"Freestyle", "Color", "Overdose" are the words used by Romanian artist Stefan Lucut when describing his style.
"Confident", "Driven" and "Inspiring" are the words you will most likely use after reading this interview.
Stefan Lucut is young, raw, talented, and as you'll see below, ready to take on the world. We are thankful in many ways to have had the chance to speak with someone that we truly believe is going to become one of the greatest icons in design history. Take this as a front-row pass inside the mind of a future mogul. Enjoy!
FAIRspot: How is it living in Romania?
Stefan Lucut: Romania is like the Wild Wild West! It's very hard to make a name for yourself. Everything is corrupted... and it's sort of a poor country, but if you are smart, you can live rich here.
FS: Are you freezing your B&!!$ off right now or what?
SL: We have hot summers and cold winters, so yeah, right now my B&!!$ are like ice.
FS: Do you plan to stay in Romania the rest of your life?
SL: Staying and living in Romania has not been part of my future plans. I've passed all the challenges I've had here in Romania-in the design industry. I definitely need a new challenge, something professional and inspirational so I can push myself and my creativity forward. I would like to live in Luxembourg or Manchester/UK. Luxembourg is peaceful, lovely, calm, and you never hear about it. I would like to abandon the "stage" and start working in quiet somewhere in Luxembourg, and just make updates from time to time. I am a huge fan of Manchester United since I was 4 years old. The UK is what I need in the winter. It fits me so well-rain, clouds, cold, etc... But if I lived in Manchester I would definitely become a hooligan. I would be on the first page of the tabloids every weekend. As a career designer in Manchester I will be the designer who goes to every workshop and conference, which is always at the right spot.
FS: Would you ever consider moving to the U.S.?
SL: I receive this question every month. David Gensler was the last guy who asked me to move my ass to the KDU studio in NY, and I had the same answer, NO. It's kind of obvious that I love to be in my corner. First thing on my list is Luxembourg. You can obviously see the difference between Luxembourg and the U.S.. I plan to live with small things around me so I can choose what inspires me, not to be chosen by my surroundings. I mean, in Luxembourg for example, I can find inspiration from a building, but in the U.S., the building chooses me. It's small versus big, and I would love to live like a hamster.
FS: Are you working in a studio right now in Romania or just freelancing?
SL: I've been working at several studios until about 10 months ago, when I realized that Romania and the studios from here have no challenges to offer. I started freelancing with clients from abroad, most of them from the U.S. and the UK. I receive a lot of emails from different clients, but I select only what I think could be a good challenge for me; actually, it's the challenge that makes this job so perfect and interesting.
FS: We're sure you get a lot of email. Has anyone offered you any sweet jobs, projects or collaborations lately?
SL: Yeah. When I wake up, I spend like an hour to read and answer a lot of emails. A lot of them are questions and congrats, some of the emails are potential clients and collaborations with artists or agencies. I also receive job offers; like one per month in the last 10 months. I am on my way to leave the country and move to the UK/Leeds, [to work] at Attik studios this summer.
I consider this the best offer regarding my future job. Talking about collaborations, no one has given me a true challenge until now. Just to let you know, I am up for everything; collaborations, jobs, projects, etc..., if it challenges me.
Someone gave me a project which I now consider to be the hardest project I've ever made. I accepted it with no regard to price-just to push me forward in all directions. Projects also need to have a good concept, plan and a ton of research, which is something that I always want to do-think the whole project through from the first pixel to the last.
FS:What got you interested in Graphic Design?
SL: I can easily say freedom. The freedom to do everything you want. The freedom to use as many colors as you want, unlike painting where you have just these colors and that's it. Anytime you want to make a different color, you must mix them, being sure you will never succeed. So freedom is the word. Freedom because I can use millions of colors, millions of shapes, types, effects, etc... And you know what? None of these will cost you a cent, and if you don't like it you can easily delete.
FS: Did you attend school for design?
SL: I become an artist when I was 14 years old. I would paint and draw different things, objects and scenes. Recently I finished the Art High School- in Ploiesti, where I worked in the same traditional methods, drawing and paint, oil and canvas, etc... My last year at high school my parents bought me a PC. I started browsing all day to find out more about art, just to find out how many cultures and art styles were on this planet. One day I found a new method; digital, and I found it very interesting. I put all my traditional stuff away and started using Photoshop. After finishing High School I moved to Timisoara, where I am in my last year at the University of Arts studying Multimedia Design.
FS: Do you find it difficult to find new work living in Romania?
No one dies here. No one can complain that there are no job offers. The problem is when it comes to the level of the companies. If you feel you can make a big career and you are smart, you will always ask: Will people ever hear about me if I stay in Romania? Am I getting paid what I deserve? Will they respect my work? You'll find these kind of issues when you're looking for a job. So once again we return to the challenge aspect. Here you are just a worker, no matter if you are an electrician, designer or driver. It's easy to live in Romania... working with people from abroad.
FS: How do you attract new clients and business?
SL: I don't need clients every day. Most of the time I have only one client per month. It's enough because I work "expensive" as they say. I select them, so I choose the most interesting projects, and the most interesting project is always the best paid. I work one or two weeks per month with clients, the rest of the time I spend working on my personal projects and do some networking. Soon I will finish my personal projects so I can stop networking. Hopefully I will attract clients through my personal projects, just because it will be something new and fresh that everyone will want to have.
Right now I am working with some agencies from the US and the UK, so I am not concerned about next month. People come to me for just one reason. They like the experimental and unconventional feeling of my works. It doesn't matter if they are identity, prints or web. That's why I never needed to look for clients.
FS: Can you describe your dream job?
SL: I have just one dream when it comes to jobs. I want to have a big sponsor like Coca Cola (for example), who gives me like 5000 Euros per month, and I will design for free for anyone that wants it. This would be the ultimate job, staying home and working for others, totally free without thinking about the next day... or your bank account.
FS: What type of projects do you want to do that you are NOT doing right now?
SL: I don't know because I've done it all up until now, at least everything that I want to do. But one thing I would love to do and I will struggle to do until the end of my life is to talk at a design workshop. To be there on the stage presenting and talking about something interesting, something that people must know. I would love to organize projects for flyers, identity, prints, web, motion, etc... For me this could be a huge challenge and a huge dream come true.
FS: Name some of your influences... People, music, art, whatever inspires you to create!
SL: The first on my list is obviously God. He created nature, animals, plants, humans, etc... So all these inspire me. Secondly, human; his emotions and creations. I have nothing that inspires me more than others.
What is around us will inspire us even if we realize it or not.
FS: Who is your favorite designer of ALL time?
SL: You probably already guessed... Josef Muller Brockmann.
FS: How do you learn new design techniques and trends?
SL: I would love to think that I am a part of the trend. I never use tutorials. I think that tutorials are for idiots. What is the real creative process? To see, try to experiment and bring your own touch into it, right? So if you see a nice effect, for example, which is in the trend, look at that effect really deep and start doing it by yourself. I can be sure you will make a new effect or you will push that effect forward. This is how we contribute to the trends.
Personally, I try to stay away from the influence of other designers and experiment as much as I can. When I have nothing to do, and I am free, I start to experiment. Experiments help me to make original things for the future clients and projects.
FS: We see a heavy urban influence in your work. Would you say this is from the rough streets of Romania, a lifestyle choice, or something else?
SL: Yeah, true. The urban influence comes from my urban life. I was into graffiti for 5 years and skateboarding for 4 years. So I am kind of the urban guy. Romania is an ex-communist country, so you can imagine how it looks like when you get out on the peripheries of the big cities, where I used to live. But this urban style comes from everywhere I go. I am freestyling, this is what urban means overall.
FS: How would YOU describe your personal style?
SL: I know that people can recognize me already from the crowd because of these tree words: "Freestyle, color, overdose".
FS: You have recently been going heavy on a certain futurism/cubism graphic and typography style. How did this style originate?
SL: It's just me. I get influences from what's around me, but I select different things for inspiration. Right now it's all about details, patterns and typography. I try to get into every style and push it to the limits in my own way. I have periods when I am only focused on colors or shapes, etc.... Right now I am doing the futuristic style. This style appears in my graphics when I choose to actually quit digital art and start to focus more into design, prints and typography, witch has more essence and style. The KDU gives me the freedom to develop my style in this direction.
FS: Would you say this is your "signature" style or do you think you are still developing your own style?
SL: As I said, I hear a lot of people recognize me because of my style, shapes, colors or whatever. I would love to think I have my own style, but I would also love to think that I am not stuck into it and I can develop my style or another one. I will let you decide if Stefan Lucut has his own style and signature, because I am still busy with experiments.
FS: How do you produce most of your print works?
SL: Most of my work is based on what I have in my head. I am really able to draw in my head what it's going to look like. So actually, for a lot of my work, I don't need to sketch on paper because I sketch it on my mind and I am able to make it on the computer too. That's why I started designing on the computer. It's total freedom. Of course, there are some projects or pieces where I need to draw by hand or use photography, scanner, video etc... Besides design, I paint a lot at home... but what is made offline, remains offline.
FS: You were recently quoted on your website saying, "You know me, I don't like the web and web design." This appears to be a trend among many young print and graphic designers internationally. Why do you think web design is less appreciated than other forms of design?
SL: Yeah, I said that. Actually, I love to make web design. The problem comes when you have rules. Web design has some rules that everyone respects, but I don't like to have rules. I am totally into freestyle and experiments. So when you design a website for a client and you know that you can't put the header on the bottom (this is an example), and you need to follow the rules, then everything is crap. Where is the creative process, and where is the challenge?
But... I will try to put my signature on it. Right now I am working on some crazy projects in web design and development. Web design really is less appreciated because we can all make a website if we follow the rules. Check the internet and you will find 99,999,999 studios who will give you a nice website following the rules. My philosophy is that whatever has rules to follow, the creativity is useless. Let designers be able to design free. Don't make a 10 page brief. 100% freedom is 100% creativity and originality.
FS: Do you think print will ever die completely and go 100% digital?
SL: No way. First we cannot move our life online forever. Second, do you ever print your stuff? How do you feel? I tell you man, ever since I printed my first poster (made by myself), even when it was total crap, I was like "Wow!". Prints by definition must get output from a printer, so after you make a nice digital design, don't forget to hit “PRINT".
FS: We see that you stay very busy on many of the design portals, how important is social-networking to you?
SL: I am not into this anymore. I recently wrote an article about the biggest networks online that don't have a “Delete" function. You can easily get in, but you can never get out. This is total crap. I started trying to get out of some of these communities because I would waste a lot of time there. Right now I am where the network is good for me and where I can learn something or get fresh news.
FS: Do you think most designers underestimate the importance of self promotion?
SL: Definitely, but in some other way. Everyone goes and makes a nice MySpace profile, but for what? This is just a huge porn community, so get the hell out of there. DeviantArt is full of ass kissing and kids with nothing to learn from there. HumbleVoice is a huge spam. Virb is for nothing. Newstoday (QBN now) is full of shit. So if you need a source of inspiration, go to cpluv. If you need to get your name on the first page to get clients and receive some good feedback, go to Behance. If you love digital art, go to Depthcore and you will find a lot of people there ready to help you.
Online promotion is good if you know where to go. But don't forget about magazines, printed or not. The best promotion is to be on the news portals every two months, but this means that you need to bring something fresh... every two months.
FS: How much time do you spend online every day?
SL: Because of technology, I am always online. Not really "online", but I always check my email for example, no matter where I am. But networking is out of my range. I use email everyday to talk with clients and friends so it's my primary form of contact.
FS: What do you do when you're not working?
SL: I think I am normal. I don't abuse anything. I wake up at 9 A.M., work like 8 hours or so, then I go relax, listen to music, get out, watch TV, play football, etc... Then back to work till 2 or 3 A.M., sleep, and this is the week. The weekends are just for inspiration, experiments, relax, networking, and to answer the heavy emails. Most of the time I spend in my workplace because it's what I want to do and it's what I love to do. The rest is just whatever.
FS: Do you think you will be a designer for the rest of your life?
SL: Definitely. But when I feel like I've left something behind, I will try something else for sure. Just not far away, because I would love to make a team and small studio [one day]. Also, in my free time, I would love to be a teacher.
FS: What are some of your long-term career goals?
SL: I would love to work in a big agency for 5 or 10 years, and after that start to build my own team and work with them on some cool projects. Then write books and make fonts when I'm 40-45 years old. Also, this year me and my young mates will be launching some fresh stuff over the internet. So I include this in my goals.
FS: What advice would you give to someone that wants a career in design?
SL: Patience is a virtue. Be patient and work hard. You will not be on the first page from the beginning. Most of the young designers ask me, “Stefan, why don't people feature my stuff?" "Why am I not in Computer Arts?", and I have the same answer for all of them, “Do you think you should be there?" “Do you think you work enough?". If you take it serious and work hard you will be there, and you will not need to send any emails or recommend yourself, trust me. Just be patient. Work and don't waste too much time online.
I would love to tell you how I am, what my dreams are, and why I work so hard. Maybe you will understand why you should do what you really like no matter how hard the battle is. You will not believe this, but ever since I was 12 I dreamed of having a wife, 4 kids, house, car and 2 dogs. Sounds like crap huh? This is how I concept life, and this is how I understand the fact that I am part of it. Most of the young guys like me want to have a lot of money to drink, do drugs, have an expensive car, or things like that. But would you feel life like that? Would you feel alive? I can tell you that you will feel like you are dying. All of these are moments of pleasure, nothing is for the next day. You know the expression, "live your life", I think it refers to the entire lifetime, not the day or the moment. What I want to do is to make investments in this life, like in business. In the end you will have the profit. I will invest in my kids and family and they will remain after me to takeover "my business". If you can grow your business doing what you love the most, then do it, and don't forget to leave something behind.
FS: Can you give the readers an inside peek into what's coming up for you in 2008?
SL: Big surprises this year. We are working on the new Etcetering, which will be the freshest design portal ever. We have a school in our schedule and a web magazine. From me, some types and some new experiments. Also this year you will find me in some books from Victionary and Noize 5 from Attik. A lot of new stuff is going on.
FS: What's your prediction for the biggest trend of 2008?
SL: I can say that everything will go big. As you can see more and more designers choose to design with big elements, big and round fonts. So I predict that everything will go simple and big without so many colors. But who knows, I don't, and I don't really care. All I care about is pushing my own trend forward until it becomes a huge trend for all.
Like what you see?
All works above are produced by and copyrighted by Stefan Lucut. To view Stefan's portfolio, please visit stefanlucut.com. Want more inspiration? Be sure to check out the all new design portal, Etcetering by Stefan Lucut.
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