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In just two short months the FITC (Future. Innovation. Design. and Technology.) Vancouver 2012 conference will arrive. As the name implies, a defining aspect of the conference is its focus on design and technology. Featuring presentations, panels, hands-on workshops and networking events covering a range of some of the most relevant topics in graphic design, from conversations on creativity and evolving business models to responsive design. FITC provides the professional development and networking opportunities creatives need to keep pace with a rapidly changing industry.

This year also marks the return of “design renegade” James White as a presenter. Watch White’s 2011 presentation “Ins and Outs of Self-Motivated Creativity” and his down-to-earth authenticity and awesome talent are immediately evident. White is a Canadian artist and designer known for his work for clients such as Nike, MTV, Google, Wired, VH1 and film maker Kevin Smith. He’s also the self-described “1-man wrecking crew” behind Signalnoise Studio. This will be his third year presenting at FITC and we thought that who better to help inspire our readers and answer the question “Why FITC?”

jwhite-msheedy.jpgJames White, FITC Toronto 2011, Photo By: Michael Sheedy

1. Could you talk about how you first became involved with FITC—how you became a presenter, what made you decide to come back for the 2012 conference, etc.

I attended my first FITC event in Toronto back in 2009. I decided to go basically out of the blue since I was becoming more involved in the creative community online and my hometown offered little to nothing in terms of an event for designers. I went to get inspired and shake some hands. Josh Davis was doing an art show in conjunction with FITC that year and I really wanted to meet him. One of my heroes.

While I was watching one of the presenters onstage doing their thing I started pondering the idea of doing my own talk. It had never occurred to me but I thought it would be a fun project. Could I do it? Do I have stuff to say? What’s the science behind a good and engaging presentation? Am I a halfwit? Who knows, might as well try. So I threw an email to Shawn and to my surprise he was all about it. I returned in 2010 armed with my BACK TO THE FUTURE presentation and it went great. Been speaking ever since.

I make a point of going to as many FITC events as I can simply because it’s one of the best events for creatives out there. The FITC team does a wonderful job of organizing and creating a laid-back environment for people to meet, talk, network, have laughs and party. I always have a great time.

2. I love how open you are about your process and influences in your 2011 Ins and Outs of Self-Motivated Creativity presentation. You talk about various creative avenues you explored (drawing, Photoshop work, etc.) and ‘trying to push all your art towards one thing.” Do you have any advice for designers/artists who get caught up worrying about “doing it right” versus just doing it?

The problem with living in “the internet age” is that people expect things right away, and that notion seeps down to creativity and design. The only method to get better at what you do is to never stop doing it. Try and try and try. There’s no big secret or shortcut. There’s no set path or list to follow. Getting something right or improving your level of skill comes only from putting in hours. It’s as simple as that. Every failure gets you one step closer to your victory.

Now, I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil and have been working with Photoshop and Illustrator on my own projects ever since I learned them in ’95, but I went through plenty of frustration as I tried to improve. Basically my 20s were spent hammering away on little projects, almost none of them were completed. But they all helped improve skills, processes and personal development even though I didn’t know it at the time. Now that I’m 35 I can look back and see how that frustration actually helped me move things forward. I just never stopped, that was the key.

jwhite-2010-msheedy.jpgJames White, FITC Toronto 2010, Photo By: Michael Sheedy

3. In the presentation you also talked about side projects you would work on after your 9-5 day was over. What helps keep you energized and motivated? You also talk about “fun”—especially with challenging projects or difficult clients how do you maintain that positive attitude and keep it feeling “fun?”

I never usually have a problem keeping my energy up when working on personal projects. When I was a kid I remember racing home from school so I could keep working on whatever drawing I had on the go. When you love doing something you’ll always have the motivation to continue without a second thought. It’s always been a part of my circuitry and, lucky for me, I’m still that kid. I never really grew up.

When it comes to certain projects, I’ll admit, they’re not really all that fun. Especially when you’re working on something not all that interesting. It happens to all of us and sometimes it’s difficult to keep that enthusiasm up when the project is a bit of a turd. But I wouldn’t trade this job for anything. We make a living creating things from nothing. If the project is a bummer, finish it, take the money and do something cool with it. That’s a win in my books.

4. On the topic of side projects—you raised over $5,000 for your project Gum Cards—can you tell us a little about it. What inspired the project, what stage its at now, etc.

Gum Cards is an ever-expanding set of screen-printed trading cards with a current focus on artists and designers from around the world. This is a project that I conceived and have been building from the ground up over the last few months, everything from the cards themselves down to all the custom packaging requirements.

I came up with the project as a result of some advice I got from seeing Aaron Draplin and Johnny Cupcakes speak. Both those guys are advocates of “inventing something.” Come up with an idea that isn’t hindered by any other forces so you can have complete control over all the elements. Johnny mentioned “starting small” and I took that very literally.

I wanted to create a project that was open-ended, incredibly flexible in terms of content, was collectible and something that would push me in a new direction. Creating screen-printed trading cards was exactly that and the support I received from the creative community has been overwhelming. I am currently waiting for the first 2 cards to be printed before I can start shipping and offering them online. There’s plenty more to come from this project.

5. You’re speaking again at this year’s FITC. What would you like our readers to know about this year’s conference (i.e. who should attend, what can they expect)?

FITC is the perfect melting pot for creative people. Designers, developers, coders, painters, motion graphics … all of these industries have “creativity” in common. The event always has a wonderful way of not pigeonholing the topic into a specific industry, but discussing it from a creative point of view that anyone can relate to. That’s one of the biggest strengths of FITC, people showing their work then telling the stories behind it. Incredibly inspiring to see.

I always return home from FITC fired up to work on stuff. Like a charged-up battery or a new pad on the Swiffer … okay the Swiffer analogy doesn’t make too much sense but I think the point is there.

6. Lastly, I couldn’t help but notice the Iron Maiden shirt you were wearing in the video. I was always attracted to them for the cover art but not so much the music so I have to ask—do you like the music as much as the artwork?

ABSOLUTELY! Powerslave will always be in my list of favorite albums. Up the Irons!

FITC Vancouver 2012: Exploring Design and Technology will be held November 18–19, at the Center for Digital Media in Vancouver, BC Canada. A special 10% discount is available for readers here.

jvan-banner.jpgImage provided courtesy FITC