Beyond Foamcore: James Victore Crafts a Cover for Print
For the latest issue of Print—an issue devoted to the strong opinions of some of our favorite outspoken designers—we asked the most opinionated designer we knew to design the cover: James Victore.
Already known for his uncompromising personality (evidenced by his classic AIGA lecture “How to Stay Hard”), he confessed to the blog Speak Up in 2003 that he doesn't distinguish between "beautiful" or "ugly" work—he's interested in what it says. "I am just realizing the full potential of my work and I want to wield it like a large club with nails in it,” he continued, describing what would ultimately form the basis for Print’s cover in 2010. Here, Victore details his interpretation of the image of the club, discusses the role of the designer, and says sometimes you just have to do the damn job and get paid.
First off, why a club? The club is a literal translation of an idea I have had about the potential, the force, we as designers have.
So how long have you had this idea of the club as a translation for designer’s potential? Historically, design has been used at its best to inspire young men to enlist and donate their bodies to war, while inciting others to protest and end war. Our talents and tools can either be used for good or bad. This is the potential that I aspire to.
But the club is also, in many ways, a symbol of violence and brute force. Should designers exercise their potential in that (sort of primitive) way? This club is not a weapon—it's an idea that gets stuck in your brain. It's a stunning, beautiful image that won't go away or a powerful sexy memorable poster that you want to steal. You take me too literal. This is the force, the ability we have. We cannot only fulfill the objective of selling some product or idea; we can inject our work with social, political and cultural ideas, make them pregnant with meaning. This is the power we have—if we take it. Freedom is not given, it must be taken.
Did you make the club yourself? Or did you buy it?
We made the club. We are designers, we can do anything.
There was some debate about the materials you used. Some thought it was paper-maché. Another thought it was Foamcore. It’s carved from wood. Foamcore would be cheating.
It would have been easier to make the thing out of cheaper materials and do some Photoshopping, right? Why the emphasis on craft? I got involved in this business because I liked making things with my hands—and will take any opportunity to do so.
Did you look at any historical examples for inspiration? We don’t need no stinkin’ research. We are designers! We are inventors!
What was the process of selecting the photographer Tom Schierlitz? Besides being a longtime friend, Tom is one of the best photographers in the business. He is smart, easy to work with, and makes all of my work better.
How do you deal with being art-directed? Or are you given free reign at this point in your career? I generally work with smart people whom I listen to and respect. With others, I just get the damn job done and get paid.
What’s the biggest difference between designing a magazine cover and a book cover? Do you have a preference? Posters, book jackets and stamps are all the same to me. Formats change, but the visual impact and clarity I seek is always the same.