Meet Mike Duesenberg, the founder and creative director of Blank Studio, a consultancy and studio for brand strategy, design, and experience.

Mike is a dear friend of Martha Mae and developed the branding for our other retail venture, The Center of Order and Experimentation. He is an insightful and holistic thinker with impeccable taste and a witty sense of humor, which makes him excellent at world building. His true passion is his rescue dog (pitbull queen) Matilda. We can't wait for you to learn more about our friend Mike!

Hi Mike! Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi! I’m a dog-dad living in Roscoe Village. I just turned 40, it’s fine. I’m a Pisces, but I don’t really know what that means. I’m also the owner and creative director of Blank Studio in Logan Square. 

What excited you and sparked your creativity and curiosity as a child? 
A few things. Architecture – I was always drawing up blueprints of houses I would build for myself and my family. Music videos – videos of early to mid 90s had these vivid colors blended with a lo-fi quality and strange camera angles. It totally sucked me in as a kid and still shapes some of the work I create.

What drew you to graphic design and brand world building? Were there designers or brands you admired and appreciated when you were just starting out?
My highschool photography teacher introduced me to Photoshop and it just kind of snowballed from there. I had a record label and apparel brand in college. They were small, but they taught me so much about the power of branding. There weren’t really specific designers or brands that I admired – it was more of the creative community as a whole. I was just trying to find my place in it.

How did Blank Studio come to be? What inspired the name and what is your design and collaboration philosophy? 
I started Blank in 2019. I was working at another creative studio prior, but started desiring more autonomy and more space to just explore working styles, methods, etc. So, I left to start my own thing. The name was inspired by the way I try to approach most things in life – an open, curious mind, free from ego, ready to explore and discover the unknown. Our collaboration philosophy is based on pulling back the curtain and inviting the client in. We remove the mystery of the creative process and embrace flexibility and iteration.

If you had to design your ideal brand, without the constraints of money or client needs, what elements would you incorporate? 
It’s extremely difficult for me to not think of things from a holistic perspective. So, it would be building the entire universe of a brand – visual identity, product, physical space, digital experience, tone of voice, etc. I love to play around with tension – so expressing something that feels like refined grit or unusual elegance. And wrapped with a layer of irreverence.

Where do you find your design inspiration?
So many things to be honest. But architecture and product design in general are a huge inspiration for me. The forms, colors, patterns, and textures influence so much of what I do.

Could you tell us about Matilda? 
I could and I will. She is my rescue pittie and my life is centered around her. She’s in her early senior years now, but still has a playful and full of energy that keeps me smiling. She’s a local celebrity in my neighborhood – most people we pass know her name, but not mine. I get “oh, you’re Matilda’s dad?” or “oh, this is Matilda! We’ve heard about her” kind of frequently. She’s been getting more vocal and stubborn in her old age, but that’s only made me love her more.

Can you share with us any projects you’re working on or upcoming releases? 
Sure! We are dialing in final details on a rebrand project with Ethos, a training and wellness center. It involved visual identity, but also built environment and product development work. Chris Mitchell just joined Blank Studio and he has such an extensive and impressive background in built environments and placemaking, so working together on the Ethos project was a lot of fun. We have an ongoing creative partnership with Hopewell Brewing Co. – so we are always working on packaging, merch, and basically any creative need they have. We just kicked off a project with Avenir, a hospitality interior design firm, that we’re super excited about. And a few more things I wish we could share more about!

If you’re hanging out in Chicago, where can people find you?
I’m admittedly a homebody, but I do go out. I’m at Pilates and Coffee literally every morning getting an espresso to stay and an 8oz drip coffee to go. Matilda and I have been going to the Montrose dog beach a lot. You can also find me eating roast chicken at Lula or tagliatelle at Giant.

What are you currently loving at Martha Mae?
The Mnemosyne Spiral Notebook A5 (5mm dot grid) has been my go-to notebook for longer than I can remember. I love the feel of the Caran D’Ache 849 Grey Ballpoint Pen. The Craighill Brass Incense Holder is perfect. And I really need the Tiny Handbuilt Dice from Grandmont Street right now.

Mike's Picks