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James Victore

James Victore is an artist who's stunning, expressive typography was born out of his passion for creating.

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Finding Your Voice

James Victore is a designer and fine artist, who’s work is part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art. His stunning, expressive typography has helped to define his work, and is born out of the passion that he feels for the act of creating. He’s always known what he wanted to do, and has spent years whittling away the perfection so many of us suffer from to deliver work that is authentic, vulnerable, and bold. Because personality and humanity are the most important parts of his work.

In this episode, Chris talks to James about his life and work - From being given paper, pencil, and old design annuals as a child, to leaving school because he had a vision for his life and work, to a career with an ultimate goal of “being James Victore” and being paid for it. James and Chris talk life, work, and the push and pull between commercialism and artistry, and, more importantly, why James feels you don’t have to separate the two.

Interested in James's course on creativity and finding your voice? Head on over to Your Work Is A Gift to learn more, and use code DO50 for $50 off.

Finding Your Voice

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May 10

Finding Your Voice

Be Bold. Be Confident. Never Surrender.

James Victore is a designer and fine artist, who’s work is part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art. His stunning, expressive typography has helped to define his work, and is born out of the passion that he feels for the act of creating. He’s always known what he wanted to do, and has spent years whittling away the perfection so many of us suffer from to deliver work that is authentic, vulnerable, and bold. Because personality and humanity are the most important parts of his work.

In this episode, Chris talks to James about his life and work - From being given paper, pencil, and old design annuals as a child, to leaving school because he had a vision for his life and work, to a career with an ultimate goal of “being James Victore” and being paid for it. James and Chris talk life, work, and the push and pull between commercialism and artistry, and, more importantly, why James feels you don’t have to separate the two.

Interested in James's course on creativity and finding your voice? Head on over to Your Work Is A Gift to learn more, and use code DO50 for $50 off.

About
Stewart Schuster

Stewart Schuster is a Writer, Director, Camera Operator, and Editor. He is a graduate of Watkins College of Art & Design in Nashville, TN. He loves making and watching films.

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Be Bold. Be Confident. Never Surrender.

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Episode Transcript

James:                                                
We're all born wildly creative. The guy on the roof across the street fixing someone's roof, wildly creative guy. Could be a genius, could be a painter. Wakes up in the morning with brilliant ideas, but just doesn't follow through on them because of these prerecorded voice. No, you've got to go to work. No, you've got a family. No, you have to do this. No, you have to ... Right? And those voices come originally from family.

Chris:                                                
My next guest is James Victore, and you may know of him from several different touchpoints. Maybe you've seen one of his works in the Museum of Modern Art, maybe two of them you've seen. Maybe you've seen these big bold, expressive phrases and ideas. These concepts distilled into some words. And you see his handiwork, his hand is in the work. And maybe you've seen that or maybe you've seen him speaking on his stages where I met you for the first time in person. I've met you online before, James. But there's some things that I guess surprise me about you. And full disclosure, I don't know that much about you. I've known about your work for a really long time. I purchased your books before we even knew that we should be talking to each other. And I see you on stage, very natural, warm, charismatic. Like something is not ... Maybe it's my prejudice that I just thought a guy who writes the way you do, using the language that you do, Feck Perfuction. I hope I said that right because I'm scared to say that.

James:                                                
Yeah.

Chris:                                                
I think of you as really anti-establishment, a rebel, but I think there's rebel but a rebel with a heart. There is this humanity that emanates from you. I think maybe you're a romantic, I don't know if you would describe yourself as such.

James:                                                
Oh, yeah.

Chris:                                                
As a dreamer, as a lover of things and deeply passionate person.

James:                                                
Yeah.

Chris:                                                
As a person who's not afraid to connect with people. And here's the other thing, you're a really fit guy, too. How dare you throw that on such a moment?

James:                                                
You go on, you go on.

Chris:                                                
Please. Less about you, more about me, please. Yeah, you're really fit. I saw you walking around and I'm like, "Look at the triceps on this guy. What's going on here?" I was there with a couple of my friends, with David Tallis. I'm like, "Dude, I can do some pushups on stage or something. I got to get pumped up because it's a gun show here with James. What's going on?"

James:                                                
That's very sweet of you. Thank you.

Chris:                                                
We don't usually associate designers and artists with being physically fit. Why are you so fit?

James:                                                
Oh, I've got two little kids and I've got a young wife and I got to keep up with them. I also just love it. I just love it. I've been a long distance runner since before high school, so I've always run. And I am kind of classic alpha in that I am only happy, and I shouldn't say this too loud, I'm only happy when I'm doing shit. I'm only happy when I'm making. I'm only happy when I'm producing things that I know are going to make money. And I'm only happy when I'm exercising or active. I'm not very good hanging out at the beach, sitting in a lawn chair with a drink. I got to go to the beach and go surfing or got to go run up and down. So being physically fit and active, I think, just goes hand in hand.

                                                     
And it's funny about that kind of dichotomy that you felt or that pole that, "Wait, this guy is that guy?"

Chris:                                                
Right.

James:                                                
Early on in my career, because of the political and social and cultural work that I did that had tooth to it, I think people saw the work and didn't know me. And what happens when you do that is you misconstrue passion for anger. So people think I was the anger young designer. No.

Chris:                                                
Yeah, I can see that.

James:                                                
I wasn't, I was passionate. I give a shit. And I still give a shit. And now I give a shit for the other people who make design. I mean, under the influence of Shannon, my new partner and wife, my website is no longer jamesvictore.com. Me, me, me, me, me, me, me. My website is yourworkisagift.com. That's huge. We want to be about other people. I've had a great and I'm having a great career, like you, and you want to share it. I want other people to have better careers. I want to facilitate their journey through this stuff.

Chris:                                                
Right. And I want to ask you a lot about this idea about Your Work is a Gift and the story that you shared, and I want you to share with our audience. But before we do that, you mentioned careers. I'm just curious how many careers has James Victore had?

James:                                                
I got a pal back in New York, a designer pal back in New York. And he says, "They say most people get three acts, three phases [inaudible 00:05:22]." He says, "You're on like number seven."

                                                     
I have had one career. I see it as one career. I started very early on. I moved to New York at 19 and I knew what I freaking wanted. To the point that after two years of school, I was asked to leave and I was happy about leaving design school and started working immediately. But I knew what I wanted to do. And since the beginning, my work has always been about what it says, not what it looks like. But that doesn't mean that I don't care. And feck perfuction is about doing your best work, not letting perfection stop you in the form of perfection or procrastination or self-doubt, or too much thinking, or whatever. So my work has always been about what it says. And now it's just whittled down to really what it says. And the visuals are just the teaspoon of sugar to get these larger ideas across. So I think I've had just one long arc career. And basically the details of how I perform and the audience and the intention has changed a little bit. It's always been the same.

Chris:                                                
Okay, fair enough. I like that. I guess the way I was looking at is you taught for a period of time in your career.

James:                                                
Yep.

Chris:                                                
You're working professional. Now, you've created a course or a subscription community. You're a public speaker. You're an author. You're an artist, not just a designer. So the works that you've done, and you've done something that very few designers have been able to do, which is to have work that's considered art.

James:                                                
Yeah.

Chris:                                                
So that's why I'm like ... I see lots of maybe you might see as one continuous arc. I see these peaks and I wouldn't say valleys, but different spikes in what you're doing.

James:                                                
Yeah. But even the artwork is I paint in words. So it's still ideas and it's still typography and it's still somewhat design based. Much like Jasper Johns or Robert Motherwell because they use a lot of typographically-driven pieces. Or for me to go back early influences were like Picasso and some of the boys back then because they did a lot of posters, Toulouse-Lautrec. Majority of his work is posters. There's a lineage of artists who were technically graphic designers, worked with shape and form and color and type.

Chris:                                                
Can you describe your own style of putting thoughts on paper? How do you describe that style?

James:                                                
I think the word that I would use, the thing that comes up, is immediacy. I don't want it to feel like work, first of all. I want it to feel immediate. One thing I urge, especially when I have the opportunity to talk to younger designers, I tell them, "Listen, do yourself a favor and don't become a designer." Because designers tend to think like designers, they read all the same books, they dress the same. And what happens then is you teach yourself that there is an answer out there that you don't have, and that's not correct. Your answer comes from your opinion and your voice. And I want to use my opinion and my voice and I want to get it on the paper in the most immediate fashion.

                                                     
The detriment of that is sometimes I do things that are somewhat illegible. I don't have a ton of clients. I don't seek that work right now. But historically, I had clients pull things back because they "couldn't read it". I either alter it or I say, "What couldn't you read?" And they say, "Well, the G in gift." And I'm like, "Now, wait a second. I don't quite understand that. You can read it. It just took a little bit of time." And I'm fine with that. I don't mind when people have to think. I give them the benefit of the doubt that beyond a client, that my audience is intelligent and will make the effort. And if they don't, then they're not my audience.

Chris:                                                
I think some young people, especially I'm assuming quite a bit of our audience are younger, at least in their pursuit of their career, and they don't quite understand why one person would work harder to make something unique and risk being harder to interpret than to make it super clear. Here's the thing. Whenever ... This was a controversial thing, so let's introduce into the conversation a new logo. I'd love to get your opinion and your take on it, and then I'll share my opinion because I've not spoken about this before. The internet designers, all of them were up in arms about how the new Kia logo was illegible and people were Googling, what is this company?

James:                                                
Yeah.

Chris:                                                
So there's a very strong opinion about it. I'll give you a couple of seconds here to think about what your opinion is. And then what is James Victore take on the redesign of the Kia logo?

James:                                                
That's a great question because I remarked, I saw it early on and I'm driving along and I'm like, "Oh, that's the new Kia logo." Because I had driven by ... There's a strip that I have to drive by here that has all the car dealerships and I see it has the old literally spelled out K-I-A and then it has the new one. And I thought, "Oh, that's pretty funky. I dig that." And then somebody peed in the pool, because once you see it one way, you don't see the other. But somebody peed in the pool and said, "Oh, did you see the controversy about the KN logo?" And I was like, "What? Oh, shit, now you just ruined it because now I cannot see but KN." And I think business wise, there were a bunch of different ways they could have handled that. I don't know, I guess they're maintaining it, right? Are they just keeping it, Chris? Do you know what ... I haven't seen-

Chris:                                                
Yeah, I don't think they have any attention of changing it to anything else.

James:                                                
No. No. And part of it ... Two things. One, it could be a paint splatter. And if they do a really good job in a very short time, everybody will recognize that paint splatter as Kia. I mean, when UPS changed their logo from the Paul Rand logo to the current one, people were like, "Whoa." Nobody's there anymore.

Chris:                                                
No.

James:                                                
Nobody's there anymore. I'm not saying I love nostalgia, I'm not saying I hate change or that I love change, but I am saying we can get used to things, and that's just human nature. It's funny because I was sitting at breakfast this morning with my kids and my son was like ... We have the bongmama jelly, which is the gingham tablecloth looking cover on it, and a handwritten, literally a black and white handwritten basically, label. And he says how he liked the thing, how it looked like a tablecloth. I'm like, "This is what I do. When we go to the grocery store this afternoon, we're going to go to the jelly section and look at all the jellies and figure out which one you would buy and why?" Do you want it because it looks like someone's grandmother made it? Or do you want it because ... What are the things that attract us to these?

                                                     
And if something is illegible ... Or, for example, if you go to the grocery store and there's some new jelly and it's all in French and you don't read French, you're like, "That's interesting. I'm going to take that home because I'm cool, because I want to be erudite, because I want to be international. And you bring it home and it tastes like shit. There's a problem. So if Kia just does a good job, stays on course, yes, I would not want to be the guy who did that, who never saw KN. You just bring it home and show it to your kids. And they're like KN. I wouldn't want to be the guy who did that. But I think if they do a really good job like FedEx, like UPS, just do a damn good job and nobody will complain because would complain to the ends of the earth if your service was bad or if your car sucked. But if your logo was illegible to me for five minutes, I don't know. Again, we could talk about the new, what is it, the We Love New York thing.

Chris:                                                
Yeah.

James:                                                
Same thing, same thing. The We Love New York thing, I detest because it's gone the way of all flesh. It looks like an emoji, which is like, "Oh, okay, I get it." Emoji, lazy typography. Okay, whatever.

Chris:                                                
So here's where I have some problems. Everybody seems so smart and so talented on the internet, but they're really not that talented. They're not that smart.

James:                                                
True.

Chris:                                                
So you know a while ago people were up in arms about all these luxury brands like Helveticizing everything that they do, they stripped away, like Burberry did it. A bunch of brands just moved towards very simple blocks and syrup typefaces. And what they're saying is, in one breath, we want funkiness, we want individualism, we want heritage, and we love the intricacies. And even if it's not legible and that easy to use and apply in many different things. So we hate these new marks. And then on the other side, we have Kia, the old logo, which is highly legible, but boring and kind of, in my opinion, ugly.

James:                                                
Yeah.

Chris:                                                
And we had this new form that becomes maybe beyond just a wordmark becomes an icon, which I think is wonderful.

James:                                                
Yeah.

Chris:                                                
Anybody with ... I'm sorry to say this, I'm going to hurt a lot of people here. Half a brain can figure this out. We've done tests before where they literally scramble letters and words and you could still read it because what we don't do is we're not actually looking at individual letters. We're recognizing shapes. So the people who know who spend a lot of money working on these things, developing their craft, they know what they're doing. Not always, but they know what they're doing.

James:                                                
Yeah.

Chris:                                                
So everybody's just relaxed. We want personality, but when the personality doesn't agree with the way we think, that we want it to be boring.

James:                                                
Yeah.

Chris:                                                
So for me, I look at the larger picture, the business model. I'm agreeing with you. If the car's a piece of crap, I don't care how good your logo is. And if the car is great, conversely, I don't care how bad your logo is, it doesn't matter because I'm not buying the car to drive the logo.

James:                                                
Yeah.

Chris:                                                
I'm buying it because it's a piece of moving sculpture. There's a visceral connection with the machine and the sound, it's not the logo because, let's face it, car companies have notoriously bad logos, just the bad cars.

James:                                                
And bad cars. I mean, ugly cars.

Chris:                                                
Yeah, ugly cars, too. So there's more sins to fight over here.

James:                                                
Yeah.

Chris:                                                
But here's where I think people are missing the bigger picture, and this is where I think we're going to bring it back to you in a second here. You love maybe a BMW. Most people don't even know where that symbol comes from. Can you even read it? No. Because over time, like many things, you associate a unique symbol mark, word mark, with an idea of feeling of a consistent product or service. Mercedes has a three-pointed star. Many times people who are asked to draw it, they draw the P symbol. They didn't even know the symbol. And nobody's complaining about it. So it's like everybody's just relaxed. And I think it's a big, bold, and smart move for Kia and companies like Kia to move away from letter forms and moving into iconography.

                                                     
So hence, I never saw it as a KN and I could still unsee it. It doesn't bother me at all. It could be a lightning bolt for all I care. Lamborghinis is a bull. Ferrari's lettering is terrible from just a purely design point, but I'm not buying it for that.

James:                                                
Yeah.

Chris:                                                
Okay. So when it comes to you and you writing something and somebody's like, "Well, the G isn't quite legible, James," now they're asking you to change it.

James:                                                
Yeah.

Chris:                                                
To move away from why they hired you in the first place is I think what you do is you inject a lot of personality and it's expressive and, most importantly, it's human.

James:                                                
It's what we try to do.

Chris:                                                
I suppose you could draw them Helvetica if they wanted, but what's the point?

James:                                                
Yeah. Well, Helvetica. But the whole book.

Chris:                                                
Yeah. But broken up in a weird way, too.

James:                                                
Yeah. But the whole book is illegible. Yes. Yeah. I would never just use Helvetica in a traditional form.

Chris:                                                
Yeah.

James:                                                
You always have to have that opinion in it. There's always something that you can do to make it interesting. And I'm with you on the Kia logo. There are other fish to fry, right?

Chris:                                                
Yes.

James:                                                
I remember early on when I first started out, I was hanging out with designers and designs. We were just getting out of school and it was designing students. And we'd go to a restaurant together and people would pick up the menu and they'd start talking about the typography. And I was just like, "Oh my God, shut the fuck up," criticizing the freaking restaurant menu because of the bad typography or the bad spacing between letters or the wedding or whatever. I'm like, "Oh my God, is the burger good?"

Chris:                                                
Yeah.

James:                                                
[inaudible 00:18:44] the burger, right? I try not to get into those things. I think there's always a bigger picture. There's a publisher that I work with that they're having their 10th anniversary this year. We've been working together for 10 years and I've done every single one of their covers. And their covers, many of them are very close to illegible, they're hard to read, but when they're displayed, they're displayed five at a time or 10 at a time, or they're displayed at the Tate Modern in London, or they're displayed in the Museum of Modern Art because there are other values to see. My covers say, "Be curious, pick me up." They don't say, "This is a book about a death that occurred in a lake." I'm not trying to tell you what happens. I'm just trying to say, "Be curious, pick me up."

Chris:                                                
That is the job of a book cover, is it not?

James:                                                
Yeah. Pick it up-

Chris:                                                
To not get lost in the [inaudible 00:19:38] covers.

James:                                                
Oh, that's interesting. Then you read this bit and then you read, oh, then you read this bit, and then you read the table of contents, and then you go like this, "Oh, dang," right? It's the same hierarchy that you would use when designing a poster, something big to stop them. And then once they see the big thing, then they're going to go to the second ... This is your typography lesson, right? Then they go with hierarchy. What's the next thing I can see? Oh, it's a tagline or it's three words. That makes me curious because it goes or doesn't go with the image. And then you come up with the uppercut because you show them the logo and it completely blows their mind. That came from them. Like, oh my God, that's awesome.

Chris:                                                
Yeah.

James:                                                
Or I'm still really freaking curious. And then you walk away and you see it three more times. I've done a number of bus shelter and subway posters in New York City, and I never wanted to be clear. I never wanted to be clear because I knew my audience was going to walk by this twice a day, three, four times a week. And by the third or fifth or seventh, they're going to go, "Oh, fuck, I get it. That's awesome."

                                                     
Built in timing. I don't need immediate. I want that guttural, that immediate gut reaction. But I don't need immediate legibility.

Chris:                                                
I want to come back to some of this, but I just want to say this because I'm, I'm sure people are having a fit right now. I want to just let you know there is appropriateness. There's a time and place for super highly legible design. I love Helvetica as much as some of you love Helvetica. I also can appreciate somebody's handwriting as expressive typography. And there's a time and place ... And I guess you wouldn't want to design the manual on how to operate lifesaving equipment handwritten in bold expressive typography. Not appropriate, completely inappropriate.

James:                                                
I mean, I know what's appropriate and what's not appropriate, and I tried to play with the boundaries of that. I remember early on ... It hasn't happened in a while, but I remember being on stage one time and having someone stick up their hand and they said, "Mr. Victore, your early posters were not for profit so basically you didn't have a client telling you exactly what to do. So don't you work more as an artist than a designer?" And my answer, my only answer, and I'm not trying to piss anybody off or something because I said, "Oh, you're one of those people who gives a shit about that." I don't see that delineation. Paul Rand didn't see that delineation. Ive and Shamaia, the big modernists, they were commercial graphic artists, commercial artists, but they were artists, and they wanted that artistry in their work. And the problem is, I don't see that as much anymore. I see either or. I see artists and I see the stuff that sticks to the script that fulfills the brief and that is rather dull.

Chris:                                                
So I want to ask you how you developed this style of lettering and design. When did this come about and when did you know like, "Hey, I think I'm onto something here?"

James:                                                
Make it a really kind of a short story. When I was a kid ... I love stories that start like that. When I was a kid, my mom worked in the reference department of the university library in our town, and we lived outside of town. We lived in a dead-end road outside of town. So I would walk from school and sit down and wait for my mom. There was no bus, so wait for my mom to take me home. And it was usually an hour and a half to two hours between times school got done and when she left. She knew I like to draw. So she gave me sheets of paper, typing paper, and a pen. And she gave me picture books to look at. And the picture books that she gave me were grafisch and print and European design annuals from the '50s and the '60s and the '70s.

                                                     
So I, unconsciously, was getting this education of the history of graphic design. And I would look at these things and I would try to draw them or try to do something different or try to whatever. So early on, my influences were these old guys who eventually I met most of them, which is really cool. I just got up one day and said, "I could go to France and I can meet this guy and this guy and go to Switzerland and meet Mendel and Ober and I could meet all these heroes." And it was an amalgam of being interested in Franz Kline, the painter, being interested in Motherwell's knowing art. And my parents had a lot of art books in the house when I was a kid from Norman Rockwell all the way to the abstract stuff. And all of this influenced me.

                                                     
If there was a typographical influence that was strongest in me is I want to make work like Franz Kline, but I want it to be words. His stuff is just these broad strokes or Cy Twombly or some of these American abstract artists who just do ... When I see it, it moves my heart. And that's the thing I want. That's the thing I want in my work. I want to do work that people just go, "Oh." There are three ways to get inside of a person. You can do it intellectually and you can do it through the heart or you can do it through the groin. You can just go, "Yeah," it can be shock factor. I want a mix of all three sometimes, but it always, always has to be smart. It always has to be an intellectual process, not an emotional process.

Chris:                                                
You are a very fortunate person to have parents who surrounded you with art and design and to have a mom who paid attention to what you're interested in and had the access to grafisch and some of these magazines and books that you were talking about because most of us don't even know what the heck that is. And then the fact that you got exposed to this at a very young age. How old were you standing there waiting for your mom at the bench or whatever, looking at these books?

James:                                                
10.

Chris:                                                
Really?

James:                                                
Yeah, 10, 11, 12.

Chris:                                                
Wow.

James:                                                
Yeah. And on top of that, I was reared in the military and my father flew and he was away most of my childhood, but when he came back, he would bring back magazines and posters, bull fighting posters from Spain and manga and early comic books from Thailand. And I just like, "What the hell is all" ... And the interesting things, Chris, is that it was words that weren't translated so I was just looking at the shapes of them. And anyway, it was fascinating, really fascinating. Although I do remember once he brought a makka toy that had batteries in it and it stopped working. So I open it up and I take out the batteries and they're little AAAs, but they are black and yellow and they've got Japanese script all over them, and they're just fascinating little bumblebees or something. And I went to my father and I was like, "Look at these batteries." And I'm trying to explain to him the intricacy. And he's like, "What do you care? They're just batteries." And I was like, "Oh, wow. Interesting."

                                                     
Not everybody gets it. Not everybody cares. That's fine. That's fine. Not everybody ... I'm not for everybody. I'm not for everybody. Just the sexy people. I understand that not everybody's going to like my work. Not everybody's going to appreciate my angle. Not everybody ... You can't appeal to everybody. It's just impossible. And the people who ... I remember once being on stage and somebody was really livid, really livid that I was saying, "Listen, if you're just dealing with typography and color, you're leaving so much more on the table. You were leaving so much on the table." And they were just, "You, me, you're discounting" ... I was discounting their classical design education that never once said, "What do you think? What's your opinion?"

Chris:                                                
I want to get back to the question, though. When did you develop this lettering style that you're so well known for? When did you know that this was going to work?

James:                                                
I started as a book jacket designer. When I quit art school, I think I was 21, and I literally started working professionally three or four months after I dropped out of school and have not stopped. But when I first started, I worked out of one of my teacher's studios and he was classic book designer from the '40s and the '50s and the '70s. He had done everything, all the big name covers, all the big name authors, from Fitzgerald all the way through. I would look at him and go, "Oh, that's what a book jacket looks like." And for the first year or more of my career, maybe a couple years, I was making book jackets look like book jackets. And now I call that ... I was making the obvious more obviouser. I was following the rules that I saw in the bookstore.

                                                     
Self-help books look like this. Romance books look like this. They were rules. I was making good money, too, because I was following the rules and being a good boy, but I had no opinion whatsoever. So one day I was like, "I'd made money. I'd bought my first motorcycle cash. I was wearing nicer clothes." And I was like, "You know what, I'm a funny guy. I'm funny. I'm charming. I have my own sense of humor, my own sense of timing, my own sense of color, my own sense of style and proportion, and this and that." And at the same time, I started about the same time Chip Kidd started. So I'm looking over his shoulder and I'm like, "Hey, that guy is pretty sexy. He's doing good stuff." So I started putting my own handwriting in, I had had it around here for a while. Very first cover that I just did my own handwriting and it didn't get turned down.

                                                     
And I thought, "Oh, okay, let's push this a little further and see how far we can go." Where I am with my ... Especially if we talk about typography, where I am with that now is at an interesting place because I've gotten a little bit bored because it's just my handwriting. I use different tools to manipulate it. I use a sumi brush or I might use a big sharpie paint pen and then I cut up the tip to make it more of a mop than a pen. But I've gotten a little bored of my handwriting and I'm looking for something new now. I'm looking for some new way to influence or some new letter forms or even more cruder, more abstract, more artistic forms to put on the page.

                                                     
So it's been a long process and it's influenced by early designers, it's influenced by European designers, it's influenced by painters. And now I'm just trying to ... I don't want to hide. I've always just been like ... People say, "Your handwriting is so iconic. It looks like James Victore." And I'm like, "That's all I've ever tried to beat is James Victore." I just want to get paid to be James Victore. I want everybody to get paid to be themselves. That's awesome. And that's what you do, which is awesome. It's just like you don't hide behind shit. You don't have to make shit up. You're just like, "This is what I do and this is who we are and this is how we do it."

Chris:                                                
Now, it could be hard for someone to hear this because I think ... And I don't think I'm going out on a limb by saying this, James, I think you and I and others like us are the exception versus the norm.

James:                                                
Yes. And because of that, that's why I teach now.

Chris:                                                
Yeah, right. But it can be difficult because this is usually what people say. I talk to Carlos Aguirre about the same thing.

James:                                                
I love Carlos.

Chris:                                                
Yeah. He's like, "Well, everybody's like you could be bold and you can do this because you're Carlos Aguirre." And he goes, "No, because I do this, I am Carlos Aguirre, it's not the other way around."

James:                                                
Yeah. People do that to me. They're like, "Oh, that's okay for you, you're James Victore." I'm like, "No, no, no, no. Since I was 22 or 23, I've always pushed to be James Victore." And that means there are some times when you fail.

Chris:                                                
Yeah.

James:                                                
And you need to accept that. Not everybody needs James Victore.

Chris:                                                
You seem to be a person who has high self-awareness, who has leaned into all the good and the bad, super transparent, vulnerable. What do you think the perception of the James Victore brand is? And does that align with your concept of who you are?

James:                                                
I have a fairly good idea of the perception of me because I'm very active on social media and I respond to everybody. And the feedback that we get is pretty spot on. So I think that what I'm trying to put out into the world is working merely by testimonials alone. I think I'm writing a new blog piece. I'm writing a couple things at a time here. So there's a new blog piece where I'm basically really trying to be super honest how I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm just doing it. I don't want to know the ending.

                                                     
But I think that because of the feedback ... I got a text out of the blue. I haven't spoken to this guy in over a year, maybe more, very prolific author, kind of a pal of mine. We know each other fairly well. He's mentioned me in his books. And out of the blue, he was just like, "Hey, thank you for doing what you're doing." He says, "You're pushing for creativity and you free all of us." And I was like, "Who's us, John? Who is this us you're talking about?" But to get that from a peer is kind of awesome. Or the kindness that you show me is kind of awesome. At heart, I'm like everybody else, we are. We're all like everybody else. I'm like everybody else. I want to be liked. I don't to do work that makes people go, "Whoa, fuck you, you don't know what you're talking about." I'm not a divider. I'm a lover, not a fighter.

Chris:                                                
Yeah, that was a line you use in junior high. You know what I mean? Yes, obviously. If you were reading the comments right now, scanning for who they think you are, what are the three words they would say James Victore is?

James:                                                
I don't know. I guess I would hope that people would say authentic or vulnerable. That's one word.

Chris:                                                
Yep.

James:                                                
And possibly bold. And it would be really great if they said, "This guy is really fucking funny."

Chris:                                                
Okay.

James:                                                
Yeah. I mean, I want a certain amount of wit.

Chris:                                                
Yeah.

James:                                                
And I don't like the word clever. Clever is demeaning. But I like the ... I want to make smart work. Interesting thing in those words is I woke up a bunch of years ago and the commercial aspect of my work was waning. And I was like, "What is that?" I mean, I'm not actively going. I don't have an agent actively looking. And I realized that as you progress in yet older, it's the lives of the artist. The first role is, who is James Victore? So nobody knows who you are and you're just toiling and you're trying to do good work. The second is, get me James Victore, and that's when you're doing good work. The third part is get me someone like James Victore, right?

Chris:                                                
Yeah.

James:                                                
It's like get me the cheaper version, get me the younger version. And then the fourth part is, who is James Victore? And you don't want that. You don't want where you fade out. I realize to stay vital and to just basically keep doing what I like doing, I needed to switch from actually making the commercial work to, one, becoming my own client, getting rid of the middle man, basically, and becoming my own client. And two, what older people get paid for is their wisdom and their knowledge, and to share that.

Chris:                                                
Yeah.

James:                                                
So now, hence writing books, spending a lot more emphasis on writing and sharing ideas, being open and available through social media, that kind of stuff.

Chris:                                                
Yeah. So let me just get this straight. There's four stages that people go through if they're lucky, some are not even that lucky. You start out in, who is this person in total anonymity? Nobody cares. Everybody's doing their own thing.

James:                                                
Yeah.

Chris:                                                
You've not done enough work that gets you noticed. And then eventually, you do something consistently enough that people are like, "Wow, there's something about this character." So now they are like, "You're in demand. You're the name on the tip of everyone's tongue. You're the top of the list. Get me James Victore." And then you get to a certain point of success where maybe you're too expensive now and somebody's like, "Get me a knockoff version of James."

James:                                                
Yeah. Yeah. Literally, when my first book came out, Who Died and Made You Boss?, people would get in touch with me and they'd say, "Oh, I thought" ... Because that book came out a coffee table book, they were like, "I thought you were dead." Or they now think that you're too expensive. Or they now think that, "Oh, well, we can't call him. He would never touch our work." These weird things.

Chris:                                                
Time for a quick break, but we'll be right back.

Bobby Oliver:                                          
Have you ever wondered how some of the most successful businesses you see in your everyday life got started? Starbucks, Microsoft, Walmart. Each company has its own unique origin story. I'm Bobby Oliver, host of the podcast, Business Origins. I explore these stories with you every week, and each episode is less than 10 minutes. Find Business Origins wherever you listen to podcasts.

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Chris:                                                
Welcome back to our conversation.

                                                     
Now, I got into a little bit of trouble because I used this term, bricklayer. I said we're all bricklayers. If we're doing production, if we're not thinking, we're not consulting, we're not advising, we're bricklayers, and there's nothing wrong with that. Now, you have a story quite literally, I believe, of a bricklayer. Can you share that story because it was really moving?

James:                                                
Yeah. You know what, you mind if I read it?

Chris:                                                
Please.

James:                                                
Because it comes from the book.

Chris:                                                
Okay. All right.

James:                                                
It's Chapter 10 in the book and it's called You Were a Lot in Life. I had a young protege. This is a true story, by the way. He wanted to be a screenwriter, but his father encouraged him to be a bricklayer like himself. It was his lot in life, his father said. The arts don't make money. Bricklaying is a decent wage and the world needs bricklayers. You'll be one like me. So for 10 years, my young savant laid bricks and swallowed his dreams. One day, his father's best friend died, presumably from laying bricks. At the funeral, the father got up to read a eulogy that he had written. My friend was moved to tears, not by the eloquence of the goodbye, but by the realization that his father was a writer. So we deny ourselves our dreams so hard.

                                                     
His father should have been an author. He should have been a poet. He should have been ... I was just telling Shannon the other day about a pub. When I was first starting out as a book jacket designer, there was a pub that I used to hang out on, a little Blarney Stone on 57th Street, tiny little place. And I'd go there after my shift as a book jacket designer and I'd go at 5:00. And it was all cops and sanitation workers. And these guys were politically astute and hilarious and charming and funny. Any one of them could have turned into Seinfeld. Any one of them. They were that smart and that sharp and that funny. And just to hear them and have conversations, I'm like, "God, you're a fucking genius. Do you know that?" And they would go like my father, "Nah, nah, nah, I could never do that. I could never do that." We just deny it so hard. So his father was like, "No, you're going to be a bricklayer." And he's now a writer. He's now a screenwriter like he wanted to be.

Chris:                                                
It's a beautiful story. There's a lot of lessons to unpack in it. When you told that on stage, it hit me like how it was resonating with the audience. I was feeling something and I looked around the room and I see them feeling something, too. The first part is the denial of one's gift and one's passion and true pursuit for the practical, the pragmatic.

James:                                                
Yeah, reasonable and responsible.

Chris:                                                
Right. And there's a clear plan forward, and there's comfort and safety in that, in that if you joined the guild, did you become an expert mason?

James:                                                
Yeah. There's a path.

Chris:                                                
There's a person ... There's a path and we know it's predictable and we can have a certain life. Maybe it's not the life we wanted, but it's a life. And you don't have to be a burden on your family or society. And so the father says to his son, give up your dream of screenwriting because it's like winning the lottery.

James:                                                
Yeah.

Chris:                                                
And instead of listening to his mentor, he's like, "My more influential mentor is my father, I better do what he says." And so he does that. And it's only in this moment that he realizes his dad has done the exact same thing. He suppressed his dream and that maybe this writing thing runs in the family. And he doesn't want to make the mistake again.

James:                                                
Yeah.

Chris:                                                
So it's that moment that he cries to see ... Perhaps I'm interpreting too much here, is the wasted opportunity of talent and the gift that his father was given because presumably the father before him, his grandfather, had a similar conversation with his father.

James:                                                
Yeah. Yeah. And it's like the battery story with my dad. It was like my father built the house we grew up in. He was an amateur chef, an amateur photographer. What I would say wildly creative. But after my dad passed, I asked my mom, I said, "Hey, if you ask dad if he was creative, would he admit to that?" And she'd go, "No. Oh, never, never, never." But if I ask my dad, "Hey, dad, can you figure anything out?" He'd say, "Oh, yeah, I can figure anything out."

Chris:                                                
Yeah.

James:                                                
And to me, that's what we do. You give me a project, you give me something to build, you give me something to break, you give me something to fix, you give me something, I figure it out. You give me some blank canvas and a nice check and I can figure out, even though neither of my parents wanted me to do this, and they still never understood until I took them to the MoMA for my first show. They only understood that I owned a house and had children. And those were the two things that they knew about. But anything else, they didn't really understand. And I am who I am because of them and in spite of them.

Chris:                                                
Yeah. It's interesting how we respond. Your mom feeds you with design magazines and introduces you to the world of art and culture but doesn't think that that might be your career. Is that ... There's a disconnect there. It's pretty profound.

James:                                                
Yeah. Yeah. Well, I think to them, there's this term that should be stricken from all language and lexicons and slang. The term is starving artist.

Chris:                                                
Yeah.

James:                                                
Because we throw that around ... Here's another story like that, Chris, is I had another protege who I was going through a series of coaching with, a private coaching, and he wanted to be a poet. And early on in the conversation, I said, "So what are the blocks? Let's deal with ... Let's go backwards. Let's go find the blocks. Let's go find those prerecorded voices that said, 'No, no, no.'" And he said, "Well, you know what, I remember showing a collection of things that I had written in high school to my uncle, who I thought was creative." And his uncle said, "Oh, yeah, there's no money in poetry. Don't pursue that." So I was talking to my guy, my student, and I said, "Is your uncle still alive?" And he said, "Yeah, he is." I said, "Okay, go back and go talk to him and go ask him how many poems he tried to get published. Go ask him how many he wrote. Go ask him what efforts he put in. Or did he just pull that expression out of his ass because it's a lie." I personally know three people making a damn good living as poets with books and tours. And they're just humping and they love it. It's not a hustle. They just love it. So there's all these stigmas out there that aren't really true.

Chris:                                                
When do we know when it's time to say maybe that was a hobby and not something that could make into career?

James:                                                
Never.

Chris:                                                
Do we go to the grave pushing and persevering but never achieving any real success?

James:                                                
Never. But if you do that alone and don't share and don't talk to people, and don't ask the right questions, then, yeah, you'll go to the grave pissed off. But never. Never stop. Never stop. Chris, I've seen so many people, I follow so many people on Instagram in different ways and they're vocal to me, so I look at their work. Some of these people I look at, I'm like, "Woohoo." There's this one gal, she draws flowers, she paints flowers, and I'm like, "Woohoo, damn. Ugh, what do I tell this woman? What do I tell this woman?"

Chris:                                                
Right.

James:                                                
I'm like, "Awesome. Keep going." And you know what, dollars to doughnuts. When I see these people later on, I'm like, "Fuck, she's doing the work. She's doing the work. It's getting better." Even if you think your work is bad, keep going because eventually it's going to get good.

                                                     
We're terrible judges. I'm a terrible judge of my own beauty, my own strength, the quality of my work, the power of my words. I'm a terrible judge. But I just keep going. And I talk to people. I ask for what I want. This book has been out two years and I still have a list and create a list. When a name comes up, I package this sucker up in a nice box with stickers and a nice letter, and it goes out to this chef that I've just heard about who just had the best pizzas in the world and he lives in Phoenix. Or Rick Rubin, his new book is just like, "Oh my God, Rick and I, we speak the same language. You're getting my book. I'm just going to try to reach you." We just keep seeking mentors and keep asking questions and keep talking to people. If you work in a closet and you just keep stacking paintings up, you're expecting dealers and buyers to come to your house. Ding-dong.

Chris:                                                
I do want to get to why your work is a gift, but before I do, I have to ask you this question, it's very curious now. When you saw this person's work, this woman who draws flowers, and you're like, "Ugh," that wasn't like, "Ugh, that was amazing." That was, "Ugh, this is not very good."

James:                                                
Yeah. That was like [inaudible 00:48:49].

Chris:                                                
Yeah, okay, just want to clarify.

James:                                                
Yeah.

Chris:                                                
Right. And there's the part of you who says in your brain, this is terrible. Oh my gosh, where's this going to go? And then there's the part of you saying, "You know what, keep going. Keep going." I don't know how to reconcile that in myself, I have to be honest with you. And I have to ask you this question, too. I know you taught for 20 plus years at the School of Visual Arts. Your students would bring in work and it was like, "Ugh, this is not very good."

James:                                                
Yeah.

Chris:                                                
Were you like, "All right, keep going." Or would you say, "This is uninspired work, it feels derivative, or I think you need to put more time and love into this because I'm not seeing it here?"

James:                                                
Yeah. I mean, that's what I said about talk to other people.

Chris:                                                
Yeah.

James:                                                
Get direction. Once I can, once I have a foothold, besides something to say, "Ugh, that's terrible." Like I said, even if it doesn't speak to me, that's not important. I'm a terrible judge of other people's work, too. It's like people say, "Hey, James, take a look at my portfolio." I'm like, "Okay, here's my standard answer. My opinion of your portfolio doesn't matter. What matters is how your work makes you feel. What matters is how consistent, how much practice you put in, and what matters is how good you are at getting it out the door." Right? There's work out there that I think is terrible, but it's successful. So who am I? But what I can say to someone who's drawing flowers and I think, "Ugh, okay," is, at some point, I can start adding some quality criticism.

                                                     
Say, "Hey, have you looked at so-and-so's work? Hey, have you ever thought of putting it together in a form besides just individual make a drawing, put aside, make a drawing, put aside, make a drawing, put aside?" Most people know how to put ink on paper, but they don't know what to do after that. Now, how do I get rid of this? How do I commercialize this? That's a big question. And that's a very individual question, too. It's not like there's one blanket statement on how to commercialize your work. First of all, you have to like the work. Do you like it enough to be consistent about it? Second is to be able to show it to people and how to talk about it, how to be brave enough to show your work, and then figure out how to sell it, how to put a price on it.

                                                     
Are you making a book? Are you selling individual prints? Are you doing this? I've got one guy who I've been talking to for a bunch of years and it's extremely frustrating to work with him because he keeps jumping ship. He keeps losing faith in himself. And all of a sudden, he's showing like watercolors. I'm like, "Whoa. What about those other things you were doing? Those are pretty good. Just be cool. Stay with it." When people start ... And I have to say, listen, people won't know what you do. They won't know what you stand for. Like I said earlier, I paint with words. That's my thing. I try to come up with strong, powerful phrases and put them into a form that make them memorable.

                                                     
Go f yourself, for example. That's a test. Because if all you can come up with is go fuck yourself, that shows a lot about you. It is tricky, Chris, but I think a big part of my job or my role is to give people permission. I don't want to do that, but I need to give people permission. I just got back from Barcelona. We met in Croatia. I just got back from Barcelona and the story I told in Barcelona was a pal of mine. Literally, he's been in marketing for years. I mean, we used to play tennis together in New York in our early 20s. He's been in marketing for years. And he writes me and he shows me all these goofy drawings that he's been doing. He says, "James, I've been doing these drawings about my life." He says, "And I think that's what I want to do. I want to be an illustrator, and I want to tell the stories about my life. I want to be an artist. Do you have any advice?" His name is Norman. And I said, "Norman, I think you're already an artist. Just keep going." And I think we need that. We need encouragement. We need someone to give us permission. We need some guidance.

                                                     
I also wrote to him and said, "What do you want, some fucking fairy dust? There's no magic. I can't give you any magic, but I can give you encouragement, and I can give you some inspiration, and along the way, I can possibly say, awesome, here's a vein, here's a vein. Here's three other people who are doing exactly what you want. Look at what they're doing. See if there's something there for you. Go look at, I don't know, Saul Steinberg's work or I don't know who. See if there's some venue. Do you want to work editorial in magazines or you just want to publish on your own, have your own story and your own little books and start selling that? And there's so many different ways to play it out that I can't predict what's going to work for somebody, but I can give them encouragement and I can give them permission.

Chris:                                                
When you said vein, are we talking about the vein in a body or a vein like a weather vane pointing in a direction [inaudible 00:54:14]?

James:                                                
A vein like a body. I mean, the path. There are so many different paths that work can take.

Chris:                                                
Yeah.

James:                                                
I like to draw flowers. What do I do with them? Okay. Do you want them in museums? Do you want to sell them on cards in bookstores? Do you want a collection of them? Or do you want ... And that's just the commercial end of it. How do I unload these drawings?

Chris:                                                
I just have a crazy thought, an observation here, is what you do in encouraging people to be more of themselves and to pursue what makes them happy a way of you parenting the way that you wish your dad might have parented you? There's the crazy question.

James:                                                
You're going to make me cry again.

Chris:                                                
Is it, James?

James:                                                
When I was telling that story in Barcelona, about my friend Norman, I literally said ... And in my best, most fatherly tone, I said, "I think you're already an artist. Keep going." Yeah, no, totally, totally. I've mentioned it to my kids the other day at dinner, and my wife was like, "Mm-hmm." We were chatting and I'm very gushy with them, right?

Chris:                                                
Yeah.

James:                                                
I'm a stern disciplinary dad, but I'm also very gushy and very hands-on with them. And it was funny because I had said something to my boy and it got quiet for a second, and I said, "Wyatt, I wish once in my lifetime my dad had said that to me."

                                                     
It would just change your direction. I see it in my protege. I see it in people who come to work with me or people who want to study with me. We talk about ... I try to make them hip to their subconscious, the prerecorded voices that just constantly tell you no. We're all born wildly creative. The guy on the roof across the street fixing someone's roof, wildly creative guy. Could be a genius, could be a painter, could be wakes up in the morning with brilliant ideas, but just doesn't follow through on them because of these prerecorded voice. No, you've got to go to work. No, you've got a family. No, you have to do this. No, you have to ... Right? And those voices come originally from family.

                                                     
I had an assistant from Russia who came and worked with me for a summer, and she got real comfortable with us. And at lunch, she told us a story that she always wanted to be an artist. So where she was, she came to us, her company paid for her to be in New York for three months to work with us. And her company did event marketing, so they did big, huge concerts and all kinds of stuff, and she worked there, but she wasn't really a designer. She worked close to designers, close to the artists. And she tells us a story about how she always wanted to be an artist, always wanted to paint, always wanted to draw, and her parents took her to the museums when she was a little kid. And she says, "One day, we went to a museum or a gallery and I came home and I wanted to express to my parents how much I loved them and how much I wanted to be an artist."

                                                     
She said, "I sat down and I drew the most meticulous, the most beautiful thing I could draw, a picture of both my parents holding hands." And then she says, "Then I called my parents into my room and I drew the picture on the wall, and they flipped." And in that fucking moment, Chris Do, in that fucking moment, they destroyed her. They destroyed any possibility of her actually being an artist. She'll always work close to artists. She will never make that leap because that thing is so strong in her, so embedded that she's going to get her hands slapped. So I wrote a piece on this and it's called It's Only Paint. We have to let our kids do this shit. And the problem is you let the genie out of the bottle. Creativity out of the bottle is dangerous. So you got to be ready for that. You got to give it a safe space. You got to say, "Okay, we're going to do this." Even with my kids, if they mention the word paint, I'm like, "Outside. We're going outside. It's raining. We're going in the garage," right? I'm like, "It's going to be everywhere, oh my God."

Chris:                                                
Right.

James:                                                
I can't handle it.

Chris:                                                
But James, it's only paint. It's only paint.

James:                                                
I know, I know.

Chris:                                                
You have to remind yourself.

James:                                                
I know.

Chris:                                                
Okay. It's not forever.

James:                                                
But I give them huge pieces of paper and give them a whole lot of space and let ... Or else, if I do it in the house, I'll give them huge piece of paper, I'll do all this stuff, but I'm not going to be calm and I can't do that. But these things stop us. So with everybody, I try to take them back through, say, "What's stopping you?"

Chris:                                                
Yeah.

James:                                                
What's the belief? Because I'm going to show you that it's a lie.

Chris:                                                
Yeah.

James:                                                
You can't make money as a poet. Lie, right? Don't draw on the walls. Lie. All this shit.

Chris:                                                
Okay.

James:                                                
Rules, yes, I get it. Respecting of the house, respect property. I get that shit. I understand. But it's really just fucking paint. What's more important? I say this to my kids all the time, they drop something in the truck and they're like, "Well, I'm sorry, dad." I'm like, "Dude, what's more important? You were this truck." He's like, "Oh, I am." I'm like, "Yeah, remember that."

Chris:                                                
Okay. So I see you as this Russian nesting doll. Okay. So let me see if I can just pull them apart and show people what I see. On the outside is James Victore, the designer, who sometimes makes book covers. And you pull that apart and then inside of that is an artist. And you pull that apart and you see a writer. And you pull that apart and you see a philosopher. And you pull that apart and you see a therapist and a loving human.

James:                                                
Oh, you're going to make me cry again. Damn, that's pretty good. Yeah, philosophy and, quite frankly, therapy. I mean, it is art therapy, right?

Chris:                                                
Yeah. I like that you talk about these things. I think you have much more loving, nurturing, encouraging energy than I do, something I need to work on. But we have, I think, similar goals. That's why what you say really resonates with me.

James:                                                
I feel it.

Chris:                                                
Right? We just take different approaches and I think the world's more beautiful if there's more than one approach versus one homogenized, you must do it this way approach. You say, and I'm reading your LinkedIn bios, "I help you get paid to do what you love." What is the future's mission? To help a billion people make a living doing what they love. We want to help creatives, these people who are born wildly creative, that go out there and not let that one voice, that one story, that narrative that you can't do. This is impractical to help them fulfill that passion, that desire, because I believe this, if people do what they love, they'll be happier.

James:                                                
Yeah.

Chris:                                                
And happy people have stronger relationships to make for better parents.

James:                                                
And they make more money.

Chris:                                                
They make more money. And there will be less fighting. There will be less wars. There will be less hate crimes. There would be less murder. There would be ... And the world would be a more beautiful place because we're living to our highest potential Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

James:                                                
Correct.

Chris:                                                
At the very top is self-actualization. So James Victore, you're helping them to move from, I need to make money because I got to buy food, shelter, clothing. So you teach them a way up so that they can realize their highest self.

James:                                                
Yeah, without jumping ship and quitting their job.

Chris:                                                
Yeah.

James:                                                
I quite frankly get people who ... We took down all our YouTube videos, but I get people who would write me and say, "A couple years ago, I watched a video of you and then I quit my job and now I'm doing this and this and this and this." And I'm like, "Wait, wait, wait. You quit your job. You didn't talk to me first. What, are you crazy?"

Chris:                                                
Well, you said it on your video. Feck Perfuction. I'm [inaudible 01:02:41].

James:                                                
Oh, really?

Chris:                                                
Yeah. Okay. Well, let's transition to where I need to catch up with you, which is, you got a new site, it's called Your Work is a Gift. I know that you recorded, at your own expense, some very high production lessons, video content to teach people some of these things. Where are you at with that? And tell me a little bit more about Your Work is a Gift.

James:                                                
Yeah, Your Work is a Gift is one of the central core ideas from Feck Perfuction, the book. And the whole idea, you put it fairly succinctly earlier, is that when you were talking about when you're happy, right? I told you we're at a new house. And because of the new house, I'm like, "Hey, I don't know how much it's going to cost. I don't know how much the heating and the gas and this." So I cut back on shit. And I quit my gym, one, because I don't live next to the gym anymore. I'm in a new two neighborhoods over. And I drove by a gym and I came back to Shannon and I was like, "Hey, it's a really groovy gym. And I liked the people." And she said, "Do it." Doesn't matter what it costs, do it.

                                                     
She says, "When you exercise, you are happier, then you're more productive, and then you make more money." Right? But Your Work is a Gift is when you understand that your work is a gift, it changes how you think about your work. It changes what you make and who you work for because you now understand that your purpose is no longer to gain a paycheck or satisfy a boss or a client. Your purpose is to give something of yourself. You start putting yourself in your work. Your purpose is to make yourself happy first. And if you can do that, if you can make yourself happy, that excitement breeds excitement. And then now you start to make other people happy.

                                                     
Before I was a commercial designer, I had a bunch of odd jobs when I was in New York, in art school, but I always drew and I always had little funny captions and I would leave them all over the place. I worked at a publishing house. I worked at Simon & Schuster for three, four months in a summer. And I would do these ... People collected these things, kept them in their office. I knew that my real work, it had some meaning to it. So why was I designing book jackets for shit I didn't care about? They give you a couple of envelopes, do those. I'm like, "Oh, okay."

                                                     
So when your work is a gift, what you're giving of people is something of yourself, and that has value. The girl with the flowers, she's got to figure out that level.

Chris:                                                
I think we have very similar ideas. You just have better writing. I shouldn't say that.

James:                                                
And you've got better filming, so we should work together.

Chris:                                                
You write better, and you letter better, and you have the accolades of an artist. And when you say your work is a gift, I've been going on stage saying to people, "You are the gift." And for gifts to work, you can't keep them. You have to give them to people.

James:                                                
Yeah. And-

Chris:                                                
You have to share.

James:                                                
And if you study ... I did the etymology and the roots and read about the gift. The gift is to the giver. The gift is to the giver. And then if you look in poetry and literature, Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, there's a line that says, the more I give, the more I have, for both are infinite.

                                                     
It's out there. I mean, it's right out of Napoleon Hill, man. It's just really hard for people to stomach that idea, Chris, you know that. It's really hard for people to grasp onto that and go, "Really? But my mom doesn't like my work. Or they don't understand it. Or I got criticized for drawing in my books when I was in grade school." All these silly things that happen to us that become major blocks to us, just allowing ourselves to be free. And that's one thing I wanted to say to you is I think there's something similar in what you and I do in that we work to give people a certain amount of freedom.

Chris:                                                
Yeah, that's the goal.

James:                                                
Financial freedom, creative freedom. I don't want hoodlums out there just quitting their job and writing graffiti and living in a shack. I want successful, powerful, creative people.

Chris:                                                
If I'm one of the self-identified free-range humans, I don't want to play in the Victore verse, how do I go down this rabbit hole? Where do I go? What do I need to look up? What does it cost me? What do I get?

James:                                                
Yeah. Well, the first thing would be to follow on Instagram and subscribe to our Love letters, which is our newsletter that we send out, because most of those are literally just love letters. They're just like, "Hey, here's the situation I have. Do you have this situation? Here's what gets my goal. Here's what stops me. Do you have this?" Right. So we try to be very vocal in Barcelona and shuffle the schedule a little bit. We're getting back to the regularity of sending it out once or twice a week for the newsletter.

                                                     
And then if you really want to get curious, then you go into two things. One is Born Creative, which is up now. That's on the site. And Born Creative is the masterclass that I put together, which is based on that 20 years of teaching at the School of Visual Arts. And I literally take people through ... I kept this class small so we could get some work done, four people, and the whole thing is filmed and I give them abstract assignments, meaningless assignments, meaningless. Not like reggae album. Because if I say reggae album or I say a milk carton, we get all these cliches, all these references come up. Milk, cows, white, farms, the shape of the thing, I'll let you know. But if I say big nothing, little nothing, nothing comes up. If I say always the other, that's a classic Victore assignment, always the other. Okay, design that, show me that in two dimensions. They're like, "What? Huh? What?" No. So I show them how they can ... Not only show me always the other in two dimensions, I can show them how to take what they've come from because all they have is their opinion. They present their opinion. And I say, "Okay, now, how do we change the world with that?"

                                                     
Now, I'm the client and I've given you a hundred thousand dollars and I want a billboard campaign, how are we going to take that simple thing and change people's ideas on culture or on culture or social issues or this or that? And it is fascinating how quickly they get there from a complete abstract to something that literally has meaning for other people. That's the masterclass that we have up now. And we're just about to ... The next couple of Mondays, we're going to start a new subscription and there'll be three different levels. And it's called The Right Question because that's the thing. We get a lot of questions, but we don't get the right question.

Chris:                                                
Yeah.

James:                                                
So it's going to be built on the audience writing in their questions and me answering them and literally trying to help people go from, I've got these drawings, what do I do now?

Chris:                                                
Born Creative.

James:                                                
Yeah.

Chris:                                                
It's a self-study course. Is it $200, 199?

James:                                                
It's $200. Yeah. I think we were going to give you a discount for your audience.

Chris:                                                
Okay. We'll include the link in the show notes. We'll provide all the links that James talked about, including his Instagram handle, so you can go check them out. You can subscribe to his Love Letters, and we'll give you a code that you can use if you wish to go down this rabbit hole.

                                                     
I do want to point out something that the assignment that you described is pretty genius. As a teacher myself, identify as a teacher, I've taught for over 15 years, not as long as you, but I can see the genius in the assignment in the way it's constructed. It says a lot about the teacher. So when James is talking to you about this assignment but ... Did you say the big nothing or the big small or something?

James:                                                
Big nothing, little nothing.

Chris:                                                
Big nothing, little nothing. What he's trying to do is give you a brief that you can't fall into any tropes, any patterns, any instant, easy solutions. You really have to think and you have to pull something out within yourself. So you're like, "Okay, fine, James Victore, I'll just make something abstract and weird and you'll be happy." And then the second part to his assignment, now you got to go make it commercial. So now he's activating both parts of your brain in its purest form, right brain, creative, left brain, let's go make some money. James is going to teach you how to get paid to do what you love in the most beautiful way. And in that happy space in between, I think we can be successful, happy, productive humans.

James:                                                
Awesome.

Chris:                                                
James Victore, it's been a pleasure.

James:                                                
Chris Do, you're a genius. I love you.

Chris:                                                
Thank you so much.

James:                                                
I'm James Victore. You are listening to The Futur.

Greg Gunn:                                            
Thanks for joining us this time. If you haven't already, subscribe to our show on your favorite podcasting app and get a new insightful episode from us every week. The Futur Podcast is hosted by Christ Do and produced by me, Greg Gunn. Thank you to Anthony Barrow for editing and mixing this episode. And thank you to Adam Sanborn for our intro music.

                                                     
If you enjoyed this episode, then do us a favor by rating and reviewing our show on Apple Podcasts. It'll help us grow the show and make future episodes that much better. Have a question for Chris or me, head over to the futur.com/heychris, and ask away. We read every submission and we just might answer yours in a later episode. If you'd like to support the show and invest in yourself while you're at it, visit thefutur.com. You'll find video courses, digital products, and a bunch of helpful resources about design and creative business. Thanks again for listening, and we'll see you next time.

Speaker 8:                                            
We're recording this progressive commercial on a real boat to let people know that when you bundle your home boat and other vehicles.

Jamie:                                                
What was that boat?

Speaker 8:                                            
Progressive saves you money, Jamie.

Jamie:                                                
Why are we doing this on a boat?

Speaker 8:                                            
We were going for authenticity.

Jamie:                                                
We're going to the city?

Speaker 8:                                            
Authenticity.

Jamie:                                                
You mean Atlantic City? But we're not in the Atlantic, are we?

Speaker 10:                                            
Bundle your home and other vehicles with Progressive. Progressive Casualty Insurance Company affiliates and other insurers. Discount not available in all states or situations.

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