In the 3+ years that we’ve been running My Modern Met, we’ve seen art + design sites come and go. With millions of art blogs out there, it’s increasingly difficult to separate one’s self out from the pack. That’s why when we see sites that rise to the top, like cream in coffee (if I may quote Gary Vaynerchuck), we know that they’re onto something special. They’ve somehow captured the hearts and minds of their viewers, exposing them to something new, different, interesting or just plain cool.
Today’s content curator is Christopher Jobson at Colossal. Over the past few months, you’ve probably seen us linking back to his website. By day, Jobson works as a web designer and “creator of digital things” and at night, he curates some of the most amazing art around. Though relatively new, Colossal is being linked out to by major sites like Juxtapoz and Gizmodo, and has been asked to contribute content to Designboom and Beautiful Decay. If that’s not enough, Jason Kottke, of the very popular Kottke.org, even called Colossal a “top-notch visual art/design blog.”
Today we go behind-the-scenes with Jobson to see how it all began. What drove him to start Colossal, how did it take off and what are some trends he’s been noticing in the art and design world? Find out the answers to those questions and more in our one-on-one interview with Christopher Jobson at Colossal.
Tell us about Colossal. Why did you start it and what do you hope to achieve?
Colossal was born from a creative lull in my life. I wasn’t making art and much of the design work I was doing had become uninspired so I decided if the creativity wasn’t going to come from me the next best thing was to immerse myself in the creative output of others. The site launched in the summer of 2010 primarily as a design blog where I posted much of what I was seeing on a handful of large design sites. It wasn’t exactly inspiring yet, but I was having fun writing and scheduling posts each night and soon it turned into a habit. The key to all of it was that I was having fun and expelling energy on something engaging to me, and that’s what I continue to do.
You’ve gained a strong following in a short of period of time. What do you attribute that to?
It’s crazy to think that at this time last year the site didn’t exist, and now surpasses a million visitors each month. Earlier this year I realized that in a time when ten bazillion blogs are started each day I would have to do something different, I needed content few people had seen. But how on earth do you do that? I had no idea, but at some point I googled something like ‘contemporary Japanese art galleries’ and scoured the the work of a few hundred artists until I stumbled on the illustrations of Sagaki Keita. I realized quickly nobody had ever blogged about him and after an email exchange he sent some killer photos of his manic doodles. I wrote the post and within hours the site had exploded. It was awesome to see Sagaki’s work reverberate across many of the sites I was following, and that was probably the week I started focusing a bit more on art than design, trying to see if a discovery like that might be occasionally reproducible. After reading all the blogs I try to keep up with, could I instead try to find something not on any of them?
Which sites do you think curate the best there is in your space – art, design and physical craft?
Oh wow. There are so many. Here’s a list of sites I frequently enjoy. If you’re into creative work of any kind these should be in your RSS reader: Today & Tomorrow, iGNANT, My Love for You, This Isn’t Happiness, Quipsologies, Core77, Spoon & Tamago, Triangulation, and Unurth. And of course I stop by My Modern Met every day.
What sets Colossal apart from the rest?
As I said, I’m obsessed, almost to a fault, with finding emerging artists and projects that have gotten little coverage versus posting the totally incredible thing that’s making the rounds on other blogs. Colossal is a site that focuses more on uniqueness and quality than frequency or trends. That might change one of these days, but I think it’s been the thing that sets it apart from other blogs and contributes to its growth. Also, my schedule is a huge factor. I work a full-time job and have a three-year-old son, so my time spent on the site is usually from 9pm to midnight with larger work periods on the weekends. That seriously limits my ability to post about trending topics, at least in a timely manner, so instead I dedicate my attention to looking elsewhere and usually discover some neat, overlooked stuff.
In the end, I view Colossal almost more as a gallery and shy away from commentary, criticism, or my personal interpretation of what I post. I want the work to stand by itself with resourceful links and artist credits, letting visitors decide how they want to respond and engage with it.
You write for a bunch of other sites. How long did you do that for before starting Colossal?
Actually it was kind of the other way around. When the Colossal started picking up speed early this year I was approached by a number of wonderful sites including designboom, Beautiful Decay and a few others to contribute content. I’ve written posts as time permits, but unfortunately with my schedule I’ve been woefully inadequate as a regular collaborator.
What do you find amazing? Or what are some trends you’re seeing in art and design?
My gut tells me that people are looking for the anti-thesis to Transformers 3, or at least that’s the kind of stuff I want to curate. In a time when almost anything we can imagine can be created with computer graphics, when a huge chunk of our lives is spent sitting in front of Facebook, television, and video games, I think that people begin to crave things that are real. Tangible art, projects, and design made with bare hands. Art and work that’s not only inspiring and accessible, but leaves people with a sense of “Wow, with a lot of perseverance, I could do something like that.”
I don’t know if they’re trends per se, but on Colossal you’ll find many posts around the idea of ‘multiples’ — artwork or objects that are composites of hundreds or thousands of other objects. In a post about staples. I talk about this a bit and its connection with my musical taste. I also enjoy physically constructed typography, devices, sculpture, process artwork, and generally projects that give you pause about its meaning or how it was made.
Where do you think content curation is heading?
That’s a big question and I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer it! My hope is that content curators, especially in our space, don’t lose sight of the fact that art, artists, and design is something that exists offline too, and to encourage people to step away from the computer and perhaps curate in reality as well. Get out in the real world and bring off-line content online, connect with your audience, just make the entire process more meaningful.
Any good stories you could share, particularly from your readers?
I love sorting through the things people email me. Graduate thesis projects, paintings, photography, short films, you name it. But, man do people occasionally send me weird art. At one point I wanted to catalog all the weirdest stuff into a blog called Fuck Art, Let’s Fight. I even built it, but haven’t had time to add to it.
One of my all time favorite posts was in response to a London Underground Tube map made of color-coded string. Less than 24 hours later my friend Tim emailed me a photo with a similar map of the Chicago ‘L’ SystemChicago ‘L’ System that he’d cobbled together after seeing the London version. I hope dearly that other posts encourage readers to go out and make their own amazing art, help them solve design problems or inspire new ways of thinking.
Jason Kottke recently gave you his “stamp of approval,” calling Colossal “a top-notch visual art/design blog.” What does that mean to you?
I’ve been reading Kottke.org since 2001 and seeing his post about Colossal put an enormous smile on my face. I had a beer that night, and it tasted better than usual.
Lastly, any advice you’d give to other bloggers or those that want to make their blog a business?
At this point what I’m doing is far from what anyone might call a business, maybe one day. Instead I’ll direct you to a great talk I was fortunate to hear recently. Last week Tina Roth Eisenberg brought her Creative Mornings talk series to Chicago and Jim Coudal gave a fantastic presentation around the idea of personal projects. Everyone has a multitude of side projects, or perhaps a few great ideas. What would happen if those lists of side projects became a list of your main projects? How do you make that transition? What is the very next step in making those ideas a reality and what can you do right now? To me, the subtext of Jim’s talk was almost about the keys to happiness, or to at least practical steps to controlling your own destiny, be it a blog, a service, or a product you develop. Don’t waste time on things you don’t love, and don’t be scared to pursue the things that interest you. The rest will follow. Check out this video.
Thanks for the fantastic interview, Christopher! Looking forward to seeing where you’re going to take Colossal next.