The gospel of design heavyweight James Victore: highlights from the 99% Conference

Ask for more! If James Victore doesn't get you fired up, nothing will.
Written by Sonya James, Contributor


Don't believe James Victore is fierce? Listen as he gets the Museum of Modern Art to do things they've never done before.

The gospel of James Victore is not new, but it is revolutionary; stop being distracted, be conscious and act with intention, ask for more creativity, and perhaps most unique to this fiery hip-mustachioed man, treat your work as a gift.

Artwork by James Victore

Victore is known internationally for his particular blend of fierceness and Yoda-like resolve. The brooklyn-based designer and educator shared his wisdom on getting paid to design at the 99% Conference in New York City. And while his gospel is not new, his unwieldy charisma and refusal to be nice for nice sake elevates it from the realm of cliche.

Victore's new book Victore or, Who Died and Made You Boss?, offers 25 years of work in an impressive volume designed by Paul Sahre with an introduction by Michael Bierut.

"Racism." Social poster. Self-authored. Silkscreen. 26" x 40" 1993. © James Victore

If this Baron-Munchausen-with-sex-appeal can't get the creative industry to stop plastering our virtual and physical spaces with boring uninspired images, who can?

Seriously, who can?

Let SmartPlanet know who inspires you to ask for more creativity, to fight the urge to fit in and keep quiet, to smother the inner critic and rejoice in your work?

Check out more coverage of the 99% Conference, including consulting guru Keith Yamashita on finding your superpower, author Jonah Lehrer on "grit" trumping talent, and improv comedy celebrity Charlie Todd on boosting productivity.

Artwork by James Victore

Editor-in-chief of 99%, Jocelyn K. Glei, interviewed Victore about running an independent design studio today. The following is excerpted from a longer piece, which you can read here.

You mentioned “making decisions” earlier as part of the way you function efficiently. Do you think a lot of people get bogged down by that?
Part of the problem these days is there’s so much choice. At some point, someone just has to say: We’re going to do it like this because I want to do it this way. Because, if you don’t, you’re going to be churning out oatmeal. You look at some graphic design today, and you can tell that nobody is in charge.

You have this quotation on your book cover from William James, “Distraction is the most corrosive disease of the 20th century.” Why’d you choose that?
Distraction today is this [points to my iPhone, which is recording our conversation]. I believe that these things are killing our discipline, killing our ability for solitude, and killing our ability to be bored. Children need to learn how to be bored. They don’t need to be entertained all the time.

So you like time away from computers. Do you do all of your sketching and writing on paper?
Paper, and not in the studio. I’ll go to a bar or a restaurant. When I did the book, I left the studio every morning and I went to the park and sat for an hour, hour and half. I brought an idea, and I wrote longhand in one of these big sketchbooks. Then I would come into the studio and work during the day. Afterwards, at 4 or 5 o’clock, I’d go to my bar, sit with a beer or two, and refine it. Or write on a new idea. So it became this really nice process of every day. And it became a habit.

I can’t do the think-work in the studio. The studio’s for putting stuff together – for work-work. And if we’re not doing work-work, then we leave. How many great architecture ideas have been drawn on napkins? Because they’re free, they’re not thinking about work.

Images: James Victore sketches reprinted from 99%

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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