Over the next little while, we’d like to highlight some of the giants of the online Canadian creative community who help bring creatives of similar interest together through their words. We’ve profiled Heather Morton, Anthony Kalamut, Steve Zelle and Janine Vangool to date, and this time we’ll be interviewing Halifax designer and blogger James White.
James goes by the “design name” Signalnoise, and is a frequent contributor to a variety of design blogs. His striking, retro-futuristic, 1980s-inspired style of graphic design has amassed a legion of fans, and he’s recently officially set up shop on his own. He hosts a weekly live broadcast through his website, giving him and his listeners a chance to talk shop, and is about to launch his own t-shirt and product line. He recently spoke at FITC in Toronto, and back in January he was one of the leading figures behind the Art for Haiti movement which popped up in the wake of the Haiti earthquake disaster.
Update: Yesterday (Wednesday, July 14) James announced the opening of his line of Signalnoise apparel and official store, to complement his existing poster work. Click here to see the shirts.
Without further ado, on to the interview, after the jump…
What made you decide to start your blog?
The main motivation for me starting Signalnoise.com as a blog platform was the need to have something easily updatable where I could talk about whatever projects I have on the go. It didn’t matter if the projects were in a finished state or not, so long as it was an outlet to talk about my progress as a designer or artist. Having a nice blog made me WANT to update it, therefore it pushed me to do more work in order to keep the content fresh. When I got into the web industry in 1998 a content management system costed $10,000, far out of my reach. But in 2010 there are platforms all over the place that are free to download, I really hope others realize how damn lucky we are right now.
What philosophy do you hold your blog to, if any?
My main philosophy for Signalnoise.com is to keep the content personal. The content that I offer either deals with my own work, the processes behind that work, little tips that I think important while working in this industry, and inspirational stuff I find around the web. I like making a distinction between my blog and other “design portal/community blogs” that are out there. While I love those blogs and read a lot of them everyday, I would prefer Signalnoise to be from my own perspective and the content reflect what I enjoy. My limited the kind of content I offer by those 4 items I mentioned above it allows me to focus on my own design work instead of becoming a writer.
How has your blog been received?
The response has been amazing, far beyond anything I ever imagined. When I started the blog in late 2007 I did it only because I enjoyed it and it motivated me to work. I never expected to have a “readership”, and honestly that wasn’t really my goal. After a few months of keeping content fresh on my blog and Flickr, a few blog design blogs showcased my work (most notably Bittbox.com and Abduzeedo.com) which exposed me to a much larger audience. Suddenly my pageviews went through the roof and I started noticing regular familiar names commenting on my work. I managed to touch base with like-minded creatives from all over the world who shared the same enthusiasm for art and design that I have. That pushed me to start selling posters so I set up an online store to offer my work to those interested. I’ve sold posters to people all over the world and Signalnoise has become a wonderful community of great folks who I converse with every day.
What role do you think blogs like yours might play in the creative community, compared to the more traditional avenues of magazines, awards, etc?
Blogs are a far more personal way of looking at people’s work, offering comments and sharing cool things with other people. I love magazines, but leafing through them adds a separation between me and the artist, where a blog (or Twitter for that matter) offers this direct line to the artists’ desktop. These direct connections are what a community IS, and there is a very strong network of artists, designers and bloggers out there doing what they love. I know a lot of people who don’t even get paid to maintain their blog, they do it because they have enthusiasm for the medium they are involved in. That self-initiative is very inspiring to everyone.
Where do you see it going from here?
I’m not really sure. But what I have noticed over the past 6 months is a rise in video content in the design blogosphere. People, myself included, are starting to do more live broadcasts where they can hit their audience on a very personal level which I really enjoy. You can choose to be a silent face on the internet if you want, but I would rather be along side everyone else and share ideas, inspiration and advice. That’s why I do the Signalnoise Broadcasts, to let people know I’m just a regular guy like everyone else trying to sort out this nutty industry. So if I were to make a prediction on where this designer blog thing might go, I would say a move toward more video content. Hell, maybe we’ll all end up on TV someday.
And finally, what other blog (preferably Canadian) would you like to see profiled?
I would like to see the guys at Inspiredology.com have a profile done. Chad and Andrew are real cool dudes, they’re good at what they do and they’re both stoked about the industry. The troops over at Ventilate.ca are also wicked. Great to see fellow Canadians contributing to this amazing field we’re all part of.