James studied in the UCLA School of Fine Art, all the while working part time in RAND Corporation, and in 1956 became their Corporate Design Director. Three years later he left to join Northrop, creating a visual identity for the company based on conceptual black and white photography, simple typography and fine printing.
After joining Saul Bass’ studio for a short while, James proceeded to form his own design firm, Cross Associates, in 1963, which was a great success: in 1980 his firm had offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Newport Beach in CA. His clients included Smith International Inc, Lockheed Corp and Ramada Inn. Cross Associates was acquired by Saatchi & Saatchi in 1988, and Cross was named its Managing and Creative Director until leaving in 1994.
In 1960, James served on the Board of Directors for the International Design Conference in Aspen. He is a board member of AIGA, the International President of Alliance Graphique Internationale, and has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Art Directors Club of Los Angeles.
James currently lives in the Napa Valley, designing packaging and materials for small high-end wineries.