Ciprian Grigorescu, Design Lead at Modex – “To succeed in any business, you must trust yourself and stay motivated”

May 20, 2022

A multidisciplinary designer with an artistic background, Ciprian – our next guest of #WeAreModex interviews – had a complex and full of twists career so far. Ciprian told us what makes a great design stand out and how does one become a good product designer, also touching upon the “form follows function” debate and his hobbies.  

Back when he was a teenager, Ciprian’s passions led him down the path of studying contemporary art, which, as time passed, became a substantial design practice. “My story is long, fun-filled and challenging at the same time. At first, I was attracted by the aesthetics of designs and the production side of it – creating objects, prints, zines, posters, combining digital mediums with traditional ones – printmaking, sculpture, juxtaposing materials and creating artworks and installations, all within a conceptual framework.”

A drive to be better than yesterday

Our colleague’s first professional experience started with an internship at one of Romania’s biggest advertising agencies, where he worked with some awesome designers on advertising projects. “It was a lot of work. It was good to be put under pressure from the start – it gave me perspective and the drive to get better at everything I do.”

Ciprian shares more details about his background. As a freelancer, he worked on a multitude of projects. One that he contributed to for the better part of 2021 stood out. “The client was a design studio from the United States; they commissioned me to create pseudo-vintage trading cards with contemporary musicians and bands. Collectors’ items in the end, either digital (single NFT pieces) or printed; you can see them on my website.”

Learning from the challenges

It wasn’t a smooth ride all the way and Ciprian also recalls the challenges he had to face and overcome. “Challenges come and go, the industry is constantly shifting and it’s an ironic case of ‘adapt or die’. Being a freelancer, the biggest struggle comes in layers – it’s not enough to be a good designer, you need to know a fair bit of business, communication, marketing, strategy, negotiation. No one prepares you for these things, you learn as you go and sometimes you need to jump headfirst into something and figure it out along the way.”

Trusting your motivation and capabilities

Despite the challenging moments of his career, Ciprian found a way to deal with them and move on, determined to accomplish his goals. “The most important thing is to trust yourself and be very motivated. I don’t mean trust in the sense of ‘I’m special, no one else can do this.’ That’s counterproductive, to say the least! Trust in your motivation and capability to give 110% if you’ve committed to something, trust that you’ll do things by the book even if you haven’t read the book. If you commit, you do it right, trust that you have the energy and capability to deliver.”

Joining Modex, an important chapter

Ciprian joined our company after one of his friends told him about an open job. “I was aware of Modex and the things I’ve heard about the company were good, so it looked like a great fit for me.” To get the job, Ciprian had to prove to the team – through his professional background and knowledge gained until that moment – that he was the person they were looking for.

Curious to find out more about the responsibilities of a Design Lead? Ciprian shares some details about his job. “At Modex, I’m responsible for both internal and external visual communication, the Modex visual identity, coordinating the design team, offering support and consultancy in all matters regarding visual communication and design, together with offering support and UI/UX design for product-related projects. It’s a complex position to have, you need to be good at juggling multiple different tasks at the same time, you need to be aware of things and make timelines work.”

Dynamic work environment focused on creativity

Ciprian also has something to say about the working environment. “The most enjoyable part? My colleagues. We’re all in this together, so the excitement is shared as well. It’s cool that the hybrid system has been fully adopted at Modex; you can work remotely without this being an issue and, on the other hand, coming to the office and seeing your colleagues is always fun. It’s a dynamic work environment where creativity is celebrated, where bringing ideas and value to the table is always appreciated.”

At Modex, Ciprian likes the momentum and the drive that’s shared by the entire team, from top management to the newest member. “What I like the most about Modex is what it stands for and what it’s trying to achieve as a company. Wonderful things are happening here, and we are all excited about this year and what the future holds!”

What does it take to be a good designer?

Pondering on this, our colleague replies: “The answer might be a bit unusual: I think that introspection and teamwork are the keys to the kingdom, so to speak. Obviously, you need to know how to design, you need all the fundamentals like layout, composition, typography, colour use, etc. You need to be on point with everything.”

Ciprian believes that introspection is essential, regardless of graphic design or product design. As things move fast, especially in a dynamic environment like the tech industry, one needs to learn constantly. “If you can’t be introspective – looking at yourself, looking at the project – analyzing, understanding and adjusting accordingly, you’ll be left behind and you won’t be able to fully deliver on your side of things.”

Besides introspection, teamwork plays an important role. “It’s unrealistic to think that you work alone, that your tasks don’t intertwine with others. Remember this: you elevate the work of your team, and your team elevates yours! Learn to trust them and share the load, you can only gain from it.”

Creating a design that serves a purpose

Whenever we have the chance to chat with a designer – be it from the automotive industry, fashion, furniture, yachts or the aviation world – we want to know his opinion on the “form follows function” debate. Does Ciprian agree with it? “Yes… and no. That’s a saying associated with early 20th century architecture, very utilitarian. I would add that function follows purpose. In design you need to make something work for a function that serves a purpose, very clear and calculated purpose, and the design (form) needs to strategically be and communicate for that purpose within certain parameters.”

The ‘no’ part from Ciprian’s answer intrigued us, so we wanted to find out more about this. “I’m also saying ‘no’ because if we go fully utilitarian, we end up with a black title on a white page. That’s great, but we’re built to enjoy surprising things, therefore you always need to spice things up a little.”

The elements of a good product design

We were curious to find out how does one achieve a good product design, which elements are needed. “Product design means a lot of things. I think it’s more accurate to say that digital products have a lot of constituent parts which inform, guide or cancel design decisions. Again, I think that trust and teamwork are the most important elements of the whole process. You need to be aware of the visual trends, of the capabilities of the technology that backs the product, budgeting and timelines – all of them have an impact on what can be achieved.”  

Ciprian believes that you can’t control everything as a designer: “You have project team-mates, you get both input and requirements from them, and even if they clash with your aesthetic ideas, you need to find the middle ground and make things work. The Internet is full of aesthetically charged UI/UX portfolio pieces, but many are missing real-world aspects.”

Art events, exhibitions and… cooking

If given the chance to start his career all over again, would Ciprian take the same path or choose a different one? “I don’t dwell too much on the past. I’ve started my career doing small design jobs more than ten years ago. Although it’s been full of twists and turns, I wouldn’t change any of it. However, I would change things that are out of my control such as having more hours in a day.”

At the end of a busy day at work, how does Ciprian unwind? “I like physical movement patterns: yoga, gymnastics rings workouts, mobility and breathing exercises. My job is static enough and revolves around sitting at a desk for the better part of the day – I don’t want my free time to be the same. Cooking is also a hobby. I like healthy and tasty food. I’m not mentioning here all my artistic and design related interests – art events, exhibitions – which I don’t consider hobbies, but an integral part of my career and fundamental interests.”

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