Design veteran Vallentin (aka Trasca Valentin) has long been a prominent figure in the 99designs community. When he hasn’t been teaching webinars, he’s been starting successful Forum threads like “Not a Top Level yet?”, which has yielded more than 100 successful Top Level nominations.
We chatted with him about his successful creative career and what drives him to be a mentor to so many members of the 99designs community.
Name: Trasca Valentin
99designs handle: Vallentin
Tell us a bit about yourself and your design career so far.
I’ve been a designer for over 10 years. I started working in advertising agencies as a graphic designer; I worked as an industrial designer creating for brands like Philip Morris, Heineken, Carlsberg and a whole bunch of local companies. I advanced to Creative Director and after that Art Director. But it was only a matter of time until I found out that freelancing was the way for me.
I still get at least one job offer a year from some big advertising agency around the world (last one was from New York) – but I like the freelancer time. I even started my own small company with another Top Level designer from 99designs with the purpose of working and create awesome designs on 99designs.com.
I hope we can get more designers in the future, as I aim to include Romanian designers first due to our absurd tax system. In Romania a freelance designer loses up to 50% of their earnings.
When do you feel most creative?
3:00 AM to 9:00 AM – yes, that precise! With the condition that I have at least 6-7 hours of sleep.
I love working so early in the morning. If I’m overwhelmed I can go for a walk, I like the quiet. When I design, it’s just me and the machine – everything else is a distraction. I do listen to music when I work, but I’m very picky about what I listen to.
I do well when I listen to nature sounds (yes, listening to birds or rain) and… If I feel really wild I listen to some baroque period music. I love them lutes and harpsichords!
Do you have a certain category or industry that you like working in the most? What typically draws you to a project?
I like creating websites… I don’t see myself as a logo, t-shirt or packaging designer. I could do it, but I don’t get the same satisfaction. App design, yes.
If there’s a brief where I can create a new UX I’ll take it. But choosing a project is more complicated. I examine every factor of the brief – even the client history on 99designs. In the end, I have to visualize the design, not an expression. I literally visualize the font dimension and the pictures I’m going to use – their luminosity, contrast, spacing. I try to imagine the reaction of my clients to certain design elements I create based not only on the brief, but the way they talk with me.
You work with 1-to-1 clients pretty frequently. Was there a particular client or project that really stands out to you?
I like 1-to-1’s. No, I love 1-to-1’s. This is probably why I haven’t entered a contest in so long. I won a contest a few years ago and kept working with the client.
Projects after projects – and not just any projects – I’ve had the privilege of designing for a lot of stars from the US. I’m not allowed to talk about it due to a pretty nice NDA, so that’s a bad side of being a freelancer. No public recognition with some work – and that’s sad.
You’ve been really involved in our community. What’s your favorite part about 99designs?
Thank you! I’ve been an important part (I hope) in 99designs community, because 99designs has been an important part of my life. Changed everything!
I was not so skilled when I started. I never imagined I could design for a rock star whose daughter starred in magic ring movies. But it was not like this when I started. I had no direction and no one to give me pointers. 99designs has done an amazing job with the Community Forum this past year and that was an epiphany for me. I had the setting and opportunity to help designers like I once was.
I guess I know what beginner designers are searching for. Probably that’s why I have created the most viewed, clicked, read article on the Community Forum right now. I’m talking about “Not a Top Level Yet” where I tried to connect all designers and have them give each other feedback to reach the Top Level Badge.
That’s why my favorite part about 99designs is opportunity. In just a few years I went from some local designer to a worldwide entrepreneur.
What drives you to be a mentor to other designers?
I don’t think of myself as a mentor. I do refer to my students sometimes as “young Padawans” but that’s it. Jokes aside, when I started I had no help. You must think I had internet. Nope! I started learning when YouTube wasn’t even conceived yet. I had nothing. I had to purchase ridiculously expensive books to learn things. Many of the youngsters don’t know how that feels. It sucks! Makes feel old – and I’m only 29 (30 this month).
One of the “must do’s” this year is to hold another class where we aim to educate art students (or any student, regardless of their major) to use graphic design software, if they choose to follow a career in freelance design.
Is there one thing you think every designer should learn?
Not to steal and claim a piece of design as their own. I recently found one my free app designs on a commerce platform, sold by another designer. I was not offended that it was mine – I was offended that I gave it away for free and another designer took it, modified it a bit and sold it.
In terms of software, I recommend whatever anyone feels comfortable with. If use Adobe Photoshop I do not feel it’s my duty to convince any designer to use that. As for resources, the internet is filled with graphic resources, but I only recommend resources to improve your skills. If you download a template, customize it and then ask money for it that’s not cool.
One of the best ways for beginners to improve their skills is to chat with experienced designers. It helps a lot. And we have an amazing community where you can find me 17 hours a day.
What would your dream design project be?
Every project is special. I like creating designs for celebrities for now. But between us, I would like to do more for 99designs. I’m very comfortable on 99designs, so I always feel I could do more.