Meet Christopher Jobson, Founder, Editor-in-Chief of an incredible art and design blog, Colossal, on this episode.
We chat about:
- Christopher's background
- The real story of how Colossal was born
- What kind of work gets featured on this award-winning blog
- The future of online art media
- + more
Fascinated by visual culture across a wide-range of disciplines and committed to making art engaging for everyone, Christopher launched Colossal as a personal blog in the fall of 2010. Somewhat blindsided by the publication's success, he soon left his day job to run the site full-time and began contributing to publications such as Wired Magazine, Beautiful/Decay, Mental Floss, Slate, Designboom and Quartz. He studied design, art, and writing at Columbia College and lives in Chicago with his wife, son, and dogs.
Interview with Christopher Jobson
What inspired you to start Colossal? Briefly tell us about the history of your fantastic platform.
In 2009 I was struggling through a difficult time in my life, and to pull myself out of it I devised a sort of creative challenge: complete a list of 100 small to medium projects over the course of 2010. That year I learned to play the guitar, I took a ceramics course, I began running, and in the fall I tackled item #73 which was literally “start a blog”.
I had a background in web and graphic design, and a longtime interest in contemporary art and visual culture in general, so diving into that world seemed the most compelling. I came up with a short list of terrible titles, but one of them, Colossal, really stood out. From day one I told myself this was the best art and design blog that nobody was reading yet. I began posting three items daily and somehow it took off beyond anything I could have anticipated. By 2013 the site had millions of monthly visitors (thanks in no small part to the explosion of social media) and I was able to quit my job to publish full-time.
There have been huge ups and downs along the way, but this was how it began.
How do you discover artists, and what do you look for when publishing art and design on your site?
We get hundreds of submissions via email each week and every morning I scour dozens of art, design, and culture publications to keep up-to-date with what’s circulating online. We’ve also established great relationships with artists, designers, galleries, and museums who keep us in the loop.
Our goal is to find topics that we feel make the world a better place, by promoting awareness of social or environmental issues, providing a visual escape from a relentless and often disheartening news cycle, or uplifting marginalized or overlooked voices.
What has been the most fulfilling aspect of Colossal so far?
Seeing the real-world impact the publication has on the lives and careers of the artists we cover is the single most rewarding aspect. Second to that is learning how educational and arts institutions have incorporated aspects of Colossal into their curriculum or programming. We’re frequently contacted by art teachers from kindergarten through graduate school who utilize the site in the classroom. A few months ago, I even got an email from a therapist who shares articles from the site with dementia patients.
What advice would you share with creatives who want to start their own site or platform?
Although it’s a difficult climate to launch any sort of online creative endeavor, my advice is to make sure you absolutely love what you’re doing regardless of who’s paying attention. Find the thing that you’re best at, and don’t be afraid to change it up or completely bail on your initial idea. I originally thought Colossal might be a sort of literary journal that published short stories, but quickly realized that my passions were elsewhere. There are hundreds of ideas I’ve scrapped along the way, easily more failure than success. Don’t start with a business plan and ideas for “monetization.” Start with what you love.
What's coming up next for you, and what should we be on the lookout for?
We’re curating a number of large-scale exhibitions in the Chicago area over the next few years including an artist-design miniature golf course called Par Excellence Redux (we’re reviving a similar show from 1988) at the Elmhurst Art Museum that will eventually travel to the City Museum in St. Louis. Also, by the time this is published we’ll have launched our new Colossal Membership program. As part of that, we’re launching a new artist interview series, a new newsletter, an artist grant program, and a lot more. It’s an exciting time for sure.