Path Interview with Hugh MacLeod


[Originally published on the Path blog, here.]

As longtime fans of artist Hugh MacLeod and his work, it was a no-brainer for us to ask him to create custom sticker packs to be used in messaging. Here, Hugh chats with us about his work, his inspirations, and his creative collaboration with Path.

Q: Among other things, you’re known as a blogger, a marketer, and a cartoonist. Tell us a bit about the road to the career you have carved out for yourself.  When did you first begin creating/drawing?

A: I drew cartoons in college, then got a day job in advertising. I landed a job in NY, and one night just started drawing cartoons on the back of business cards. I’ve often written about the power of ‘small art’. I get to create with little risk, put ideas out there and see what happens. It’s really an art form that parallels marketing. Pushing ideas out and seeing what happens.

I drifted off into blogging territory once the Internet came along. In 2004, I met my business partner, Jason Korman, who showed me that my art form could have real business applications. Off we went, and the rest is history.
Q: What are a few adjectives that you would use to describe your work?

A: Adjectives and phrases:  Inspirational, Subversive, Culturally Relevant, Honest, Transparent, Real, The Voice of Contemporary Business.

Q: Where do you seek inspiration (other contemporary artists, publications, friends, etc.)?

A: Most of my inspiration comes from people watching. This is what made my years in New York so wonderful. The artists who inspire me the most are composers and musicians. Visual artists inspire me less. I am a voracious reader.

Above  all, I am a keen observer of business and entrepreneurship. I love big enterprise. It is a stage where people play out every form of human behavior. I am always looking for what motivates people. Why people really get out of bed in the morning, and how can I help communicate what really matters. Business people think that business is about making money. At it’s core, it isn’t – the money flows from doing other stuff really well. Usually the better you do it, the more you make. If you understand human behavior, human needs, you can accomplish anything you want in business. I help real leaders do that.

Q: How did you become interested in marketing? How important is good marketing to the contemporary artist?

A: Marketing at its core is just about human behavior. As I said above, I am a student of human behavior. You can have focus groups, you can survey, or you can read my cartoons. The latter is just as insightful and a lot cheaper 😉

I believe that there is a special place for art in business. Art allows for expression that transcends ‘normal’ business communication. One reason why enterprise marketers are panicky these days, is because there is no such thing as ‘normal’ anymore. I’ve found that by using art, I can have discussions at work, that would be really hard to have otherwise.

To answer your question directly, I challenge anyone to name a famous artist who lived within the last hundred years who wasn’t a good marketer. There might be a few, but post 1960, there are almost none.

Q: Tell me a bit about the experience and creative exchange working with Path. Why did you agree to this collaboration?

A: Dave Morin, the CEO and founder of Path, is a long time fan and collector of my work. Dave is one of the guys in the tech world that I really admire. He’s got vision and strength, a good combination. I also like the idea of social where you aren’t talking to the world. God knows, I spend much of my life talking to the world. But, there are times when I just want to see what my closest family and friends are up to. I like the way Path is a proxy for what’s really important.Q: Talk about the sticker packs you created for us.  How did “the Best” and the “The Worst” come to be?

A: In social media, we love sharing both the stuff we really like (The Best) and the stuff we really hate (The Worst) with our friends. The two extremes are the bookends of our lives. Friends sharing their lifestream is of course one of Path’s most important functions, so I wanted to make stickers that made it easier and/or more fun to do so.

Q: How do you envision/what is your hope for how your work is used in Path messaging?

A: I just want people to have random fun with them. Random fun is the best kind. The “usefulness” comes later…

Q: Has the experience working with Path differed from any other commissioned work you’ve done in the past?

A: I’m often producing work for clients who aren’t certain how they are going to use it. This often creates anticipation on my part that is unmet. I like that.

One other point that really mattered: Since I am used to working in small spaces, my ‘normal’ canvas is 3.5 × 2 INCHES. So, I am really comfortable working in tiny spaces. Most artists aren’t, and this is why working in a postage stamp sized space actually felt good.

Aside from that, Path was really great to work with, Jenny Ji, Path’s Design Director, was a joy, and let us get on with our work. I say this mainly because not all clients are so nice to deal with, or respectful of the process.

Q: Any advice to budding cartoonists?

A. 1. Practice every day, regardless. 2. Embrace the web. 3. Most cartooning business models suck, so try to invent a new one. 4. Be the most tenacious SOB in the history of the planet.