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Roberta Mihai, Graphic Designer: I love getting into the brand’s world and losing myself in it

Roberta Mihai has been our colleague for more than a year and a half now. Minio was her first contact with advertising, as she previously worked as a freelancer on graphic & web design for 15 years. In this interview we’ll be chatting with Beti, as we call Roberta, about inspiration, the industry, the day-to-day work and the future of creativity.

1. How did you decide to go down this road of working in an agency, after so much freelance experience?

There are several things that made me change course. First of all, I was curious what it was like to be an employee, I said to myself, “Let me see what it’s like to work in an agency!”. Then, I wanted more contact with people, because I was a bit isolated. And even though I still work remotely, I get a much better feel of people – we became friends very quickly, I really like working with them as a team. At the same time, I wanted more professional feedback from people in the field, to see what skills I have in relation to this industry. Because, working in freelancing, I was only getting feedback from clients and I felt this need to make a more all rounded assessment. Basically, I wanted to check my knowledge and give myself a challenge. Although it all started as a test, I ended up really liking everything about it.

2. What differences have you noticed between working as a freelancer and working for an agency?

In freelance, I was working at a totally different pace, i.e. I was doing a project in much more time. We had projects that ran for 2 weeks or a month. There was no way I was doing projects that I do now in 2 hours. At first I was amazed at the pace, I was like, “Okay, and how many weeks do I have for this?” and I’d get an instant response, “What? By noon it has to be done”. Over time, I adapted. Now I have absolutely no problem with that pace.

3. What’s it like to struggle with daily deadlines though?

For me the idea of a „deadline” does not exist. When you’re not stressed, so you’re relaxed and just working, you do everything much faster and have much more clarity.

4. How did you manage to adapt so quickly? It is, still, a big change.

I think what was happening was that, being alone and having no structure, it was very easy to go into overthinking, to be insecure. My clients, who were usually new business, were always saying “great”, “superb”. It’s also normal, when you start a business, you’re full of enthusiasm, you have lots of ideas, but you have little or no structure. The big problem for me was to (re)build my client brief myself in repeated attempts :)). And another personal challenge is that I also enjoy tinkering more on a project – I’m always open to trying new things, I really like to get into the brand world and lose myself in it. Here at Minio, the information is much more structured and I’m not involved in client relations either, which I enjoy. And because it’s all so fast and you don’t have time to overthink, I’ve learned to trust my first instincts.

5. What made you decide to enter this field of design?

I was prepared to apply for psychology, but I changed my mind at the last minute and graduated from ATF (Academy of Theatre and Film, now the National University of Theatre and Film Arts „I.L. Caragiale”), so no design. I also did a year of architecture, I didn’t have a linear path. I worked as an assistant director, then in an NGO, and then a friend said to me: “you’re good at drawing, wouldn’t you like to do something in this area?”. So I started designing from scratch. Maybe I was a bit ahead of the times, because I had a bit of everything – and now, with all the tools we have at our disposal, you don’t have to be an expert anymore, you have to know a bit of everything.

6. What is your favourite stage in the creative process?

I like pitches and new projects best, at the beginning. On the other hand, I’m not the biggest fan of declinations, I get a bit tired of the repetition.

7. What techniques do you use to stay productive and avoid creative blocks?

Those breaks where you stop thinking about what’s stressing you out are very important. That’s what success looks like to me – when you take a break and really respect the idea of a break, you totally do it. If I get stuck, I go to my imagination, because that’s where I draw a lot of my resources from. But honestly, in advertising the briefs come pretty clear, you have serious brand manuals, you can’t really break some rules. Lately, though, I feel like I’ve been able to juggle, that I’ve had more freedom. I feel like I’m being given more and more room to play.

8. Where do you get your inspiration?

I’m more interested in the technical side of how things are done, because I see creativity as an infinite resource. Lately, for example, I’ve been very concerned with how to put the lights better into the design, to make it look as real as possible. The techniques interest me more than the style, because the latter has to be much more versatile to suit each brand I work with.

9. How do you see the future of the industry?

Clearly, as a designer, you need to be in touch with the realities of the industry. I didn’t initially embrace AI, but now I use it, especially for image generation. But what I’m noticing lately is that people are looking circumspectly at what they see on the Internet. When you see a cool photo that used to spark an interest or an emotion, now people in the comments ask “is it real or is it fake?”. People can’t seem to enjoy anything anymore, because there’s always this suspicion that they’re being tricked. So I think the admiration for human-made art will always exist. And as for the future… I think I’ve given up thinking about it. It’s good to broadly imagine what you want to do with your time, but I don’t think you have to invest too much energy thinking about it.

10. What would you say to your younger self, when you were just starting out?

I’d tell her to stop stressing so much.