Interview with James Victore


I’d never heard of James Victore before, but I enjoyed reading this.

I had one instructor in my second year, the graphic designer Paul Bacon. He gave me a D. But when I dropped out of school, I went to his office and said that I’d like to apprentice. I didn’t even know what it meant, but I wanted to apprentice with him. He looked at me and put his pen down and told me that no one had ever asked him that before. Then he agreed to let me do it. I learned a huge lesson at that moment: You have got to ask. I got that apprenticeship because no one else had ever asked. So I started hanging out in Paul’s studio, looking over his shoulder. I’d get there in the morning and sweep; I didn’t really have any jobs. And then I’d hang out. When a desk became available, I tried to do some “real” design. Three months after I dropped out of SVA, I had put together a portfolio with three fake book jackets. I started showing my portfolio, and I got hired right off the bat. I’ve been working ever since.

I knew a guy in town, Pierre Bernard. I knew of his reputation, so I searched him out and arranged to meet him. He is an amazing French designer from Grapus, a design collective that broke up in 1989. He spent an afternoon with me, which was unheard of, since I was a nobody. As I was showing him my work—a greeting card I was doing at the time for a publisher—I bragged that I had an amazing client who gave me complete creative freedom. He looked at my work and said, “Sometimes complete creative freedom is not a good thing.” That was excellent. I don’t really want complete creative freedom. A lot of people look at my work and think I must have complete freedom, but that’s not what I do.

From the forthcoming How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer by Debbie Millman, excerpted at GraphicDefine (via Design Float).

7 thoughts on “Interview with James Victore

  1. Very interesting and a good read. It’s true that you never know where an opportunity will present itself. And then the difference in taking advantage of it, the interview provides a reminder, is sometimes just asking.

    Over just the last few years I’ve started to regret that I don’t and can’t draw. It didn’t come to me easily or naturally as a kid and, like a gravitational pull, was just drawn (ha!) to writing. I wish now that I’d also applied myself to learning to draw and paint. I never knew, but it would have been nice to have options beyond book design now.


  2. I knew you were going to say that. People often do. But I believe there are are times in our lives when we’ve gotten ourselves to points where it is entirely appropriate to say, “This is what and who I am,” and know that at least some of the items under that rubric are pretty much cast in stone. I rather like that notion. It means that we can voluntarily make ourselves whoever we want. But then, stand back, eventually, some of that is just us … period. Anyhow, I’m comfortable, I’ve been not a drawer for a very long time, and I’d like to think that words, perhaps, are better for it.

  3. I’m with India on this (and on most everything, except that she’s wrong that Dickens is unfun to read).

    It’s not just OK to try a new thing late in life, when you think you’ve figured out who you are: You must do what you think you can’t, rouse yourself from your comfort zone, and discover a new you. Every day.

    Learning new things (or relearning old things) throughout life is probably helpful in fighting off “old age” and mental atrophy. And it’s sure as hell more interesting than doing what you already know you can do.

  4. Well, I’ll compromise… I’ve gotten interested in typeface design. I’ll have to draw—don’t laugh; even this will be a bit of a project for me—letterforms by hand, at least for starters, before getting into software to complete the deal. This is, however, a long-term project, because this software and the typeface design thing, is like nothing else I’ve ever done. So in and out from working and finding work, I’ll be exploring this new stuff.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.