We had the good fortune of connecting with James Frecoe and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi James, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I pursued a creative career because it felt right. I was always a creative, kinda out there child when it came to my way of thinking. I had an amazing father who always fostered my way of thinking and continually encouraged me to pursue what made me happy.
However, the moment I graduated high school, I got a corporate job and spent the next decade focused on analytics, data, and quality assurance. I thought this is what I had to do to make a living for myself and my family. By the time I hit my 10th year at the company, I was SO burnt out. I felt like I was just going through the motions. I realized I wasn’t a “corporate guy.” Then I was introduced to the world of graphic design and I started to get that spark again. I did a ton of research figuring out what I could do to go back to school while working a full time job and raising a family (at the time we had two younger children).
I ended up going back to school at 27 to pursue my degree. It was an interesting time because I had people tell me, “There’s no money in being an artist.” or “You’re going to school for that? Wow, good luck.” Yeah, it was harsh but it just made me want it more.
Making the career change was not easy. My full time job was a supervisor managing a team of at least 10 people. I also worked a “lovely” late shift. My days usually involved going to work at noon, leaving the office at midnight, planning for the next day, then working on school late through the night.
At the end of the day though, I was incredibly motivated to do something that would help me grow and grateful to have my family push me to be my very best.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
My career path was unconventional compared to others. During my years working in the Telecom and Banking industries, I spent time focused on sales, marketing, quality assurance, analytics, and project management. I had the mindset I needed to do this type of work to be successful and support my family. In Colorado Springs at the time, being a designer seemed to be unheard of so I went the corporate route thinking I had do this. Lack of a better term, it sucked and I hated it. I was SO burnt out by the time I hit my 10th year. I felt like I was just going through the motions. Then I was introduced to the world of graphic design and I started to get that spark again. I did a ton of research figuring out what I could do to go back to school while working a full time job and raising a family (at the time we had two younger children).
Making a change was not easy. My full time job was a supervisor managing a team of at least 10 people. I also worked a lovely late shift. My days usually involved going to work at noon, leaving the office at midnight, planning for the next day, then working on school late through the night. I ended up choosing an online education to allow me to have the flexibility to support my family while advancing my education. People would tell me my education was crap or you can’t go to school online to earn a design degree. There were haters and complete strangers for some reason when hearing about my education just laying it out there on how I won’t be successful. Still though, it lit that fire. It because fuel to show those haters they didn’t know what they were talking about. I was motivated to change because I wanted to spend the rest of my life using the right side of my brain. I wanted to think creatively and be creative. That kept me driven regardless of what other thought about me.
I think one of the biggest lessons I learned along the way is don’t sell yourself short. There are many people that are in or have gone through similar situations as myself on their creative journey and those people will welcome you with open arms. The creative community is about lifting and building others up. Take the chance to reach out to that community and you will be surprised on the results. I had spent so much time trying to find other creatives after I earned my degree and it just took time reaching out to different people/organizations. This is how I found AIGA Colorado Springs making some connections with some wonderful creative people.
There is so much more to my story than I can write here. I feel like creative people come from some interesting backgrounds and have had some interesting life experiences. Those stories are definitely for another time. What you need to know about me and my brand is that I’m someone who I motivated to create. To take what is presented to me and make sure the visual outcome exceeds expectations. I also want people to remember how important it is to follow what YOU want to do. What YOU want to make of yourself. I had to make that change later in life but it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m happier knowing I get to push pixels for a living.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I grew up in Colorado Springs and I’m an outdoors type of person. When Colorado isn’t experiencing all 4 seasons during that week, I’d take them down to Old Colorado City first to get breakfast. There are a few good eateries and Bon Ton’s is a fun breakfast spot to start the day. Red Rock open space is a great place to go on a leisurely hike or bike ride. I’d definitely take them to Good Company to get drinks because it’s old stomping grounds. There are great people there and it’s good to have a positive atmosphere.
Now, we’d for sure have to go out of the city to explore what Colorado has to offer. If we’re in the winter months, I definitely would take them to the Western Slope to explore places like Breckenridge (my FAVORITE ski town by far). On the way there, we’d stop in Fairplay to get some food at the Brown Burro Cafe. Plus, if you’re a Southpark fan, it’s just fun to go through that town.
Boulder offers up so much to do and a completely different culture than Colorado Springs. Chautauqua Park offers some diverse hiking trails. Twisted Pine Brewing Co makes some AWESOME beer. Pearl St is fun to explore. The Boulder Reservoir would be a nice place to go and relax.
Point being is if we had a week, there is a lot to do. I haven’t even mentioned anything in Denver yet which, of course, has so much to offer.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
So many people deserve a shoutout. If I miss anybody, I want to apologize in advance.
While I was working my corporate job, a coworker of mine, Grady, introduced me to the school I got my degree from. Liz from Adobe who reached out to me to compete in a Creative Jam as I was finishing school. Donna from The Owl & the Hourglass who was kind and welcoming to someone who was new to the design community. Megan and Paul from Adobe for inviting me back a couple years later to review student portfolios. AIGA Colorado Springs deserves a HUGE shoutout because they brought me into a world I didn’t know existed in Colorado Springs. This includes meeting many wonderful people from different studios and walks of life. People like Jenny and Chris from Design Rangers who were some of the first to welcome me with open arms. The great team at Neon Pig Creative including Colin who was one of the first people to interview me for a job. Noel from Noel Dolan Creative who didn’t treat me as a newbie but as a professional and equal. Lauren at Ren Creativ who is an amazing photographer/designer/business owner and took my first professional headshots. The wonderful clients I’ve gained along the way who have trusted me with their design needs. Of course, I can’t forget my family and friends who stood by my decision for a drastic career change and always cheer me on.