I have over 17 years experience in branding, visual design, product & user interface design. I spent 12 years in the tech industry up in the Bay Area under various creative director and consulting roles. Two years ago, I moved to Southern California to hone my illustration skills and finally settled in Los Angeles. I am currently looking to expand my horizons and apply my knowledge to new opportunities in design and illustration. Please feel free to get in touch.

Updated website is in the works. Download my resume here.

Dispensary Branding

For the past few months I have been working on branding a couple dispensaries opening up this fall in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, and it's the most intensive letterform work I think I've ever done. All of the marks are custom typefaces made entirely by hand that help play up the cool double entendre. Throw in some funky insect vibes and it all feels old yet new at the same time. These were the three final marks, the bottom right ultimately won out after much deliberation. I had a lot of fun on this project and look forward to stocking up my supply when they open.

Self-Promo Icons

Digging around some old files the other day I came across a set of clunky, simplistic icons I used for a self-promotion close to 20 years ago. They begged me to rework them, so I did. It's good to have fun projects like this to keep you pushing your growth.

Kohii Coffee

Kohii Coffee in downtown Los Angeles was in need of a brand refresh, so I started with an update of their coffee packaging. So much packaging these days is not the most eco-friendly, so we wanted a pouch that was good for the environment and tried to make the graphics work with the kraft paper. Once we got the package graphics working, we updated the logos. These are the two concepts we pitched to them, with the pineapple as integral to their brand.

Brand Identity

One of the best words in the English language is 'consistency.' And I think brands suffer without keeping that word in mind as they blast their identity out to the world. Hitting a solid mark for a company is very gratifying for me and I've been fortunate to work with some good ones. Setting brand standards, look and feel, grid guidelines and a voice are fundamental. And it's cool to watch the client's lightbulb go on when you explain why every element is important.


Punkpost is an excellent little startup that's bringing back the hand written note. You type it in an app, pick the card design and they write it and send it for you. I made some wonky illustrations for one of their first sets. I thought they were cool.


I always have fun designing t-shirts for random companies and events. Nothing ties the brand together like people wanting to wear your company swag.

Design Meetups

Just a smattering of graphics I made for various design meetups. Stay golden ponyboys and ponygirls.

Rich Kid Cool

Partialized World Segement 3D Stickers for Adults with accompanying glasses and a Life is a Spectacle art print. Play find the war criminal on the latter.


Fountain was the most recent startup where I led the design effort – it was a handy little app to connect you to experts in order to help solve your problem. We started off in the home repair vertical with plans to expand. Our founder, Aaron Patzer was trying to solve how to tap into the world's 'cognitive excess.' Ambitious concept that never quite got its wings. Fountain sold to Porch in 2015.


We made wooden nickels like the Dairy Queen used to hand out for free Dilly Bars (remember those?), fun press kits with neat illustrations and we even got a giant print ad in the Bold Italic's debut print effort highlighting the worst gift in history: the Trojan Horse.

Gifting the new-fashioned way needed an Atomic Age color palette, a warm, inviting feel and some retro illustrations to tie that whole nostalgic feeling all together into one great gifting package. You build and customize your own Gifty to send to your friends, family & frenemies, so I tailored the look to be crafty and DIY as well as vintage looking.All combined it creates double joy for the giver and receiver. Our product manager, Mills Baker and I hammered out the flows for the site. I left in 2012 to rejoin Yelp, but as far as I know, Giftly is still operational.

Yelp, Inc.

By far my most robust set of design work to date, and some of the most fun. As Creative Director at Yelp for 4.5 years, I worked with every single department - sales, marketing, product, business development, public relations, you name it I did the design for it. I worked on teams from the very beginning to produce the logo to all the way into late 2009 where I illustrated a retro lunchbox for Elite members. Maybe you even have a Yelpstick or three.

I had the luxury of being the sole designer for Yelp for years while our growth exploded, so I got to design everything. From postcards where we coordinated photo shoots with the Yelp Elite, to leave-behinds of all sorts and hundreds of web graphics. I was a cross-functional creative director, effectively managing other departments to keep them equipped with graphics and an organizational system to keep me sane.

Speech bubbles were tried and discarded. An attempt to own the noise a dog makes was kicked around. An abstract replacement for an exclamation mark won out, almost like an asterisk — a pop of self-expression, just like what appears over the heads of comic strip characters.

A smattering of the Yelp wear I designed. I liked to call it 'corporate funk.'

Yelp was all about remarkability in all of the schwag we gave away. So we pushed the Elite giveaway envelope and we decided to develop a retro lunchbox like the kind you had when you were a kid (I had PacMan). I did all the illustration and design for this piece. Concept by Michelle Broderick & Nish Nadaraja. Oh, and for those of you confused by Yelp 2525, I recommend you check out Zagar & Evan's song "In the Year 2525." Creepy '60s ditty. Featured on NOTCOT.

After I branded Yelp, I worked on almost all of the UI/UX flows way back in 2005 up to 2009. More often than not Jeremy Stoppelman would come into the office in the morning with a bunch of wrinkled napkins with feature sketches on them and we'd hash out some designs together. Eventually we got some product managers that helped smooth out the process. But hey, Yelp was once a startup, that's how we got things done. Then I skinned it with visual design elements like icons, buttons and colors. You know, when I had time.


Being trained as an illustrator really helped my icon design. From cartoony to realistic to iconic, I've churned out quite a few of these little dudes.

© copyright 2019 Michael Ernst | Do the right thing, don't steal my stuff.