James Victore
April 28, 2003

by Armin Vit

Speak Up: Your work is some of the most unique and distinctive to surface in recent years; the first obvious question would be ‘who/what are your influences.’ But that is too easy and this is a Speak Up interview, so I’ll just phrase it like this ‘What the hell goes through your mind when you design’?

James Victore: As far as form goes, I really dig trying to make something new. I am always trying to invent. That plus the fact that I don’t make any distinction between “beautiful” and “ugly” always keeps me pushing to get somewhere new and surprise myself. I work very hard to surprise myself and to make myself laugh, the “Wait-til-they-get-a-load-of-this” kind of laugh. So I don't really concern myself too much with how it looks. I am much more interested in what the work says. Finding a small bit of truth in a job or client or piece and letting that be the focal point. That interests me. A lot.

SU: Most of your work tends to be... let’s use ‘shocking’ here, do you take pleasure in the response that your work elicits? Whether it’s admiration or repulsion?

JV: I really don’t concern myself with the reaction of any of my work. I don’'t care what my mom thinks of my work. I can’t. I’d have to care what everybody thinks, and that would not only be impossible, but I think it would be demeaning for the audience. I think a big fault in advertising is “focus groups” and other silly pseudoscientific surveys. It is very belittling to the public to treat them like that. To spoon-fed them because WE think they need it. What fucking hogwash. How rude. I like to think everyone is smart and capable of sorting through right and wrong and seeing through bullshit. So I give them the opportunity. We are all free to choose, walk away, stop reading, turn the channel, and hire someone else besides me. Oui?

The fact that I don’t make any distinction between “beautiful” and “ugly” always keeps me pushing to get somewhere new and surprise myself.

SU: Now that you have attained a certain reputation, is it easier to get away with doing whatever you want and feel like doing, or is it still a struggle with your clients in accepting your solutions?

JV: I have a reputation! Is it a good one? Fuckin’ A! Why am I always the last to hear of these things?... anyway, my French friends have a saying that goes a little like this “La lutte serais dure, mais pas triste” – “The struggle will be long, but not sad.” It is always going to be a struggle to get good ideas accepted. Even after a client has been educated and is accepting good work, you have to keep pushing them further. We designers don’t go it alone. We need brave, groovy, sexy clients. And I’ve got some of the best. And I’m always looking for more. It's always a struggle. Good thing I’m in it for the long haul.

SU: Few clients are willing to take any chances in some cases, using 7 point type is considered daring and risky. How do you manage to find clients that are open to doing something different? Or do you sit at your desk and they just come knocking on door knowing who is going to answer and what they are getting themselves into?

JV: As far as great clients I have really been blessed, and I work really fucking hard. I hand pick my clients, that way I can fire them. Clients need to be educated to what we can, and can’t, do for them. This takes a lot of work. Talking the talk, as they say. Not all of us are good at it or even interested in it. Rarely does a good one just walk in the door, we have to make them. I also pick and find clients that I am interested in. I can't work for Campbell’s soup. Campbell’s soup does not give me an erection. I'm working on a new client in the motocross/auto racing industry. Hell, this is easy work if you love what you do!

I have a reputation! Is it a good one? Fuckin’ A! Why am I always the last to hear of these things?

SU: Not many designers/illustrators can combine both graphics and typography hand-drawn techniques with computer technology as effectively as you do, what is your process when you are working? It must be an insane amount of back-and-forth between the two mediums.

JV: When I started out as a boy the computer was very new and I did not become exposed to it for a while. If you wanted a fancy dingbat, you made it. If you wanted a distressed type face, you made it. If you needed something... special, YOU MADE IT. Or you were a Modernist (Hoo ha, that’s fucking funny!) So I like making things with my hands. I like working with wood and fixing my motorcycles. I also think that the larger audience out there responds to work when they can see that a real human being made it. So much of the work today just looks as though it was spit out by a computer. It doesn’t have any fingerprints or cat hair on it. And, yes, it is a pain having to scan everything. I do like the technology aspect of design, although I personally don’t know how to do much of it myself. But I can't do my own taxes either, so what? How many things can you know or be good at?

SU: Hypothetical question: would you “sell out”? By that I mean doing any type of work (posters, ads, identities) for Big Corporate America clients? And when I say “sell out” I mean “really sell out,” letting the big bucks in, losing control of some of your creativity in exchange, succumbing to focus groups’ responses and guidelines. You know, the good stuff.

JV: Ooooh. Sell out! I dream of it. Yummmy! But, alas and alack, I don't think I'll ever get the chance.

I can’t make a book now, I’m just now doing good work. The rest of the stuff I’ve made was just the beginning. There will be a book. And it will be killer.

SU: 7. When are you going to take the web... well, by the balls? Is it a medium that interests you at all or do you feel it doesn’t have the possibilities of print?

JV: This is something else that I really want to jump all over, but the opportunity has not come...yet. I do TV stuff (I have an Emmy, do YOU have an Emmy?) so I love making things move and talk. The web has so many great opportunities, I’d love to really take it out for a spin sometime. I would first have to figure out what it is that I could contribute. I don’t want to just start floating buttons across the screen (Gawd I hate that shit). I think as with any work, we need to think about what our own experiences and uniqueness can add to this huge silly process. I don’t think enough designers understand their potential impact. We all have influence. But we don’t utilize it. We just start decorating. Not really thinking about what we are doing. Have I gone off on a tangent?

(PS I do dig your site, very lovely to look at and work with, I know my site is clunky to work with, it needs some working on)

SU: It’s just a matter of time, but when is the ‘Victore Book’ coming out? You know it’s the next natural, and logical, step to take right?

JV: I need to do more work. I'm too young. Too green. Plus I’d want it to have a larger scope than just “The James Victore Show.” I am onto a new idea. I have been working at this for a few years and I am just starting to get good. The world is opening up for me. I feel like a smoker who has just quit and can finally smell dinner. I am just realizing the full potential of my work and I now want to wield it like a large club with nails in it. I want to personally disprove the inequality between money and creativity that you mention in a previous question. I can’t make a book now, I’m just now doing good work. The rest of the stuff I’ve made was just the beginning. There will be a book. And it will be killer.

SU: Thanks James.

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