Christopher Jobson and I have never met but in some ways I’m sure he knows me better than some of my close friends because we’ve spent the better part of a decade doing the exact same thing—we both turned a personal art blog into a full-time job. Chris has taken his to another level, though. There are very few websites that can drive the kind of traffic that Colossal does, and a quick scroll through the site reveals his acute awareness for content that resonates with people. I had the chance to ask him a few questions in the lead up to the launch of his newly-redesigned website.
Jeff Hamada: Tell me something about yourself that even the most hardcore Colossal fans wouldn’t know.
Christopher Jobson: In the weeks leading up to launching Colossal in 2010, my plan was for it to be an online literary magazine where each story was paired with an immersive series of illustrations or animations. I even had the first story selected by my friend Matthew Miller about an alcoholic who was obsessed with bigfoot and was working with an artist. At the last moment I decided more people would read an art and design blog and that somehow it would be less work. I was right about the first part.
Also — though I love the name of your site, I became so tired of typing out seven O’s over the years that I created a macro for it.
Jeff Hamada: Haha! I think it’s that small annoyance of the seven o’s that burns it into people’s minds. What’s Chicago like as a home base? Have you ever considered moving to NY or LA for the sake of the site?
Christopher Jobson: Chicago has been home base for 18 years because I love the mix of art, food, music, and especially the more relaxed nature of midwest people. NYC, LA, and London definitely have a strong pull because of the art, but I prefer to save it for brief visits. Chicago has the lakefront and lots of quiet neighborhoods, it’s a good city to be relatively connected but you can also easily tap out and be contemplative without the pressure and speed I’ve found in other cities.
Jeff Hamada: For years now, Colossal has been a reflection of one individual’s taste—a singular viewpoint—Chris Jobson’s opinion on what’s interesting. This is really common when sites are small but larger sites that operate like this are few and far between. Do you ever think of Colossal as a personal blog?
Christopher Jobson: Yes, it’s always been very personal, and still is despite having four writers now. Probably 95% of what goes on the site is selected by me which has advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantage being that I still synthesize thousands of projects, submissions, photos, and various leads to decide what we publish each week, a process that is affected by my personal bias. Because of several new projects, you’re likely to see that change a bit over the next year.
Jeff Hamada: It’s not easy to give that part up. What was your mission statement in 2010? And what was it in 2017?
Christopher Jobson: It’s funny because in January we wrote a thrilling first draft of Colossal’s core values! It’s too lengthy to share here, but the main idea is that Colossal exists in service of the artists, designers, and creatives we feature every day. Though much of what we do veers into the territory of journalism, I still view Colossal functioning more as a gallery in promoting artists of all skill levels and backgrounds above ourselves. 2010: Oh, this is neat!
Jeff Hamada: Aside from the odd articles we find through each other, our tastes remain quite different. That’s actually the appeal for me; I don’t like everything you like. Is it similar for you when you look at Booooooom?
Christopher Jobson: Sure. I mean, that’s the root of what taste is I guess. Even when you publish something that I wouldn’t share with our audience I know it appears on Booooooom for a reason: the message, the aesthetic, or the medium. I’ve spent a moment with every single item you’ve published for at least the last 7 years, if only briefly, and I trust what you publish even if I wouldn’t rush to hang it on my wall.
Jeff Hamada: How has your taste has changed in the last few years?
Christopher Jobson: Mostly the gradual shift from a design-oriented blog (2010-2012) to a art, photography, and craft blog in the last few years. We’ve also introduced a healthy bit of science, history and aspects of the natural world which wasn’t as present in the beginning.
Jeff Hamada: What does it mean to be a human curator in the age of computer algorithms? Is it important?
Christopher Jobson: I think it’s everything. The majority of what we focus on are projects, artworks, and things that exist in real life and are made with people’s hands. That extends itself to our curation and social media. Everything is done by hand, nothing is ever automated. It gives Colossal a… soul? Something I think our regular readers can sense, even if they don’t know it explicitly.
Jeff Hamada: I hope they can sense it! I spend a lot of time trying to make sure that soul exists here too. Maybe we can end this with one thing you’d like to accomplish in the next year or so, and one thing you’d like to accomplish in your lifetime.
Christopher Jobson: The goal is to finally have a regular editorial schedule over the next year, something I am personally incapable of orchestrating. A lifetime goal is to have a vacation and not touch an electronic device for a month.