Tell us about yourself and how you became a designer / artist?

I studied Design Interactions at Royal College of Art and now work as a design consultant and visual artist. My work has exhibited at galleries internationally, including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt in Berlin and the V&A in London. I took this path because it was the only box left I hadn’t ticked and then failed at! So it’s been a long-winded journey to get where I am now, and I’m still not sure if it’s the best choice, but at least I’m happy.

Which artists and designers inspire you?

Marcel Duchamp because he created an art movement all on his own – what an achievement! Eams. When I studied product design, I ended up thinking that there’s no need to create new furniture designs as Eams’ furniture is still the best design even after so many years. That’s when I moved towards 2D design. Tadanori Yokoo for his talent in his graphic design – he’s just amazing. Manga authors like Osamu Tezuka, Hayao Miyazaki, Akira Toriyama, Masashi Kishimoto, Eiichiro Oda… and many others. They’ve been my bible!

Miko is the character you designed for us. She is cute, funny and people love her! Tell us about the creative process that brought her to life.

I knew I wanted the socks to be pink and grey with some pattern on it. So that was already decided before the character. I thought it would be nice to give the character the dream of freedom, as they’re confined to shoes all day long! That’s when I started thinking about Pirates, who are free to go anywhere on the sea.

This Pirate freedom-ness was inspired by Japanese Manga One Piece. On a pirate ship everyone has an important role, but I wanted to create a cute, funny and lovable character whose job is to make everyone happy. It might sound like a useless job, but I think it’s important – especially when the ship is going through troubled water.

I gave my mother a pair of Mikos as a gift. She got a great reaction at an airport security check when she took off her shoes and was asked where she got them from!

Tell us about your cat, Monty.

I’ve always had cats in my life, mostly rescued stray cats. But I dreamt of keeping a “Pixie Bob” – a domestic cat breed that are the progeny of naturally occurring bobcat hybrids. They’re loyal, dog-like cats and can be taken for a walk on a lead!

Through a breeder of Pixie Bobs in London, I was introduced to an adult rescue cat called Monty. He was one of the most beautiful, wild but timid cats I’d ever seen. I immediately fell in love with him and took him home. Seven years later Monty’s become someone I can’t live without. He helps me on the computer and he sits at the front door to guard the street.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on several projects and exhibitions with my art partner Michael Burton. Here are some highlights:

  • A new project Domestic Survival that will feature in our research journal looks at how humans and animals manipulate each other in order to evolve for their future survival.
  • The Algaculture project tackles food shortages in the future and suggests re-designing how we fuel the body by looking at a new symbiotic relationship between humans and algae. This will be exhibited in Qatar in 2015.
  • A number of our works will be featured in books, including Design and Violence by Paola Antonelli and Jamer Hunt and a new publication on contemporary art and the life sciences written by William Myers.
  • Various park signs I’ve designed for Rookery Gardens in Streatham will be installed in 2015.

  • See Michiko’s work at:
    Twitter: @BurtonNitta