James White is the Chief Strategy officer at FreshForm. Originally from Manchester, England, he moved to San Diego in 2010. James studied psychology and physiology at the University of Birmingham, UK, and has been in the advertising and design industry for 20 years. In 2017 he was the co-chair of the Design Forward summit, a yearly gathering that brings together business, academic, civic, and design leaders to discuss why ‘good design is good business’.
What is misunderstood about what you do at FreshForm?
I’m the Chief Strategy Officer, and that means I look at brand strategy for our clients and help solve the business challenges they face every day. Strategy is not one size fits all – there’s different types of strategy for each client. Business strategy, brand strategy, product strategy, service strategy, and much more. Strategy is not only important at the beginning of a project but also throughout, because I don’t think design thinking is ever truly finished.
What do you think makes FreshForm stand out as an agency?
The difference here is that we really try to understand human need, and then we use that as the core insight into anything we design. Psychology plays a big role in human centered design because you have to be able to empathize with people and be aware of their needs. And I just really enjoy being at FreshForm! When you spend so much time with your work you have to be able to make it fun and playful. Things here are constantly evolving and new challenges are always cropping up – so it’s exciting.
Why is design so important?
Design is really about finding ways to help communities and make the world easier to navigate. Like here in San Diego homelessness is major issue, so something I think would be great to work on is finding a solution to help make this city a better place for people without the privilege of having a home. For me that’s what it’s all about – helping people.
What advice do you have for a young designer?
Be bold and curious, ask intelligent questions that consider all sides of the problem at hand. Make sure you have a point of view on the problem that you’re trying to solve before you ask for help. Listen more than you talk. You have two ears and one mouth so use them accordingly. Be humble and don’t fear failure because it just makes you better and more equipped for future challenges.
What websites do you visit to stay up to date with trends?
Techcrunch, Time Magazine, Times (UK), Wired, WSJ.
What is your favorite gadget (high tech or low tech)?
The pen. It is mightier than the sword and solves problems that are yet undefined.
What is your favorite place in San Diego?
Torrey Pines. I love hiking there, the trails and beach are great. Being able to be outdoors is one of the big reasons we moved away from London!