Romanian-born and New York-based designer, Ionut Radulescu has made it his mission to celebrate diversity and queer culture. Through his genuine, intentional work, Ionut communicates important messages of self-appreciation and self-sufficiency. He tells us he’s very conscious of his work and the impact that it can have on people, and that couldn’t be clearer when you look at his portfolio. Ionut really knows how to convey meaning and expand on his own creative limits with every design.
We caught up with Ionut to find out what his creative process looks like, how he deals with creative slumps, and so much more.
Where do you start? What do you usually have on or around you? What is your creative process like?
I try to keep a sketchbook where I scribble down ideas inspired by everything that resonates with me: conversations on the NYC subway, posters on the street, a podcast line, a music lyric, a movie scene, a book or a magazine that I am reading. I call these moments “snippets of wisdom.”
I keep around me a lot of magazines, everything from lifestyle, zine, fashion publications, art, queer materials and so on. At my workspace at home, I have my a wall full of little cards, posters, labels of all sorts of shapes and colors. It’s almost like a physical mood-board that keeps the creative juices flowing.
I start my creative process with research, sketching and trying out a couple of ideas. I also trust my instincts on what works for that particular project or client that I have at the moment. Sometimes I draw and design directly on the computer and start playing with elements until I am happy with the end result.
What do you do to get out of a creative slump?
There are moments when things just don’t work out and I need to shut my mind off and try to not think about work for a moment. I often get back to my saved bookmarks of blogs, magazines and other visual materials that I am inspired by to get back in that mindset of creating and start with a fresh approach on how to tackle that project.
You have a very unique and defining style. Can you tell us how the process of finding that style and perfecting it has been like for you?
Perfecting a style or finding a voice takes time.
I believe that as a designer and illustrator, having a strong visual vocabulary is important, but you need to allow yourself to experiment and expand your mediums.
The more work that I do, the better I know myself and what type of projects I enjoy and help me grow. As an example, the lettering and collage illustration started a few years ago, and it definitely took me some time and patience to get to where I am now.
I might experiment with something new this year, but at the end, it will somehow fit into my work repertoire and it will all look cohesive.
Can you tell us a little bit about your favourite project, and why it’s your fave?
It’s really hard to pick one, but I really enjoyed working on a couple of queer projects for pride month two years in a row for Converse. It started in 2018 when they reached out to me. Before that, Refinery29 reached out for a queer project as well, and that made me really happy.
I had the opportunity to push myself. I got to create art that can resonate with the community and find a deeper meaning apart from the aesthetic part of it.
There is so much amazing work out there in terms of illustration, design, and lettering.
The secret is finding context for what you are creating.
If it’s honest work it will impact other people who will hopefully respond well to it!
Image courtesy of Ionut Radulescu
What’s one dream project that you would love to do or be involved with?
I can’t think of a particular dream project, but I definitely want to work on more projects related to the topics of queer culture, gender identity, and self-expression. Those themes resonate the most with me and motivate me to do extensive research in order to come up with strong, compelling ideas that can resonate with people. That can materialize into an exhibition, online platform, campaign, book or magazine design.
What is one tool at your desk or workspace that you couldn’t live without?
I definitely can’t live without my laptop, Wacom graphic tablet, and my pen and notebook.
Where do you look for inspiration these days? Are there any artists, designers, or illustrators that you are loving at the moment?
I find myself looking at different things at a given time, but I do have some people that I follow and I am inspired by.
I look up to Veronica Ditting’s simple, yet sophisticated typographic and art direction style. I love her taste for editorial and what she did with the magazine Gentlewoman—a great magazine, well-designed that is not overly trendy and has a sense of elegance and eye for detail as far layout design.
I am also inspired by the work of Karel Martens, a Dutch graphic designer, and artist, whose work is both personal and experimental, but also publicly answerable. I am planning to buy his new book very soon!
Apart from that, I try to really stay away from the “design bubble” and look at art, photography, movies, dance and other forms of media for inspiration that can inject a new perspective and approach into my work.
What does the future of design look like to you? What changes do you foresee in the near future that will affect your work?
I think that there is an increased demand for video, animation, and VR.
That means that design, lettering, and illustration will need to move, and be more engaging when adapted onto a website, digital panel, or a social media campaign.
Also, the programs for digital design are now crafted to be more collaborative and efficient. Designers can make changes in real-time and developers can bring those to life and come up with their own solutions on how to build a smart design.
For me, it’s definitely the challenge of staying on top of these things from a technical perspective, but also be strategic about it and work with people that can bring a new skill in order to make that project a success.
What’s the best advice you have ever received? What about the worst?
Best advice: To follow my intuition, take risks and make sure that my decisions are making me happy and I am being honest with myself.
Worst advice: I can’t recall bad advice that had impacted me.
Maybe once someone told me to experiment more creatively while in college, since I will be doing a lot of “normal” work later on in my professional life. That lead me to think about my work in way that I try to push myself and never stop learning and making new things, but at my own pace.
What’s next for you?
As of now, I am trying to learn new programs and read more about the topics that are of interest to me so that I can work on projects that I care about.
I am also planning to co-found a creative studio and be more involved in teamwork and growing a project collaboratively. I’m trying to improve my leadership skills and getting sharper with project management.
Also, I want to travel more this year, and hopefully go to Amsterdam this coming summer!