Interview with a pro – Whyisbox

Interview with a pro – Whyisbox

If you haven’t had the pleasure of coming across the wonderful design magazine that goes by the name of ‘NewSugar Magazine‘ then you should go and have a look at it after you have read this fascinating interview with it’s creator.

1) Could you start by introducing yourself and telling us about your background? What qualifications do you have? What previous experience do you have and what are you doing right now?

Hello, I’m Julian James (although I often use the monikers ‘Whyisbox’, the name of my Design Company, and ‘NewSugar’ my creative showcase magazine) and I come from super dull middle England. Leighton Buzzard in fact! I have lived all over the place though; including abroad during several years travelling.

I have absolutely no qualifications, I absolutely hated school and hated the idiot teachers who couldn’t see past the end of their text books… school wasn’t for me at all! My art teacher actively ridiculed me for doing typography and graffiti! I got an ‘F’ in art for doing a poster that graphically visualised music… If only I had drawn a bowl of apples! Lol.

I am basically self-taught but knowledge is like laughing for me… essential! I am constantly trying to up skill and grasp new things. Those people who said ‘you have to have grades to get on in life’ where idiots. Real world experience, drive and a passion for knowledge are all that is needed in reality. Oh, and it’s helpful if your nice too.

Interview with a pro – Whyisbox - Artificial Embellishment

2) When did you realise design was what you wanted to do with your life and how did you go about making it happen?

I used to design imaginary logos for my dad’s company when I was like 5 or 6 (I won a competition to design the cover for a Doctor Who book too!)… Most kids that age were running around pretending to be pirates or princesses though so I guess I must have always wanted to be a creative. I think that is the key point here though I don’t really see myself as a designer more as a creative; lots of fingers in lots of creative pies is my motto!

I did take design related courses at school but when I left school I sidetracked the art world when the UK rave scene kicked off in the late 80s… I was fully hooked on the whole digital revolution and started DJing, producing, running club nights, a record label and even hosted a radio show at one point. I was still working in a creative environment but design only featured in the guise of my night’s flyers.

I made it back in to the design arena helped on by the advances in technology as much as being a bit tired from twenty years of parties! You can do so much, reach so many and do it so quickly now… and all from the comfort of your office chair! As the Beasty Boys nearly once said… You’ve got to fight for your right to be comfortable!

Interview with a pro – Whyisbox - Characters

3)How did you get your first job in design and what exactly was it?

I freelanced on and off for quite a few years but I did work as a senior designer for a huge retailer at one point. Won’t be doing that again in a hurry!
I suppose the short answer to the question though is that I got my first job by jumping in at the deep end, networking and doing it for myself.

Interview with a pro – Whyisbox - Dusty Frazzle

4) How would you describe your style?

Illustration wise: Darkly happy narratives… I like my pieces to be fun more than anything, trying to make people (myself included) smile is my main focus, but there is almost always a slightly darker metaphor in there somewhere. Whether that’s deliberate or not is another question… I’m not sure I have any control over my dark side!

Interview with a pro – Whyisbox - Foxy

5) Where do you get your inspiration from, both online and offline?

This is always a difficult question… I see great work all the time especially through NewSugar as that gives me access to some of the most amazing artists but if I’m honest it’s my jealous streak that inspires me to try harder and work longer hours. A healthy jealousy combats complacency!

Interview with a pro – Whyisbox - I Hate Football

6) Why did you start NewSugar magazine? What did you hope to get out of doing it?

Initially it was a personal project, just something meaty to get my teeth into creatively. It was as much about networking as showing of my own work though. It’s a lot of work when all things are considered but it’s really helping me to break through. The people I’ve met, and the opportunities I’ve been lucky enough to have been offered (including being asked to join the mighty BoysWhoDraw collective!) make it all so worthwhile!

Interview with a pro – Whyisbox - Jarvis Cocker

7) Were there any early obstacles that you had to overcome to get the magazine up and running and how did you get over them?

Not really (apart from trying to juggle other work commitments) although I have had to get used to people sending in there subs on the last day of the deadline; which basically means a good week or two of panicking that there aren’t enough artists to make up an issue. All in though, it’s been a pleasure doing it so far.

Interview with a pro – Whyisbox - Lolly Small

8) How have you been promoting the magazine and have your marketing efforts been working for you?

Actually apart from Twitter, the odd magazine article (it’s been in Computer Arts a couple of times too) and interviews I do very little direct marketing. I intend to increase the amount of effort I put into this as I start to monetise the project but so far I have been letting it do its own thing. I really like the idea of a project like this having its own life… word of mouth generated interest is by far the strongest form of recommendation. It’s working though; NewSugar has tens of thousands of readers from over 130 countries worldwide.

Interview with a pro – Whyisbox - Magic

9) Why did you choose to publish it only as a PDF? What benefits does this bring you?

Several reasons really but the biggest two for me are the cost, i.e. zero, and access to a global audience. There is no way I would be able to roll out a print mag to 130 countries. Don’t get me wrong I would if I could, and I totally love print, but the Internet is the future baby… embrace it!

Interview with a pro – Whyisbox - My Pocket

10) What plans do you have for the future of the magazine?

Onwards and upwards! I have some great new special issues in the pipeline plus the regular ones (of which the Christmas issue had so many amazing subs that it’s grown into a three part monster!). Look out for a new site with a bunch more features in the New Year too.

If you would like to say hello or find out what’s happening as and when it does I spend half my life on Twitter these days… you should come and have a follow!

Interview with a pro – Whyisbox - Whyismen

11) Finally, what advice would you give anyone looking to start something like NewSugar magazine or people trying to get into the design industry?

My three ingredients to success:
i) Be nice
ii) Have talent
iii) Have an unfaltering belief that you will succeed

It’s up to you. Simple as that… no-one is going to give you the life you want, you have to make it happen for yourself. It will be hard work, but if you love it, it doesn’t feel like it!

Interview with a pro – Whyisbox - Yenskimo

I really appreciate Julian giving his time to answer my questions and I’m sure you’ll agree it was a great set of answers. Now remember to go and have a look at ‘NewSugar Magazine

If you like this post you may also want to look at:

Interview with a pro – Philip Beel

Case Study – BeTheMiddleMan

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5 Responses to this post

  1. Alex Mathers said on November 6, 2009

    Nice interview! My brain is filled with that little bit more insight!

  2. Julian James said on November 7, 2009

    @atikusdesign: Thanks for the interview! Always enjoyed doing them. I am possibly my favourite subject to talk about… :)

    @Alex Mathers: That’s high praise indeed from the creator of http://redlemonclub.com/ ;)

  3. clippingimages said on November 8, 2009

    Nice interview. Awesome collection of design images. Thanks for sharing this nice post.

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