, East Texas State University,” and he decided to enrolled there. Michael Schwab studied under Jack Unruh for illustration and Rob Lawton for design and advertising; ” Rob really opened my eyes to the art of typography”.
Michael Schwab studied for two and half years at East Texas State, and then moved to the School of Visual Arts on 23rd Street in New York, while living in the Chelsea Hotel. But, around 1973 feeling the summer is too hot and not being able to see the sky, he returned to Oklahoma and in the fall, he registered at Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, as a 5th semester student studying under John Casado and Jamie Odgers. It was competitive and intense. After graduation, he worked for a short while as assistant to John Casado and later on the assistant to Los Angeles illustrator, Dave Willardson, at the same time he was working for the art directors like Mike Salisbury of West magazine and Rolling Stone magazine, and Roland Young, the art director at A&M Records.
After visiting San Francisco, Schwab realized that this is the city he belongs, and approached Chris Blum, the creative director for Levi Strauss & Co. for a job. Blum was famous for the very artistic, award-winning Levi’s posters and animated commercials, and once offered job Schwab created several historic posters for Levi’s with him. By 1976, he had founded his own studio in San Francisco, while living and working in a loft setting on Telegraph Hill, with a view of The City. He has said of those years;
I watched and listened to my mentors and saw how they talked on the phone with clients and art directors. Truthfully, being in art school, you don’t learn anything about business. I didn’t take any MBA courses. I had to make up my own rules and keep track of what I was getting paid. No one was really there to tell me how to do it. I treated my apprenticeships as learning opportunities — like graduate studies
From his studio in Marin County, with stunningly powerful minimalist compositions, Schwab creates award wining graphic designs, which are aesthetically exquisite . His clients include: Nike, Polo, Wells Fargo, Amtrak, Sundance, Pebble Beach, Muhammad Ali, Robert Redford, and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.