February 10th, 2021 // Interviewer: Shane Allen // Culture
February 10th, 2021
The thing with creative people, is that most of them aren't business savvy.. Often of times, you'll find that its really hard to figure out how to sell the things you make, grow an audience that respects your work and find ways to get people to let you do certain things you cant' do on your own. Which is why its really impressive when someone has both the qualities of a creative talent, and a business mindset. Where those two roads intersect, you'll find Jeff Staple.
Jeff Staple is a graphic designer and streetwear pioneer. Widely known for designing the celebrated Pigeon Dunk, if you check out Jeff Staples portfolio, you'll see that he's worked with so many of the biggest brands you can think off.
If you're a young creative person trying to learn how to make your passion into a business, Jeff should be who you're looking up to. He's an OG in the world of design and streetwear and he has successfully navigated that uphill battle that you have when you're trying to figure out how get your voice heard and your work seen.
His goals are to take all of what he learned along the way and give away that information to anyone who wants to hear it. You can listen to all of that on his podcast Business of Hype, where he talks to successful creatives and asks them how they navigate a creative profession in with a business mindset.
What were you interested in as a kid?
I was really into sports and comics. My favorite comics were The Amazing Spider-Man, X-Men , X factor. I was following artists, like Seth MacFarlane and Frank Miller and stuff. So yeah, avid comic collector.. I was also that kid that made sure each one was backed with a Mylar acid-free protected coverings for preserving each one. I still have them, I gotta figure out what to do with them, I have like 12 huge cases of comics.
What I would do as a real young kid is like, I would imagine if the X-Men recruited a new character, what would their power be? What would they look like? What would they be named or what their uniforms look like? And I would draw those people.
I’m not a good artist or portraiture person, but what I would do is take tracing paper and trace different elements from different characters and create like the new character out of that.
Remember any good characters you came up with?
I can’t remember any, I just remember really having fun with it. It’s funny how like just destiny sort of manifest itself, what’s funny is I was much less concerned with the quality of the actual drawing but like I was always concerned with like the font in which the characters name is displayed.
The total package,
Exactly the total package. One other thing that I vividly remember doing as a kid is, I’m from Jersey, which is like mall capital of America, I remember when I was really young, like 10, 12 years old, I drew and created my own mall of the future. What would a mall look like in the future? I created how people get around the mall and what you do in the mall and stuff like that. A very strange project that I just gave myself to do.
Were you ever encouraged to do any of this?
No, not really. I’m Chinese and my parents are first generation immigrants. So they literally came to this country primarily so that I would be like the first person in my lineage to have a US passport. They were very traditional, so supporting artistic creativity was not something that they were really supportive of.
In fact, I would say like I kind of hid it from them. You know, the sort of great American stories of a kids a drawing being put on the fridge. Like, no.
When I did a drawing I would hide it in a drawer. It was not supported. It was, it was seen as a waste of time. You should be doing your homework, you know?
When you have to like hide things from people, you get sort of attached to it. It makes it feel like it’s your own thing and you grow a personal bond to it. Is that kind of how you felt?
Facts. I mean, yeah. I’ve never broken it down like that, but you’re right. The fact that I was sort of like putting this stuff away. it made it heavier in my heart. Like it just added this weight to it. Frankly I was drinking the Kool-Aid too. I’d never thought that a career in the arts or creativity was a viable option all the way through college, to be honest.