An Interview with Sorin Pavelesco, CGD

New CGD, Sorin Pavelesco of Sorin Media wanted to add to his credentials with an internationally recognized certification.

The CGD title gives me confidence and credibility in front of my clients because it is backed up by a large design community.

We took some time to chat with one of our newest CGDs, Sorin Pavelesco of Sorin Media. As a resident of Quebec, he is a Member at Large and holds a DGA title but wanted to add to his credentials with an internationally recognized certification.

Tell us about your design practice or areas you specialize in.

My main area of expertise is branding, visual identities, signage and brochures. I lived and worked in the Mont Tremblant region during the big real estate boom of Intrawest in the late 90’s and the design agency I worked for was responsible for branding the numerous real estate offerings at the resort. I personally worked on a big portion of the logos that adorn the lobby hotel entrances at the mountain. And with that same mandate came the onsite signage, banners and brochures. A fantastic moment in my career came when Intrawest launched a new village in the French Alps at the Les Arcs ski station; I was able to travel twice there to create 5 logos that still exist to this day in the snowy mountains of the French Alps at an altitude of 1950 metres. It is a nice feeling to know that a small piece of me is present in the French Alps! During my 13 years at the agency I was fortunate enough to win 23 design awards, a good portion for visual identities, and it is one of my favourite mandates. In 1996 I was also part of the team who designed the Montreal Alouettes logo and that was an incredible moment (although the logo has recently been changed) and several years ago I was contacted by a movie producer to design the main logo and uniform for a Quebec-made film entitled “Les Pee-Wee 3D: L’hiver qui a change ma vie”… so yes, visual identities are a specialty of mine.

In my day-to-day practice I love working with start-up companies because it is blank canvas. They generally have nothing and need everything: logo, stationery, brochure, signage, etc. I can accompany them throughout the process and share with them my vast experience. In the last four years I have studied and incorporated video production and this is also very exciting for my clients because their brand can now transition into the world of video. Company profile videos, corporate testimonials, product showcases, event videos, these are all part of doing business today and are necessary for a business in order to advertise on social media. I realized that my design background helped me tremendously with video, I had learnt the principles of composition, cropping, positive/negative space, colours, typography, photography, and so the leap was very quick and easy, it was just a matter of learning the editing software and buying the gear. Another advantage is that I am also a music producer with my own recording studio so that is another added value because I can compose, record and produce music for my clients’ videos that is uniquely theirs, not a royalty-free track used by thousands.

Everyday is different at Sorin Media and it is exciting because I can transition from design to video to music and it all really makes sense to me, I do it effortlessly and with great passion!


How do you define creativity and apply it in your design career?

Creativity for me is anything that moves you and makes you think. It can work on several levels, there can be a intellectual, emotional or spiritual connection with the artwork. We artists see the world differently and it is precisely that vision, which is of course unique to every artist, that defines creativity. 

For my part I strive to be as original as possible. It’s not always an easy thing because we absorb so many influences from all over the place and ideas sometimes embed themselves in our subconsciousnes. I think it is acceptable to borrow an idea as long as you can make it your own. Whenever possible I try to incorporate something hand-drawn with a brush and ink because I know it is uniquely mine. However, because of time constraints, we are sometimes forced to buy already-made icons, graphics or illustrations, and this is perhaps the downfall of our times because we end up with the same elements being used by thousands if not millions of designers. You can now buy logos for $50 online, how crazy is that? It is fantastic for the little guy who doesn’t have the budget to hire a professional designer but it also puts pressure on us designers because we cannot compete with that. Being creative today means you have to bring something unique to the table because everybody has access to the same tools and resources.


What first sparked your interest in design?

I have been drawing and doodling forever. In high school I used to draw in class, making funny sketches about certain teachers, passing them around secretly and getting in trouble lol but I never thought about design. looking back I had a good sense of proportions, the ability the combine colors and shapes, and above all, imagination! And so one day came the time to think about a career. My dad gave me a pamphlet from Dawson College with the coolest title on the cover : “Graphic Design Program”. Wow, that sounded so exciting and I loved how those two words looked besides each other on paper: Graphic Design. I was hooked! I did not know such a career existed. I was 16 at the time and that's pretty much how it started. I built up an entire portfolio rapidly during the summer for the admissions exam but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to be admitted. I remember being crushed. Rather than give up I enrolled in a Languages & Literature program in my first year at Dawson College and took my time during that year to create a solid portfolio that eventually led to my acceptance into the Graphic Design  program.

Where you do you see the design industry in Canada going? What is the future of design?

As we advance technologically our connection to the entire world also advances and therefore more and more people get to share their ideas online. We can discover new ideas and other ways of thinking. We are no longer isolated, working in a bubble. If 30 years ago your work was mainly local, it is no longer the case today. I can create something today and share it worldwide immediately after. This is incredible. I think the future of design will include the many influences from around the globe. For example, I personally love Japanese patterns and sometimes I find a way to incorporate them into my work. To create something new with something old. We also have the ability to create exciting, new computer-generated visuals which were previously impossible and I can only imagine what the next wave of design software will bring. Already art galleries are experimenting with holographic projections, 3D-mapping and the likes. For sure technology will be a key player in design. Having said that I truly hope the manual aspect of the profession will not be lost. There is something so simple and refreshing in seeing a hand-drawn sketch… I love to work with brushes and ink and always look for an opportunity to do something by hand. Scanning a real texture and bringing it into the digital realm for further manipulation is something I personally love to do.

As for the design industry in Canada, because of my previous point regarding global connections, I think it will evolve to reflect and include influences from the entire world. For example I have a Pinterest account where I collect packaging of luxury objects. Watches, cognac and champagne bottles, cars, perfume bottles… they come from all over the world, they inspire me and sometimes certain details find their way into my work. For instance I can see something that was done in Italy which moved me… I absorb it, process it, distill it, and hopefully I can reinterpret it with my own design sensibilities. We also have a rich cultural heritage in Canada with the many different indigenous groups. I have seen so many beautiful sculptures, lithographic prints, carvings, jewellery, etc. done by native artisans and that can also be a great source of inspiration for Canadian designers. My final thoughts on this point are to always be open, receptive and curious.


Where do you draw inspiration from?

The internet is a great source of inspiration for me because I can see beautiful examples of work from all around the globe. Artists no longer need to be confined in their small, rural village or island, they can share their work worldwide for the benefit of others.

I also love browsing through old books, looking at vintage and nostalgic designs, and also objects from an other era. I love walking into thrift shops and seeing old objects, postcards, etc. During our last summer vacation I fell in love with an antique grammophone in a small second-hand store and I bought it along with some wax records. That led me to look up record player print ads from the 30’s… wow what a time… you realize how much design aesthetics have changed between 1930 and 2019. One thing remains a constant however: having a good eye and being able to lay out your elements attractively in order to communicate the message efficiently.

Inspiration can also come from nature. Sometimes it’s the way the soft afternoon light hits an object, or a stick on the ground that looks like a person, or a potato that looks like a human face lol… we must always be open and receptive as we can find unexpected treasures in our surroundings.

How does being a designer influence your life?

It gives me a different outlook on life because I see everything from a design perspective. It can be a curse lol because it is sometimes hard to switch it off. A simple thing like going to the mall can trigger all sorts of inner design reactions… seeing the banners, logos, product merchandising and branding, not all of them well designed… my mind is always working! In the last couple of years, because of my video production work, I have been paying special attention to the graphics in movies, the titles and typefaces employed, the composition of the frame and its cropping, and all these have to do with graphic design. The other day I came across a typeface that I really liked and so I paused the film, took a picture of it and uploaded it to a site which has a font detection algorithm. Presto! New typefaces are being developed every year so design is really present in everything. 

I love to write by hand and have about 7 fountain pens in my collection which I try to use everyday. I have a good penmanship and consequently a lot of my handwriting has been used in brochures and logos over the years. So guess who does all the writing at home when it comes time to write greeting cards?

I also mentioned the word curse earlier, so let me explain. Because of what I do there is also pressure to do something right every time. Even writing “Back in 5 minutes” on a sheet of paper by hand with a Sharpie, for the   UPS delivery man when I have to step out, becomes a job. What colour do I use? Do I write it all uppercase? Condensed or italics? How do I break up the words on the page, “BACK” super large at the top and “IN 5 MINUTES” on the second line, centered or justified? I am exaggerating of course but it demonstrates how a designer views the world. It is really hard to switch it off lol

Ultimately I think it gives me the confidence and authority to comment on design matters in my entourage.

Do you feel living in Quebec has influenced your designs?

In a sense, yes, because I am a product of what I have experienced here in Quebec. On a philosophical level I am what I am today because of the teachers I had in design school, my first boss and mentor who taught me so much, all the other designers I collaborated with during my years at the design agency and surely the outcome would have been totally different had I been born in Australia for example. It is widely recognized that Montreal has a certain European flavour but we are also very close to New York with its American flair so it is perhaps the fusion of these two worlds that has shaped me into who I am. One thing for sure is that we have this duality with the two languages here in Quebec and designers from here must always wrestle to find a good solution when creating advertising in the province… French must always be larger, about twice the size as the English, so we have to come up with creative ways to make it look good. Sometimes the secondary language can be italicized or a different colour, you develop a bag of tricks over the years lol.

What do you feel is the value of being a certified graphic designer (CGD)

Upon completing my design program I had the choice to either continue Graphic Design at a University level or start working right away. It was a hard economic time, during the recession, but I was fortunate enough to land my first job right after graduation by making cold calls at design studios in downtown Montreal. From thereon it was upwards, moving up the ladder and tackling bigger jobs and responsibilities and I was very excited. After a few years I started winning design awards at the agency and never thought about going back to school. These last couple of years I felt something was missing, something had perhaps eluded me but I could not figure out what it was. And then it hit me: a design certification! In my mind this was a way to make up for not attending a University-based design program.

Having a panel of industry-leading designers evaluate your work and recognize your talent by awarding you an accreditation is extremely gratifying because it means you have reached a certain level. This accreditation is not given out freely, it is based on the case studies submitted, the design solutions, strategies and rationales that had to be written out carefully and thoughtfully. It signifies that the professional design community accepts you as one of their own. The CGD title gives me confidence and credibility in front of my clients because it is backed up by a large design community.

I started last year with the DGA title here in Quebec and perhaps for a lot of designers here in Quebec that would have been sufficient but since I have clients outside the province and internationally as well, it was important for me to show them an internationally-recognized certification and so I went for the CGD title as well.

Going back to the pamphlet of my career choice… “Graphic Designers of Canada”… nothing sounds cooler.