Interview by Ovidiu Hrin
Hi Sorina, can you tell us a bit more about yourself?I'm 25 years old and have no clue in which direction to head with my life or with design. I work in Bucharest but originally i'm from Timisoara. I ask myself constantly whether i should stay in Romania for one more year, maybe things will change, maybe i should move back to Timisoara…slowly transformations are surfacing, however life as a freelancer in the country continues to be a hassle. I've worked for 4 years in two independent graphic design studios (Synopsis Media and It'severyday.ro) and for a year or so now i've been working as a freelancer of sorts. I sleep in the office and work about 16 hours a day. When i haven't got any commissioned projects to work on i can't take a break, i pick up a pen and start doodling in my notebook, on wood, or on whatever i can gets my dirty hands on. I've also got what i call the "sponge" period which is when i can't create most anything, so i try to suck in as much information as possible, i visit museums, get lost on the streets, take photos and watch movies.
How did this interest in illustration, design and storytelling arise in you?I have no idea, feels like i've been drawing since forever. At some point, one of my teachers from the Children's Palace (a former communist institution for teaching creative arts to children), Mr Alfred Iancu, told me that what i'd been drawing in my journals was called illustration and advised me to apply at the Graphic Design section of the University of Arts in Timisoara. Back then i had no idea what graphic design meant. Along the way i realized you could sell an idea by packing it using graphic design and i figured storytelling is at the basis of any idea. The accomplishment of any idea depends on how well one comprehends the idea and is capable of retelling its story.
You are at a crossroad between three large boulevards: illustration, design and writing, how do you keep a balance?I either install a streetlight or the solution comes to me organically. In the graphic journals i keep, i've filled up pages in which i try to avoid censoring my thought-flow. That's when images and written ideas blend seamlessly. Some thoughts come to me in the shape of words, others i regurgitate in visual form. I can't really make a difference between the two, they're equally important, so i guess that's why i usually bind them. Comics are also a logical solution to the equation illustration/writting+design=?
What projects do you chose to get involved in, and which part of a project attracts you the most?I've avoided working on projects for Coca-Cola so far, for instance, and i wouldn't get involved in promoting a product i don't trust. Usually cultural and artistic projects are what fill up my schedule, collaborating with musician friends on their album covers or handling the visual identity for a cultural festival, also i regularly illustrate for Esquire, Playboy and Regard magazine. All facets of a project are essential, however, the most striking remains the incipient level, when i'm scrapping the surface in search of a concept or of the idea that will be at the nucleus of the visual communication. After i've figured out the message, following a succession of head-banging against the wall, i can finally dress the message in a visual container.
What are your sources of inspiration? Are there artists, designers, people who inspire you?I find inspiration almost anywhere, from holes in the pavement, to the collage of street-signs, to a sleepless night, every corner of life can hold a story, one only needs to be aware enough. There are, naturally, plenty of artists and people who give me courage and a serious dose of ass-kicking, yet i don't try to copy their graphical solutions, even though a drawing teachers once told me that one does not learn art but steals it. The list of people grows day by day and includes guys like: Stefan Sagmeister, Peter Saville, Paula Scher, Seymour Chwast, Josef Muller Brockmann, Tristan Tzara, Buckminster Fuller, Vivienne Westwood, Henry Miller, Andy Warhol, my family, Daniel Clowes, Outkast, friends, the Oilers Gang…impossibility and obstacles can also be a sadistic yet resourceful source of inspiration.
What part does writing(typography) play in your pieces?Sometimes it functions as a subtitle to the graphical input, acts as a sort of support, other times it plays the central part.
Humour and self-irony are recurrent themes throughout your work, do you look for them or do they just come to you?They just pop up. Joking about something painful is similar to the alchemy of turning shit into gold. I couldn't be able to stand myself without a heavy dose of self-irony.
Self-irony or auto flagellation?Now that you insist…there's a sadistic side to the issue. I wouldn't be capable of getting involved in a project, at the level that i do, without being a maniac one way or another. There's a point where most people back off and are satisfied with the product of their job, or they resort to copying others' solutions. I'm not that easily satisfied. Somehow i find myself very often at the limits of my patience and personal logic when i'm looking for a visual solution, even if it's only something related to my mom's business card…in conclusion, a certain percent of self-flagellation is required, in the most Christian sense possible.
Does the place where you work matter, or do you manage to adapt? Are you influenced by the environment in which you work on a project?I am constantly trying to adapt. Since i travel back and forth from Bucharest to Timisoara, i must maintain my mental flexibility. I can manage working in almost any space (for example: in the toilet, on the train, at parties…) but the extra effort is noticeable. Naturally i am influenced by the habitat in which i work, the state i'm in with relationships and my family, the weather conditions…it's incredible i can get any work done sometimes.
What moment of the day is the best to work in for you?It depends. Sometimes in the morning, between 7 and 12 a.m., or at night until sunrise.
In your works the theme of dissent keeps showing up. Can you tell us more about this?Perhaps if i'd gone to a shrink i could have elaborated more on the matter. As far as i know, this anti-side to my thinking surfaced during school, when i was unable to integrate. I didn't have friends even though i tried socializing. Back then i figured that either i was defected somehow, or the flow everyone was going with wasn't my type. Henceforth the need to dissect and relate critically to the majority's point of view… or something like that.
Which do you feel is the most important part you play as a designer in society? How about in Romania?I don't know whether i play any part, i feel as though design in Romania is a question of trendiness, since the level of visual culture is quite low over here. In this sort of context i can only hope to survive out of what i'm doing for another year or so. For me, design is the mathematics of the visual realm. I use grids, guide myself according to some of Brockmann's rules, try to establish an equilibrium in the colour palette…keeping track of all sorts of tiny or big guidelines which i've come to identify by experimenting, other rules i've come across by reading designer's memoirs, typography manuals and so on. I see a lot of young people nowadays who want to study graphic design in order to gain a statute of coolness. A while ago it was cool to be an engineer, a doctor or an economist. We shouldn't forget the times we live in, coupled with the fact that graphic design emerged as a trade during the Bauhaus, and responds to a particular set of demands contemporary society has generated. The status quo values packaging above the quality of the product itself, "design no longer responds to people's needs but to their wants". We live in a time when graphic design could be playing a serious part in the development of society, yet this essential part is treated superficially, which can finally prove to result in a fatal impact on the environment as well as encourage the monopole of corporations worldwide.
I wish i could say that i have the capacity to convince someone to quit smoking through a poster, or manage to gather 50.000 euros for a social cause via a t-shirt design which any respectable hipster in the country would desire. The truth is the only way in which i believe i could make a difference is by teaching others what i've learned as a designer. Right now i haven't sufficient knowledge, but i hope that one day i could work alongside kids and students sharing my skills. I'd also like to do manuals for primary and secondary school, using the comics format, which i feel would best fit the learning techniques. Till then i can only hope.
How do you see design in 2025's Romania?Ten years ago i wasn't aware graphic design existed in Romania. Another 14 years on, i hope we can reach the point where we're talking about a Romanian school of design, as we today speak of the Swiss or Dutch school of design. Associations like the Graphic Front are consolidating a history of graphic design in Romania, during Communism, and i trust that more designers interested in design not for the hype, will sprout, ushering in smoother times. Also, i hope not all talented designers will end up working in advertising agencies, enslaved by some wild desires projected by marketing agents, secretaries or managers, who wouldn't be capable of recognizing creativity even if it kicked them in the balls.