Interview: James White

It's been some time since we had someone interviewed here at Abduzeedo, but the wait is now over, and sure it was worth waiting. We had the opportunity to talk to James White, surely one of the most innovative designers out there.

Jame is a very talented, experienced designer from Nova Scotia, you probably have already seen his work and if you are like me you must have gotten very impressed with his style. And now we can learn a bit more from him.

1- Thanks for the opportunity of having you here. The Abduzeedo team really loves your work. So, tell me a bit of how did you start and discover that you wanted be a designer?

I started drawing when I was four years old and continued to do so all through school. I constantly got yelled at by teachers for doodling in class, but the temptation of holding a pencil with a blank piece of paper in front of me was far too great to ignore. My parents also had a Commodore 128 with a simple graphics program and an ink-ribbon printer that I used to make banners and posters for me and my friends, essentially my first experience using a computer to create things. After highschool I enrolled in Graphic Design at a local college, then Interactive Technology, both of which introduced me to Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash and the internet in one fell swoop. Upon graduation I landed a job as a website designer in 1998 and have been working in the industry ever since. All through my education and professional career I have never stopped working on my own art on my own time.

2- How do you come up with those amazing ideas and effects? Tips on how to create those effects?

I am a very nostalgic person and a lot of my ideas stem from my childhood. I was the kind of kid that got excited when I would see the NBC Special Presentation logo appear onscreen while watching television, because it inevitably led to Star Wars or Superman. It was that feeling I wanted to capture in my artwork, which led me to a retro-cosmic style directly inspired by network promo animations from the 70s and 80s, namely anything done by NBC.

My workflow is rather simple. I wrote a very simple program in Flash that allowed me to create random assortments of shapes that I export to a postscript file so I can edit them in Illustrator. From there I will clean up the exports, add gradients, and use brushes to bend my shapes into unconventional combinations. Then I port them into Photoshop one by one where I can overlap them, lay down colors, lighting effects, textures, etc.

In my opinion the most useful tool in Photoshop is the layer setting dropdown box. Overlay, Soft light, and Color Burn have changed my life.

3 - Tell us a bit of your career? Favorite project you worked on? Toughest project?

My career as a designer and as an artist are very split. By day I work as a designer for an agency where I create websites, identities, corporate materials, various print pieces, etc. It would be difficult to pick a favorite project because every client is unique in their own way, but the clients that set you free to explore style are essentially the best to work on. I use my own time outside of work to create my personal art, where I can be my own boss and critic. I learn new tricks and techniques both at the office and at home, so the two sides of my career really feed off of one another for mutual benefit. Client design work normally has set boundries where I can create within, but my own art is very open and as a result, far more challenging to develop a concept and execution.

But a highlight was certainly getting Commodore's blessing to use their 64 logo in one of my art pieces.

4 - Who are the designers you like and inspire you? And what sites do you visit, or what do you do to get inspiration?

To name a few of the classics, I love the works of Josef Muller-Brockmann, Mark Rothko, Piet Mondrian, Franz Kline, Ian Miller, and Georges Braque. All of these artists use typically simple ideas and shapes to create something unique and amazing. They are so good at their craft that they make complicated executions look easy. With the rise of the internet I was introduced to some of my favorite modern artists, such as Joshua Davis (, Sheppard Fairey (, Chuck Anderson (, Fatoe (, Mike Cina (, Scott Hansen ( and Robert Hodgin (

As far as inspirational websites go, I primarily use Flickr and Ffffound for my daily high-voltage dose of art. There is so much amazing art posted daily it's very hard not to get excited about it all. I also travel to Josh Spear (, the Canadian Design Resource (, Bittbox (, Design is Kinky (, Drawn ( and of course, Abduzeedo.

5 - Tell us about the apps you use? How long have you been using them?

I started using Photoshop and Illustrator in 1995, and started to learn Flash on my own in 1998. These three programs quickly became my primary arsenal and I rarely deviate from using them. I started using Photoshop at version 3, which when I think back seems infinitely impossible. It had no History palette, and only one undo! It was complete madness :)

6 - What about your hardware?

I use a Dell PC that I purchased 3 years ago and it continues to do me very well, other then working with big files in Photoshop that tend to chug up my processor a little. My next system will probably be a Mac laptop so I can be a bit more mobile with my work, and I hear the processors are more in tune to dealing with large print files.

7 - Again, thanks for the opportunity of talking to you. One last question: Any advice for designers out there, who, like me are willing to improve their skills and become a master?

My pleasure! The best advice I can give is to work hard. If creativity is in your blood, never ever stop utilizing it no matter how many frustrating moments may occur. The internet is a wonderful way of researching art, but don't only research what people are doing currently. There are riches to be found in the past, when people were creating amazing works of art before computers existed. Learn your tools and programs inside and out but always remember that art comes from your mind, not the keyboard or mouse. Think about what you love and draw inspiration from that.

Some works

James White Work, Interview for abduzeedo

James White Work, Interview for abduzeedo

James White Work, Interview for abduzeedo

James White Work, Interview for abduzeedo

James White Work, Interview for abduzeedo

James White Work, Interview for abduzeedo

James White Work, Interview for abduzeedo

James White Work, Interview for abduzeedo

For more works, information, and even buy some posters visit the links below: - The art of James White

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My Flickr stream

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