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Where I find inspiration

My journey into the world of commercial design started early on, before I even recognized going into design as a career choice. I can vividly remember doodling logos of my favorite brands on maths textbooks in high school. I would often walk down the supermarket aisle in my teen years, browsing the shelves for packaging that stands out. The symmetry and cleverness of my favorite logos would compel me to memorize and sketch those on paper time and time again. In my spare time, would also doodle goofy emblems and symbols out of my own imagination, coming up with a complete sequence of varieties of each symbol.

Today, with nearly 10 years of graphic design experience behind my back, I have learned that inspiration is not something you stumble upon by chance, but a frequency that you consciously choose to tune in to. It is always “there”, you just need to find the magic rituals that help you get to it. I have also learned that without inspiration, design turns from a fulfilling craft to a tedious and mechanic job that does not stimulate you. You need to always work hard to get inspired and stay inspired in order to grow and master the craft.
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The fastest way for me to reconnect with my creative spirit is meditation. It helps me clear my mind from stray thoughts and opens up a space within my mind for consciousness and creativity to seep in. When having a creative challenge and a looming deadline, I will have alternating periods of extreme focus and deep thinking with intermittent meditations when I will completely detach from the task and clear my head. By focusing and then unfocusing on the problem in such a way, you give your subconscious mind the time and space to connect the dots and solve the puzzle for you.
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Another way I get inspired is by looking at brilliant designers from the past. Great design is timeless and the principles that made any piece of design worthwhile a century ago still hold to this day. The main reason I like to draw inspiration from designers from 20 century is that they had to create logos and illustrations using only simple shapes and colors – everything had to look good when printed in B&W on newspaper. Without the elaborate digital software we use today, designers from the past had to rely on the fundamentals to make their designs work.
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My favorite graphic designers of the 20 century are Paul Rand (IBM, Ikea, UPS logos), Massimo Vignelli (Ford, Ducati, American Airlines logos), and Saul Bass with his quirky compositions and iconic, bold logos (Quaker, AT&T, Kleenex).
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I also often look at some of the iconic soviet logo designs and propaganda posters for inspiration, mainly to gain a different perspective on design and illustration. I am an admirer of Stefan Kanchev in particular. Mr. Kanchev (www.stefankanchev.com) was the leading graphic designer in Bulgaria during the Soviet era. He was responsible for creating the most famous brand marks in the country during the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s:

When everything else fails to rekindle inspiration, I take a digital detox or a brief sabbatical and grab my hiking boots and gear. Hiking is like moving meditation to me – it helps me come down from your head into my body and create space in my head for new ideas. There is something about hiking in wooded areas at high altitudes (fresh air and positive ions from the pine trees and waterfalls?) that helps me recharge and gain new perspectives on the projects I’m working on.

Last but not least, I get a tremendous boost of inspiration when I hear positive feedback from a happy client. It’s the relationships I’ve built with clients over the years that keep me on my toes as a designer, not so much the financial incentives that the craft brings. It makes my day when I find that a company I have worked with has left the competition in the dust because of the rebrand I did for them or when I read positive customer feedback below products on Amazon I’ve helped design and package for clients.
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Here are some of the most successful brands I’ve helped create:
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