The Complete Design
James Denton, a recent Design Institute of San Diego graduate, didn't have much of an academic drive in high school. He did, however, like his drafting classes and was very creative in building and constructing 3-D objects as a child. So when it came time to make a decision about college, he applied to the Lawrence School of Architecture in Detroit and was excited to be accepted.
While in school, James worked for an architectural firm that specialized in restaurant design. After a couple of years he realized that a professional architecture degree was not what he wanted, but he stayed with the firm for 6 years. The design approach he learned there has stuck with him and still influences his work today. "We would do a concept that covered every detail, even down to the developing a font for the receipts. So it's a totally controlled experience from the time you see the storefront, sit down, get your bill and walk out the door. There's fluidity there."
Eventually James wanted to leave Detroit and pursue a degree in interior design so he did his research and found DISD. "I knew I wanted to go to an accredited school and DISD had a really good reputation, so I decided to come out here." He had also met his future wife, Jennifer, and her plans to move to California just sweetened the deal.
When he started school, James was well versed in drafting and design but his computer skills were lacking. "The architectural firm I worked for in Detroit was a small 3-man firm that only used drafting tables. Coming to DISD and taking AutoCAD helped out a lot because I got over my computer fears, which is huge. And I learned that I really love Photoshop. Thanks to Design Institute, that's something I still enjoy." James also credits DISD with his sound business practices. "The business classes at DISD helped out with contract writing and a lot of administrative stuff, which you don't always learn as an intern but you need to know when starting your own business."
James worked on the retail side of design during and after graduation and he also took on freelance design projects. "I worked on an art gallery in New York and then some projects back in Michigan." He got his big break when he used his Photoshop skills to design business cards for a friend. This friend was so impressed that he recommended James to another friend who was vying for a lease in a grocery store space and needed presentation materials put together. The owner of the grocery store space owns many buildings in La Jolla, liked James' work and sought him out to do other high profile remodels.
From there it just snowballed. James is currently working on about 10 projects. He likes commercial projects but has a nice mix of residential as well. "I have teamed up with Michael Soriano and have some exciting projects in the works." One of James' residential remodels was recently featured in Riviera Magazine. This bachelor pad in La Jolla is a weekend retreat for a client whose primary residence is in Palm Desert. His client wanted to get away from the dark and heavy feel of his Tuscan home, so James designed this weekend pad to have a light and hospitality feel with a lot of South Beach references. The project took over a year because the space needed to be gutted and walls removed but it came together with great success.
With a solid portfolio of design work, James sees his goals well within reach. "I have a new baby on the way and I need to move out of my home office and into a store front to make room for the nursery. And I'd like to get more small business projects in La Jolla and downtown: more urban projects. I miss storefront design, signage, branding, commercial layouts, stuff like that." James' design repertoire is bound to grow, partly because he does not commit to just one design style. "Rather than getting burnt out on one style, one color palette and one project, you can move on to another one and work on that while your brain gets refreshed." He is able to do this wide variety of projects because of his strong education in design history and solid base of skills. "While in school I was able to fine tune my skills and focus on what works for me. DISD teaches you everything from Revit to pencils and everything in between, so you have all of those tools in your bag and you know what's best for each project. With those tools, DISD then really allows you to take your own path." James is proud of all of the work he has done, and not just because he likes the designs. "I take pride in it because the people that the work is for are happy." At the rate James is going, there are sure to be many more happy people in his future.