James, President & Creative Director
Born the last son of radical preacher man Dr. Dale Heaton outside of Chicago, James Heaton grew up in Florida. He left the U.S. at 19 for an 8-year odyssey in Asia, where, among other things, he traversed Tibet culminating in a near-death experience in the north (the whole story here), became a Theravadan Buddhist monk in Thailand, studied under the master calligrapher Santo Murakami 村上三島 (1912-2005) in Japan, gained fluency in Japanese and proficiency in Chinese, and earned degrees in fine art and East Asian History from Eckerd College and went on from there to study Art History at Kyoto University Graduate School of Letters.
His first paying job was as a photographer and writer for Rasen-sha, the boutique Kyoto-based advertising agency run by the avant-garde thinker Takeda Yoshifumi. He contributed photographs and essays in Japanese to projects published in Esquire Japan, Seven Seas Magazine, 03 Tokyo Calling, and the Kyoto Journal, where he was a contributing editor for many years.
Visiting friends in New York in 1991, he finally found his true home. In New York, he entered the studio of the artists, architects, and philosophers Arakawa and Madeline Gins, where he worked on Helen Keller or Arakawa (Burning Books, 1994), Ubiquitous Site – Nagi’s Ryoanji at the Nagi Museum of Contemporary Art, Site of Reversible Destiny – Yoro Park, Gifu, Japan, and the Guggenheim Museum retrospective exhibition.
In 1996, he founded and published the art magazine The Exhibitionist, which was distributed nationally, but chose to shut it down after a year, converting that business into a design company. From 1998 to 2006, the company acted as a subcontractor to New York advertising agencies, doing work for Digitas, Euro, Saatchi & Saachi, and many others. At the end of 2006, he took the company direct to client as a branding agency.
James Heaton and Tronvig Group
Tronvig Group has worked for clients in a wide variety of business and nonprofit categories, and James is incessantly developing and improving the company’s strategic process. James Heaton has developed an effective and innovative brand strategy diagnostic and marketing strategy analysis that together bring clarity and insight to inform strategic decisions of all kinds.
By drawing on organizational insight and existing practice, as well as consumer research, Tronvig Group is able to give effective strategic guidance in a wide array of client situations. Tronvig Group’s brand philosophy is grounded in the power and efficiency of truth, and its marketing philosophy is rooted in the value of finding the intersection of existing consumer need with an organization’s passion and true talent. In many cases, the trim tab metaphor is also operable.
Calm and focused, yet passionate about learning and ideas, James leads Tronvig Group with a combination of roving curiosity, sharp-minded analysis, and an infectious desire to continually improve. As president and creative director, it is his job to make sure the company is effectively “finding creative ways to help our clients make the world better.”
James also regularly conducts intensive workshops that help organizations put in place effective brand strategy, marketing strategy, and organizational alignment tools and practices that Tronvig Group has developed over the past 20 years.
Strategy Workshops are available on request for businesses, museums, arts organizations, libraries, nonprofits, and mission-driven enterprises anywhere in the world.
Watch a short excerpt from a Strategy Workshop in which James engages with the staff of the Tenement Museum in New York City to answer the question, “What is a brand?”