Players Originals è una nuova sezione nella quale pubblicheremo alcune delle migliori interviste in lingua originale. Potete trovare la traduzione di questo pezzo nel sesto numero di Players.
James White is one of the net’s best known and most respected graphic designers, thanks to a highly personal style that blends nostalgia with futurism. His works are dazzling: full of colors, flares and warmth. He has worked with big clients such as Wired, Motorola and MTV, and he’s very active on the online design community. We’d like to thank James both for this interview and for making a special cover for the last issue of our magazine. You can follow him on his blog or on twitter @signalnoise.
Can you give us a brief introduction to your current work?
Signalnoise Studios is my 1-man operation where I create personal work such as posters and t-shirts, as well as work with clients on their various projects. My work tends to have a nostalgic vibe where I pull elements and topics from my childhood to use in my art. Wild colors, chrome type, big flares … anything that screams “awesome” is the kind of thing I enjoy.
What inspired you to become a designer?
I’ve been drawing ever since I could hold a pencil at the age of 4, and continued to draw all the way through school. Once I graduated from high school it was a natural progression to get into a creative field, so I enrolled in Graphic Design at a local community college. It was a no-brainer because I loved creating things anyway. I was taught how to use Photoshop and Illustrator which was an excellent extension of my drawing abilities. Becoming a designer was very natural, I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Your style is deeply influenced by the seventies and the eighties. What is that you find so fascinating in that era?
That’s when I did the bulk of my growing up. I was born in 1977, so that era is when I started getting into television, toys, movies and everything else from that time. It all had a very specific aesthetic, lots of colors, hilarious effects, and, sometimes, funny typography. When I think back to the stuff I liked as a 7-year-old it all looked very cartoony and fun. But at the same time there were the serious things that are overlooked, like television logo animations with spectrums and flares. It looked really advanced for the time but had a certain roughness about it because they were largely made before computers were prevalent. I look back at all that stuff with fond memories, and I let that childlike enthusiasm influence my work today.
Your portfolio includes pieces inspired by video games, heavy metal and cult movies. What draws you to those topics?
Once again, my childhood. When I was a kid I was constantly surrounded by friends who were into comics, video games, all the things a typical boy in the 80s was into. I was always excited for Saturday morning cartoons, a new action figure, or a new Star Wars movie. I loved all that stuff and it never really left me. I still enjoy watching the films and tv shows I loved as a kid. Back then it was just blind enthusiasm, I wasn’t into it to be “cool” or because I felt I had to be in order to be accepted, I loved it because it was just awesome.
What works from the last decade have inspired you the most, design wise?
Probably internet culture. When I first got into the web industry back in the late ’90s I was constantly surfing sites of my favourite digital artists, guys like Joshua Davis who were forging their own path and using new software to create art and design. Couple that with internet art portal sites, like K10k, and I had a steady stream of art to look at every day. At the time I was still learning Photoshop and Illustrator so to have that work as inspiration was a huge motivator for me.
As a designer in the internet era, what is the greatest professional and artistic achievement? Is print still the holy grail, or being featured in an important website can be as satisfying?
I don’t know. I never look at it as “digital vs. print” because I see both mediums as being important. It’s ultimately up to the artist as to where they would like to see their work end up. I release many pieces that only reside on the web, while others are designed specifically for a poster or t-shirt. I don’t think there is any one answer as to what is the greatest thing you can achieve online, that goal changes from artist to artist.
Does your workflow change radically as technologies evolve?
Not really. When it comes to keeping up with new software, technology, gadgets, effects or whatever, I’m a real hillbilly. I’m always the last guy to get the “new thing”, and by then it’s the “old thing”. The way that I create my work doesn’t have any bearing on new technology at all. If I come up with a concept I’ll use the tools that I have available to pull it off, that’s how I’ve always worked.
Designers are often see as reclusive characters, but you are extremely social with your web presence, both in reaching out to the fans, dealing with current issues and exposing fellow designer’s work. How important is it for you to connect with the public? Do you feel that it impacts your artistic output?
It’s really important to me, yeah. Firstly, I really like connecting with fellow creative people online because it’s a wonderful motivator for me to create new work. Surrounding yourself with like-minded peers is awesome and we tend to cheer each other on. At the same time, my work might motivate others to do the same. Then when I get asked to speak at conferences it’s the perfect chance to meet these people for real. Another aspect to my online presence is the weekly Signalnoise Broadcast where I answer questions from viewers about process stuff, client work, industry topics, etc. I think everyone should give a little back to the community, without which it would be hard for us all to find work.
The growing ease of use and availability of design software has led to an explosion of online design communities, blurring the line between professionals and enthusiasts. Is this a problem for committed, career designers?
I don’t believe so. There will always be a distinction between enthusiasts and professional designers in their caliber of work. The online design community is a sprawling, vibrant group who I love conversing with every day. Seeing so many people putting in their own time on personal projects is incredibly inspirational and I can’t get enough of it. Signalnoise would not be able to exist to the extent it does without its faithful readership brought about by the community. It’s wonderful.
Do you have any special advice to young designers trying to get noticed in the web?
Good work should come before promotion. Focus your efforts on getting better before you start trying to get people to your site. Forgot about “getting noticed”, that’s a by-product of having a solid portfolio, a good work ethic, and a positive attitude. Having a bunch of Twitter followers doesn’t make you a good designer. When you truly know your tools and create your own concepts, people will notice.