Interview with DBH 10K Winner Christian San Jose

Fresh off his big $10,000 Design By Humans win, Christian San Jose (aka csj89) sat down to talk with me about his winning design Mecha-Labaw, the stress of competition and the power of social networking and good old hustle.

Mecha-Labaw by Christian San Jose aka csj89

1. Congratulations on winning the Design By Humans $10,000 contest!It’s been about a 2 month wait since the start of the contest – what has your anxiety level been like during the last couple of weeks?

Thanks Coty! It was really a roller-coaster experience, from the joy I got because of all the support by friends and people that liked the design, to all the stress that came from thinking of new ways of promoting it, even the anxiety that each new round (and the consequent vote reset) brings. I barely slept in August, because if you stopped promoting, there’s a big chance somebody will get ahead.

2. What was your reaction when you found out you won?

My initial reaction was a huge sigh of relief that it was all over. But that didn’t take long, I jumped around and screamed a lot too. I was at my day job with all my officemates awaiting the countdown, and everybody cheered loudly when it was finally announced. I think I high-fived about 30 people, even the CEO who didn’t know what was happening.

3. What was your inspiration for Mecha-Labaw? What did you try and accomplish with this design?

I came up with Mecha-Labaw because I wanted to do an illustration that had something to do with my country. I came across a large water buffalo photo, and I always wanted to draw something intricate and robotic or mechanical which I haven’t done before. So it all came together with the artwork. It became an artwork in honor of a national symbol in the Philippines.

4. The final two in the DBH 10K came down to you and AJ Dimarucot aka collisiontheory, the reigning 10K champion. Did you feel like you had a good chance at upsetting AJ and winning it all?

Honestly when the contest was nearing its end, I already had my mind set that there’s no chance I’d win over AJ. Since the votes were hidden, I based my thought on the comment count and at the time, I had over 400 comments, and AJ’s sub was close to around 700. During the most part though, I never stopped asking for votes despite the little chance. AJ and I are good friends and colleagues outside of DBH, we’re even neighbors, and I closely followed his win last year – how he continuously promoted his design and got votes from everywhere. I followed his plans from last year (newspaper and web ads, giving away design resources), and added schemes of my own. Last August, I did 4 seminars discussing graphic design and t-shirt culture in schools and organizations, and after each talk, I had a chance to promote Mecha-Labaw and ask for help. I also included Mecha-Labaw in two group exhibits I was apart of during the voting process. I also work full-time as a web designer in an Internet Marketing company, so that experience helped me in brainstorming and coming up with the landing page for voters – www.mechalabaw.com, and the placement of promotional blog entries in high traffic websites.

5. You really pushed hard at promoting Mecha-Labaw. At what point in the contest did you think, “geee, wouldn’t be great if I actually set up a website just to promote Mecha-Labaw?” Was the website something you knew you wanted to do from the start?

It was a plan since the very start of the contest, the site was done right after I submitted Mecha-Labaw to DBH, and it was made public just after the announcement of the Top 20. I planned and scheduled all my promotions days ahead of the submission, and at first it was supposed to be hosted at www.csj89.com/10k/ so I could easily spread the link around, but that link was already hard to remember. The direct DBH link was also long and hard to remember, and previous DBH experience dictates that some new DBH visitors get lost when presented with the direct vote link. They didn’t know if they had to register first, where the vote button was and whatnot. I made a landing page with a memorable domain name to make the vote process as easy and smooth as possible. I also included a shirt give-away raffle promo for anyone who re-blogs, for incentive. The site was hosted on the same server as my portfolio (www.csj89.com), and the new domain name was just $9. Not a bad price considering all the help it provided. I wish I could show you the old piece of paper I drafted all my initial promotional ideas on but I can’t seem to find it now.

6. Are you satisfied with final colorway that Design By Humans decided to go with for the Mecha-Labaw print?

Very satisfied on my part, I love the colorway they chose. Some of the buyers want lighter choices though, it’s all up to DBH if they decide to print it again.

Mecha-Labaw Original Mock Up

Mcha-Labaw Final Print

7. Finally, I think most people are interested to know how you’re going to spend/use the cash prize?

I’ll give $1000 to charity, buy a Macbook, and keep the rest of the money in the bank for future savings.

Thank you very much Coty for this interview, and again I’d also like to thank everyone who supported Mecha-Labaw in the contest :)