Every designer has a unique approach for how they like to design and go about their craft. For Levi Szekeres, projects have to be well-planned. Detail can never go unaccounted for, and each step of his process is tried and true.
Szekeres’ approach is to execute design work as meticulously as you would by using the scientific method. And like any man of science, he also bears the discipline with great pride and respect.
And whether it’s designing, illustrating or painting, he isn’t afraid to be at the edge of the creative frontier. Sit back and enjoy as he shares his formula for ingenious design.
Name: Levi Szekeres
99designs handle: LEVI
Contests won: 17
Tools of choice: Laptop, scanner, markers, coffee and music
Tell us—how did you get started with design?
I went to art school at 16 years old to run away from math and any science classes. Big disappointment! Design has to do a lot with math, and I’m still catching up.
At that time, long before Windows, creating fonts and charts by hand was my real schooling in design. Later on in art academy, I did have my share of theory, but my only chance to continue with design in a contemporary setting was reset everything I knew from analog to digital. So, basically, I’m self-taught in everything involving a mouse.
What are your greatest aspirations as a designer?
Communication. I think it all comes down to this, whether it is a post-it or the most complex branding project.
How would you describe your style? Who are your greatest graphic design influences and why?
I have a lot of influence from pop-art and modern American design in general, but I try to have a different approach depending on the project. I like Sagmeister for his attitude, Peter Beard for his dedication, Warhol for his simplicity and Mexican art in general for its optimism.
Your website looks really cool! How and why did you decide to create your personal branding in a monochromatic, 8-bit style? Your other designs don’t follow suit.
It started with the concept of focus, zooming in for details… you know, the cliché concept of ‘We’re into the details’. Through its development, I just followed the idea and maximized the effect to the extent of possibility, then this came out. The idea is buried too subtly now, but the site has turned out to be a great tool for selecting patient and open-minded people. Similar to when I create a few ‘off-brief’ designs for a contest.
Do you consider yourself a risk taker, and do you believe taking risks goes hand-in-hand with design?
Definitely. The number of all the contests I’ve entered proves that!
Design in concept is planning and creating. Reusing the same recipe over and over again kills interest and challenge on both sides—the designer and the market. I know that most clients prefer to stay on the safe side (‘We want to be liked’), but from time to time it’s good to hang tough and be different. I prefer to take my chances along with all the disappointments that come with them.
What does your design process look like from start to finish? What are you best at, and what do you struggle with most?
The first step is always documentation—I can’t work without making sure I avoid things already done. Next comes inspiration, and “Flying in the room” (like Keith Richards). My so-called design logic takes over and helps me find a style that’s fitting for the project. I usually start with a sketch for the design, but I prefer to then go “auto-pilot” on a digital medium to let the software create and align the elements. After a few fine tunings, and opening the preview a thousand times to see what could still be wrong with it, I’ll finally submit my work. Then I’ll inevitably withdraw, because there is something missing 🙂
The hardest part for me is waiting for the feedback, especially here on 99designs where I have no idea what the personal background of the client is. I never know at first if I’m close to their expectations or if I “went off” again with the design. I’m not particularly great at just one thing, I try to be as impersonal and flexible as possible. In my opinion, a personal style in design is bad for business—the client’s business. For me, the best feedback on 99designs comes after I get eliminated: “…your designs are all over the map.” That’s my greatest win so far.
How do you choose your projects on 99designs?
I try to avoid very technical contests or briefs that ask for people silhouettes, swooshes, ideologies, very abstract concepts and where there is no demand for creative input. Lately I’m very careful about choosing design contests that aren’t either too feminine or masculine. I tend to select more figurative, fun, typography-based contests. Overall I like a challenge and will try any contest that inspires me.
How did you hear about 99designs?
Google thought since design was an interest on an online profile of mine, the best thing to do was to show me only design-related banners anywhere and everywhere I went. One day I clicked a banner for 99designs. I believe it was the second banner I’ve ever clicked. I’m glad I did, but I’ve updated my profile since.
Lastly, Levi – what advice would you give new designers?
It’s not really a piece of advice, it’s a popular (maybe too popular?) quote that I like to remember from time to time: “Be Bold or Italic, Never Regular.”