Where did you learn your craft?
I’ve always been one of those people who like making art. Drawing, painting, taking pictures and making videos for fun. I was exposed to printing presses and typefaces in High School, and then everything kind of merged into my goal of becoming a graphic designer. I took a two-year design course at Seattle Central Community College (an excellent and amazing program, by the way), but other than that, all of my learning and experience have been on-the-job or on-my-own.
What or who influences your design work?
My goal, always, is to let anything and everything influence my design work: the sight of someone wearing an old or a new style of clothing, a quote from an interesting book, a movie that demonstrates a whole new way of looking at things, an amazing work of art done by either an artist or a non-artist, the shape of a beautifully designed car, the colors in a magazine, a typeface that I come across on a website, an interesting home or building… anything and everything. (And that’s one reason I keep a camera with me as often as possible: so I can snap photos of things that catch my eye.)
Has the digital age ruined the excitement and enjoyment of purchasing a tangible ‘thing’?
Well, it’s true that the digital age has changed a lot of things, but for me, I wouldn’t say that life feels all that different from the pre-Macintosh era. I still get excited about purchasing tangible art tools like a new digital camera or a new pad of watercolor paper, and I also get excited about semi-tangible things like new-and-improved software, etc. All in all, I’m okay with the digital age. I just try hard not to get sucked into things like video games and excessive texting or FaceBook use—that way I still have time for all the non-digital activities that make me happy.
How important is branding in relation to the market success of a product looking to be the next big ‘thing’?
Good branding is huge. Yes, certain products and ideas succeed without strong branding, but these are the exception. Smart, timely and attractive branding definitely makes the road to commercial success a whole lot smoother for any product. People will always “judge a book by it’s cover,”—just as they’ll always judge products by their branding and packaging.
If you had to pick one piece of iconic design from the last century as a personal favourite, what would that be and why?
I love looking at the work of Paul Rand. I have a book about him on my shelf, and every time I look at it I am in awe. Simple, strong, and communicative work that never seems to lose its punch.
What’s your favourite album cover of all time?
My favorite album covers (actual album covers—the kind with an actual record album inside) mostly come from my formative years in the 1980s and 1990s. Each of these caught my eye and made me think of greater things than I might have already been thinking about:
Meat is Murder, the Smiths
London Calling, the Clash
Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd
Talking Heads, Talking Heads
Many thanks to Jim for taking the time to answer our questions. Check out Jim’s work at his website here.