After spending over a decade working a corporate job in Toronto, Gio Petrucci set off to start his own thing. GIOGRAFIK, a consciously driven design studio based in Windsor, Ontario, has allowed Gio to focus more on what he truly enjoys— collaboration, entrepreneurship and authentic connections.
Gio’s impressive roaster of clients includes Globe and Mail, Pride Toronto and even Amazon. His designs have appeared on apparel for Toronto Fashion Week and he’s lent his talents to several charitable initiatives and many local businesses all across Ontario.
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get started in this business?
I feel like each time I’m asked this question, I need to refresh my story and tell it from a different angle to make it sound more interesting than it actually is.
Hey, hi, hello! I am Gio, owner and operator of GIOGRAFIK, a small creative studio currently based in the most southern region of Canada (Google will tell you where that is).
I left Toronto after about a decade, having spent a good chunk of that time working in Ad-land (a term I lovingly stole from a colleague of mine). It taught me so much about the creative process within a corporate world, how to balance work, and lead a small team of creatives.
Growing up in an immigrant family of entrepreneurs, I knew that working for myself was the end-goal, whatever that would look like. It would allow me to create the life I wanted, on my terms. In 2017, GIOGRAFIK came into the picture.
Can you describe your creative process? Where do you start? What do you usually have on or around you? How do you know when a piece is done?
My creative process can seem all over the place at times. I like to give myself time to work on a project, revise it, walk away from it, and then come back to it. At this point, I have a good sense of how I work, so I can typically create a timeline for myself to produce work.
When it comes to starting the project, talking to my client is #1. Getting to know them (if they’re new), understanding who they are, what they like and infusing their personality into the project is very important to me. It’s like a first date. You want to understand their energy before beginning the work.
When I’m working, I am either binging podcasts or deep into a DJ set. I’m all over the board, I either want soothing conversations or music blasting to get me pumped.
How do I know something is done? Or at the very least close to being done? Excitement. When I am looking at the work and really enjoying it, feeling that giddy “I know the client is gonna love this” type of emotion.
What do you do to get out of a creative slump?
Walking away from the project! If I’m just sitting there moving one graphic over, rotating it, and getting nowhere, I walk away. Take a breather. This is why I give myself the time to work on projects between submitting the work, because I might need to give myself space from it for a day or two in order to feel refreshed.
I used to work with the mentality of “if you keep pushing you’ll have a breakthrough”. In 2021, this is no longer the case. I’m not a robot, nor do I want to be.
What is one tool at your desk or workspace that you couldn’t live without?
My ongoing lists. I am old school in that I have multiple lists I reference to tell me what I need to do in a day, week and just a general “to do” list that lets me know what I need to get done. I even go as far as writing out “work”, “Gio” aka personal, “home” lists.
This would also include my notebooks and pens. This is probably one of the most exciting answers anyone’s ever given for Creative Crush.
Tell us about a career highlight.
I say this modestly, but I have several.
I’ve had an awesome career so far, and look to always be excited about the work I do. If I had to choose just one, I would say it is collaborating with Toronto-based fashion house VAWK for their Fall-Winter 2013 runway show at Toronto Fashion Week.
I was able to create digital collages that were featured in the womenswear collection, inspired by female artists Frida Kahlo and Madonna. The following season at the VAWK runway show I ran into Canadian actress Elisha Cuthbert wearing one of the pieces I designed from the previous show.
Where do you look for inspiration these days?
In 2021, we can all agree that inspiration is harder to come by. If I’m being 100% transparent, I find inspiration from the people I work with. Connecting with humans, even over the dreaded Zoom is what helps me stay connected to my work and myself.
Another source of energy and inspiration is that I recently became the Creative Director and Member of the Snow Collective. We are a consortium of established entrepreneurs and niche companies working together for a common cause: working with awesome business owners to help in growing their brands. Our weekly check-ins have revolutionized my working style during the past year.
What’s the best advice you have ever received?
In 2019, I participated in Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce's annual mentorship program for Queer entrepreneurs. Going into the program, I was in a phase of my life where I wasn’t fully connected to the work I was doing, trying to accommodate others and representing myself in a way I thought people would want to see me.
Charles McKee, the mentor I was partnered with, gave me the most solid piece of advice. He said, if I was to truly be successful, financial gain aside, the only way to achieve that would be to make sure I operate my business the way I operate as a person.
At that point, I didn’t realize that I could use myself and my personality as a tool to grow my business, not just my skill set. This revolutionized how I viewed myself and my business, and it helped me to get to where I am today, not only as an entrepreneur but as a human being.
What does the future of design look like to you? What changes do you foresee in the near future that will affect your work?
We already live in a digital world, but the current situation we are all going through has tilted us into an even more digital realm. From that, I’ve seen a ton of brands finding the time to rework their brand messaging, tighten up or refresh their branding, and reimagine themselves now that even more eyes are on them. I’ve been working with a lot of companies that have been wanting to follow in this direction, and it’s been amazing to see what comes from each project.
I also see people being less timid about contacting one another, working together online. I think we are realizing that we only have one another to really connect and collaborate.
The days of worrying about what people think are dying off, and people want to work with people who are in line with their own creative styles, which is really magical.
What's next for you?
I am genuinely excited for where I see myself headed: continuing to scale GIOGRAFIK and work with amazing creatives to make amazing work. I would love to hire some staff in the coming year, as it looks like that is where I am going with the growth of the business.
I recently just hit a year of publishing my podcast, Listen 2 Me, where I co-host with my best friend and author Renee Meloche. We talk to creatives about their personal journeys into their fields and discuss all things art, design and collaboration. This project has completely changed how I view the creative process, and what it means to foster community through content creation. I am excited to grow our listenership and connect to more creatives so they can tell their stories!