Interview with Designers James White and Fabio Sasso
I had our friend Simon interview two talented and in-demand designers James White aka Signalnoise and Fabio Sasso of Abduzeedo. James and Fabio are speaking at the first ever Montreal Meets on Tuesday, January 25th at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. You can learn out more about Montreal Meets in my introductory post.
Fabio and James are two designers who embody the lifestyle of a Weapon of Mass Creation. That’s why we chose to sponsor Montreal Meets.
Let’s Chat with James and Fabio
GoMediaZine: James, Fabio, could you provide a quick, 3 to 5 sentence introduction about yourselves for our readers (in the unlikely event some of them don’t know you)?
James White: I’m a visual artist and designer living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. I’ve been working in the design field for about 12 years now and have worked on everything from websites, identity design and print collaterals for companies such as Google, Nike, Universal Music, Wired Magazine, Toyota, VH1, etc. I own and operate the art & design blog Signalnoise.com which serves as my connection to the online design world, and also the Signalnoise Store where I sell my designer posters and t-shirts. I like heavy metal, video games and comic books.
GoMediaZine: Could you guys talk about your debuts as designers? Did you become freelancers right away? Did you have a part time job at first? Did you work in a studio with other people?
James White: I worked with various local companies in Halifax for 10 years, mostly in office settings. By day, I would go to work and design websites and print stuff for local clients. I was hired right out of school in 1998, part of the big web boom at the time so I got a lot of experience right off the bat. By night, I would go home and continue working on my personal projects like my website, my own comic books, children’s books, rave flyers, anything cool I could apply my design skills to. I never really stopped, sometimes staying up until 3am working on my own stuff. After working like this for 10 years with no real direction, I decided to turn my then stagnant website, Signalnoise into a design blog to properly house my work and give me the opportunity to talk about design and processes.
Fabio Sasso: My first design job was an internship in a printshop, the main product was stickers so most of the times I had to prepare the arts to be printed and some times I had to create some designs too. After that decided that I wanted to focus more on the web, it was 99.
GoMediaZine: Can you talk a bit about how you grew into professional designers? How did you measure your growth? Through more technical knowledge, more clients, more pay, more press?
James White: Professionally, sure we could adequately gauge our levels of “success” through things like money and clients. But I think the level of success is better measured with how well you know yourself. Having a bunch of clients doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing the work you want to do. I think there comes a point in every artist/designer’s life where they take a step back from their work to look at what they enjoyed, what was successful and what they learned over the years. Personally, I think this is the key to growing as a designer because it brings focus to what you ARE doing, and what you WANT to be doing. Positivity resonates in the work we do, and people take notice of that.
Fabio Sasso: I believe I started growing more in the moment I started sharing my knowledge and everything I was learning while practicing. That really gave me more exposure.
GoMediaZine: You both seem to have achieved a lot of passionate fans and readers. What do you think was the reason why those readers are so loyal to your sites? Why do you think it’s difficult for other designers to cultivate such an avid readership?
James White: I think it’s simply the fact that my readership and I have things in common, we all tend to like the same nerdy stuff and enjoy using that inspiration to create things. As I said earlier, positivity resonates in what we do, and I try to keep everything on Signalnoise.com as positive as I can so readers can have a nice break from their day to swing by and see some cool art and learn about other designers. I keep things honest, where if I’m heavily inspired by another work I’ll post it and put links to where they can check out the source. In such a competitive industry I decided a while ago to do things differently, to forget about competition and enforce the fact that we’re all in this together. My readership all feel like friends to me, and I like that.
In terms of other designers trying to cultivate a readership, I’d say just forget about it and do the work you like doing. When I started the blog in 2007 my intention was never to get people to my site to raise my pageviews. I didn’t care, I just wanted a nice blog to update with my art and the rest happened completely by chance. Positivity has an odd way of coming full circle, man.
Fabio Sasso: In my opinion it’s all about doing what you love because with that you will be able to be consistent in what you do. It takes time to create a readership and I believe the main reason you create that is because they see that you are passionate about what your doing the same way they are.
GoMediaZine: Let’s talk about Montreal Meets. Can you tell us more about it?
James White: Montreal Meets is an event organized by my pal François Hoang, and will be taking place on January 25th at Concordia University in Montreal. Myself and Fabio Sasso of Abduzeedo fame are being brought in to do hour-long presentations each about art, design, inspiration and advice for a packed room of young and seasoned designers. It’s a wonderful way to get people motivated to create and to talk with like-minded creative individuals whom I only know through the internet. François really knocked it out of the park, and we’re really looking forward to getting onstage.
Fabio Sasso: Montreal Meets will be a great opportunity to share experiences and talk with the Montreal design community. It’s also a great initiative of François Hoang, I’m really excited because of that and because I will be sharing the stage with James White, I am a huge fan of his, since the first time I saw some of his works a few years ago.
GoMediaZine: Have you done speaking engagements before? If so, why are you doing them? Is this something every designer should consider doing to further his or her career? What are the benefits you get out of it?
James White: Yes, I’ve spoken at a few other events, most notably being FITC Toronto 2010 where I did my ‘Back to the Future’ talk. I really enjoy doing presentations like this because it’s a much better way to connect to the audience when you’re face to face, rather then in a tiny box on a computer screen. Being from Halifax, a small city, I rarely get the opportunity here to talk about Photoshop to any great length, so any chance I get to run around onstage and talk about Blending Modes, I’m all for it! Woohoo! I’m not sure presenting is for everyone, I know quite a few people that are mortified of standing in front of 200 people to speak, but I think it’s a lot of fun and brings with it a new set of skills where you really need to analyze your processes in order to speak about them clearly. I really enjoy it, and want to do more.
The main benefit I get out of speaking at events like this is the connection to other artists and designers. I know there are a lot of questions and confusion about how the industry works and what a young designer can do to get on the right path, and I like being there in person to let them know it will be alright and remind them to not lose sight of their personal creative goals.
Fabio Sasso: Yes I have done a few, and I think it’s a great experience because you have to organize and communicate your ideas in a concise way, it’s pretty much the same thing we designers do in our design solutions but talking. It’s also very challenging.
GoMediaZine: Do you want to reveal a few details about the program or is it a surprise?
James White: There are a few surprises mixed in with my jokes and banter, but the portion I’m most looking forward to is the Hobo With a Shotgun case study I’ll be doing. I included all of my progress pieces as the poster took shape and I’ll be telling stories and explaining things as I go. Outside of that, I’ll be offering up a short bio on me and my work, how I do what I do, what inspires me, and an advice section. I’m really looking forward to showing this new presentation.
Fabio Sasso: I will be talking about the importance of practicing and sharing your knowledge to evolve as professional. I will show some cases and tell some stories of how Abduzeedo started.
GoMediaZine: Will we see you at WMC Fest come this June? Will our fans get the chance to meet you?
James White: Unfortunately I will be in Barcelona for OFFF when the WMC Fest is happening. So sorry, however I’ll let you know if things change as I would love to come visit.
Fabio Sasso: I will definitely go, especially because I am moving to the US in February so it is going to be easier for me to attend to the WMC.
GoMediaZine: A goodbye note?
James White: Thanks very much for the coverage and help with the Montreal Meets event, guys. It really means a lot when creatives come together to help one another out. We’re all in this together, man. Keep rockin’!
Fabio Sasso: Keep practicing and learning always. Also remember that the easiest way to get motivation to do that, in my opinion, is through sharing knowledge.