Blog: Michael Doyle

Michael Doyle grew up in Royal Oak, studied industrial design at the Center for Creative Studies and is now an exhibit designer. He co-founded the DJ collectives Dorkwave and Dethlab, and joined the experience design agency o2 Creative Solutions. He is also a designer for Ann Arbor/New York based indie electronic label Ghostly International. He promises his blogs for metromode will be provocative!

Post No. 4

A conversation with Jamie Latendresse

Of all the interviews I conducted last week in preparation for these Metromode columns, the one that really stood out unfortunately comes from someone who is leaving Detroit... but for the best reason: love.

Jamie Latendress is a graphic designer, founder of the
Pr1mary Space Gallery and the former Assistant Director of C-Pop. His responses were so good, I'm going to cop out of my writing duties today and just post the whole interview. Enjoy.

Michael Doyle: Why do you chose to live and work in Detroit?

Jamie Latendress: I was born here and Detroit will always be home. I have lived and will live in other cities but Detroit will always possess an inimitable character not found in any other urban setting. Everything from its sometimes rusty, but always beating, industrial heart, to its trend-fighting music and arts scene. As a graphic artist, I find these attributes are a superb source of inspiration, great clientele, and cultural sustenance.

MD: What are your favorite things about Detroit?

JL: I find a lot of people revere those who make their home in Detroit, for their courage, their stamina, for their intrepid spirit. I find that I, indeed many Detroiters, take great pride in this. While we Detroiters take our share of criticism and misplaced dogging, we always come out on the positive side. We have to, after all — to live here is to find the positive. I think it would be poor character not to defend the city's many redeeming qualities.

That reverence is fed by the visibly rough edges of an urban scene that from the outside appears somewhat destitute but on the inside embodies great pockets of unique and exciting venues. From Corktown to Midtown, great businesses and events thrive and try to survive here. I always marvel at the choices we have and have had; DIA, Oslo, MOCAD, DEMF, Slow's, Motor, Detroit Contemporary/CAID, CPOP, Roma Cafe, Jazz Fest, Panacea. Like any city great things come and go but the surprises around each corner always excite me.

MD: What are your least favorite things about Detroit?

JL: The lagging intellects behind its core industries and politics. Detroit is sometimes very slow to change, or more specifically, to progress. Indeed we Detroiters can be stubborn in our acceptance of new things and at times that has spelled the end for a lot of really great upstarts (see the couple defunct examples in the list above) in our business community.

MD: What are the special places, businesses or experiences you find unique to Detroit?

JL: There are a number of business that have held my favor over the years and to their credit held their own as well. The Cass Cafe is a primary example. I've never seen its match in any other market — a cafe that serves delightful but never overblown food, with a competent bar, until the wee hours, showing fresh artwork, in a completely unpretentious atmosphere. New York and San Francisco have yet to show me their Cass Cafes, if they exist.

Pure Detroit is another example, putting a creative and artistic twist on merchandise for tourists and natives alike, while simultaneously exalting the beating heart that makes our city so unique. Some other examples are Eastern Market, Dally in the Alley, and Belle Isle.

MD: If you recently moved to, are planning to leave, or are planning to stay in Detroit, why?

JL: I have moved to and from Detroit once in the past, and will do so again in the near future. In both cases I proudly say it is for personal relationships that I did and do so. I've watched many friends and colleagues leave our city for supposed fairer shores. Were it not for certain personal reasons (ahh...l'amour) I would surely make Detroit my home for years to come. There are amazing people and ideas at work here and I find them as exciting as any I've seen elsewhere. I look forward to tracking their progress from wherever my travels should take me.

MD: In what ways does the city influence your creative output?

JL: Like any artist in Detroit I find favor in the city's industrial facade, it's mid-western work ethic, and yes, at times its unfortunate decay. A friend of mine and I often talk about the effects a dying Rome would have had on artists and writers, and how that compares to Detroit's impact. While I definitely think Detroit is engaged in more of a Renaissance than a death rattle, its romantic and sometimes broken heart is so dramatic to me. The obstacles we in Detroit face, to keep up, to shine through the rust, force us to think differently and to seek alternatives to traditional inspiration. That's a powerful combination of influences.

MD: What would you suggest/like to see to make Detroit a better place?

JL: Detroit has long suffered from a variety of social and economic barriers. As we run to catch up to other municipalities across the country it's tempting to jump in too quickly with our modernization. However, the layouts and infrastructures of these great cities were built over long periods of time, with many wrong turns and much trial. I would more like to see a slow examination of how other successful cities were built, and very careful consideration and implementation in the refurbishment of dilapidated sections of Detroit. Lofts and new urban living areas are great, if they provide wholly for new residents and make sense for the long-term life of the city.