Goodbye, Mike Kruzeniski

I lost one of my closest friends today

The day after his wedding

His reputation preceded him

When I went to work at frog design, I noticed everyone kept talking about this client named Mike. He was apparently a great industrial designer who had done some cool futuristic stuff at Nokia. But more than that, he made people happy. He loved telling jokes, he loved the people he worked with, and that love rubbed off on my coworkers. “Mike’s great,” people told me. “You’ve gotta meet him.” So I did, and everyone was right. He was great.

Mike’s two primary modes

We became friends, and I quickly noticed two aspects to his personality. One side was the classic company man. Logical, strategic, and nearly impossible to beat in a debate. I once described arguing with him like getting caught in a spider web. He had a truly brilliant mind, and I don’t think I’ve come up against a more formidable debater in my life.

Leading from the punchline

I once told Mike that some leaders “lead from the back” and others “lead from the front,” but he was pioneering a new approach of “leading from the punchline.” He told dad jokes well before he became a dad. He seemed to relish his role as the unofficial court jester of the team. Morale mattered a lot to him, as did remembering to have fun.

Trying to get a perfect photo for a presentation.
Nailed it
Holding court. He was pretending to be Chuck Friedman, a big cheese at Microsoft.
I’m gonna miss these jokes

The most supportive friend ever

Once I showed Mike a comic I drew and he looked up and said “why don’t you do this … like, all the time?” He was all-in for my side projects, every time. We’d get in big debates about the right way to do things, and we didn’t always agree, but he rode hard for me. He didn’t just compliment, which is easy. He made it clear through his actions that he trusted my judgement, loved my vision, and wanted great things to happen for me. That mutual respect powered our friendship.

Most people couldn’t pronounce his name

His name is pronounced like this:

  1. In
  2. Iski

He worked harder than anyone

Mike could churn out lots and lots of work. I’ve rarely seen someone with processes as fine-tuned. He’d make a list, do what needed doing, and make a new list. He made it look easy, despite juggling a lot of things at once.

Behind the curtain

Mike was a pretty private person. As his career took off, he worked hard to keep personal and work Mikes separate. This is a great video that blends the two. Mike had been invited to give a featured talk at SXSW, and this was the moment he noticed how enormous the room was. He was feeling anxious because the talk was going to be a bit controversial. But in the end, of course, he did a really great job, to a standing-room only audience. The conversations on Twitter he inspired lasted for a week. (And his controversial points turned into conventional wisdom a few years later, when flat design took over.)

The antidote to imposter syndrome

You know that awful voice in your ear that tells you you’re not good enough, and people don’t like you? Mike chased mine away because he believed in me. He got me the interviews that led to three amazing jobs, including the one I’m in now.

Designer, writer, teacher. I love building things.