For centuries, those with an affinity for art, design, and creativity have relentlessly pursued careers in the creative world as art directors and budding designers. And while this continues to remain a popular career endeavor, only a few are successful. Although for the Turkish artistic director and graphic designer Aksel Ceylon, his path to becoming globally recognized for his work was not exactly something he chose. Instead, at a young age, the artist felt that creativity is a passion that somehow manifests in him, leading him to find his way and turn to his career. .
Since then, Aksel has been recognized numerous times nationally and globally, including for his collaborations with Coca-Cola, Vodafone, Ax and his work on award-winning album covers in Turkey, and most recently for his work in Miami. on The Raleigh Gardens brand design. Even though he has only lived in the United States for a few years, Aksel has already encountered great opportunities to expand his portfolio. And while he has yet to realize his childhood dream of illustrating a cover for The New Yorker, his future looks bright, so much so that a dream like this could one day become a reality. for him.
We recently sat down with Aksel to discuss his career as a growing art director and graphic designer, what keeps him inspired, and what he can’t wait to do next.
What do you find that inspires you? Can you describe the story of your design style?
Life itself. The cities I live in, the decisions I make, the role models I follow, the murals I see, the typographies I admire, etc. Almost everything I observe goes on a shelf in my mind. I think I am a good collector. I collect all the things I experience, process them in one way or another, then use them whenever needed. I believe that designers are a kind of tool. They basically tie one thing to another.
When and how did you start your career as a designer? What inspired you to pursue a career in graphic design and art?
When I was a little kid, drawing was my escape from reality when I struggled to live with life. I was an introverted kid, so drawing was a solution to almost any problem I had, which I guess led to expanding my imagination as a result. But honestly, I never thought that drawing something and communicating with visual ideas would be a job for a living until I graduated high school, because I didn’t have any parents who studied graphic design – not even beautiful ones. -arts. So I started studying to enter a psychology school, but I couldn’t help but draw whenever I had free time, instead of studying or being able to do something else. In a way, I always thought that it was not me who chose this profession, I was almost led by a part of my inner self. So I ended up being accepted to a university in Florence, Italy, first and then to one of the best graphic design universities in Turkey where I got my bachelor’s degree.
What was it like working on The Raleigh Gardens brand?
It was a project that I have been waiting for since I arrived in the United States a year ago. I actually didn’t think I could be the one to get the chance to design the branding as there were some big creative studios involved in the pitch, besides being on my own – acting as a creative team. But I guess my presentation stood out among many, and then an exciting process began.
What has been most rewarding and inspiring about The Raleigh Gardens?
The most difficult things were; all the materials had to be delivered in a very short time, all the artwork was delivered from different places around the world, so I didn’t have any solid assets to build the brand. Additionally, the Raleigh Hotel did not have an existing brand and there was no creative and support team to help me through the process. I was the only one to manage everything, especially since the opening was at the same time with Art Basel Miami so there had to be a kind of differentiating aspect. First, I created the Raleigh hotel logo inspired by the old Raleigh neon sign, from there I decided to draw each piece of sculpture and turn them into the main characters of exhibition and use the main content of the exhibition as the main communication asset. . Using these animal drawings (sculptures), we covered the entire Miami Beachwalk with banners and flags from the Art Basel era. And the most rewarding was seeing everyone happy with the outcome, including the art authorities who visited the exhibit, who could be very difficult to please and expect to see high quality work.
What project or job during your career was most meaningful to you?
Back in Turkey, I worked for the best creative agencies in very talented teams for which I always feel lucky. I have had the privilege of getting involved in great productions and creating work for global companies such as Ax, Coca Cola Company and Vodafone, but volunteer work stood out among all the rest. One day my copywriter hired a freelance job – a branded design with a campaign for a film festival called “Palto”. Me, my editor Taylan Özgür Akçam and my friend artistic director Efe Kaptanoğlu have mounted a campaign called “Person who has just left a cinema”https://akselceylan.com/11-palto-film-gunleri-11th-palto-film-days> based on a well-known Turkish novel. It was totally voluntary work, but we managed to persuade many Turkish celebrities linked to Turkish cinema to be part of the campaign. We were also able to produce a TVC with zero budget. Everything was made possible by the people who believed in us and our idea. Although it was an independent project without an agency, it received numerous awards, including “Best Cultural Entertainment Campaign of 2018” and “Best Integrated Campaign – Special Jury Prize”. It was and still is the most meaningful work I have ever done. I always keep these awards on my desk at home.
Can you tell us about your creative process? What does it look like?
In fact, it’s almost like an AI, mimicking the human mind. I don’t believe in muses I guess, it’s more of an equation that needs to be solved. I’m pretty much a solution-based designer so I always start with problems and try to find a creative way to solve them using my toolbox. Sometimes it’s just an illustration, sometimes just typography, sometimes a TVC, sometimes a campaign idea or sometimes all, but it’s all part of a problem-solving process. So it might sound like an equation.
What has been your experience leading your career from Turkey to the United States?
In my career in Turkey, I was satisfied with the creatives I worked with and the big agencies I participated in. I have received many awards and been recognized nationally, but my ambition to be part of bigger projects and my curiosity to see my potential work abroad, I really wondered what it would be like, so I I must have tried to experience it once I got the chance. I don’t like comfort zones, but it turned out to be harder than I expected to almost start over, but life is made up of those challenges. I think there is still a lot to do and create so I can’t wait to be there.
Could you share one or some of your goals as a designer / artist? What do you aspire to in the years to come? What do you want to accomplish?
My main goal is to accomplish much more than what I have achieved in Turkey and achieve worldwide recognition. I would also like to be in environments as creative as possible, be part of the most talented teams in the world, create memorable campaigns, design timeless brands, etc. On top of all this, I had a dream when I was in high school. I dreamed of being on the cover of New Yorker Magazine one day. It was almost an unrealistic dream at the time, and it felt like an impossible wish at the moment. But now, I’ve been living in New York for a few years, becoming a New Yorker and being recognized by the press with my work, giving interviews to publications based here in the US – like yours. So even though my main profession is graphic design and art direction, I still think I could get closer to that dream somehow, who knows.
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