Raised in Brooklyn and based in San Francisco, George McCalman credits his Caribbean background for his unique ability to both embrace and rebel against traditional modes of design, enabling his work to simultaneously integrate and stand out in its industry.

George is a fine artist, illustrator, and graphic designer. His studio serves primarily art, lifestyle, and food clients. McCalman Co creates a classic, long-lasting brand that continues to define its clients as they evolve. He’s worked with Mother Jones, Entertainment Weekly, Readymade, Good Company, and many more. His fine art practice combines social commentary with aesthetic precision and draws inspiration from his community and the world around him. He’s also working on a book called Illustrated Black History to be released on Amistad Press, a division of Harper Collins in Feb of 2020. Listen above or on iTunes or Spotify.

Show notes

In this episode, we talk about:

  • How he intentionally kept his studio small and unique 
  • How the cyclical and repetitive nature of magazines made him commit to only working at each for two years
  • How working with people who lack experience in a given area can provide a fresh perspective
  • How he knew when it was time to go out on his own 
  • Why he chose to open a design studio over starting a magazine 
  • His experience of firing his clients, taking a sabbatical, and spending a year painting and drawing 
  • Identifying as an artist halfway through life
  • The role of a collaborative network and support system in making his leap 
  • His method of giving himself assignments 
  • Feeling his way through art projects rather than over-thinking it 
  • How his Illustrated Black History project came to be
  • Why there hasn’t been a contemporary book on black history 
  • The important way in which he reframed conversation with publishers 
  • How having an agent allows you to ask questions rather than pretending you know something you don’t 
  • Why having a book deal means nothing symbolically but a lot logistically and financially 
  • How a book advance has given him more focus
  • The importance of creating a value system to not be taken advantage of 
  • How he changed his compensation structure to value his expertise 
  • The specific ways he’s created boundaries with clients 
  • How his design work subsidizes his own art 
  • The upsides and downfalls of the change taking place in SF 

Resources mentioned: 

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