Logo and illustration designer Stefan Petrov (aka Stefaaan) is a great role model for any fine artist looking to learn graphic design. With support from his friends, and an introduction to 99designs, he self-taught his way into a remarkable design style.

Just look at his portfolio, and you’ll see designs full of unique details and concepts; not to mention they can be understood and appreciated instantly. His designs are often in black and white, with a pop of bold colors (our favorite!).

If you’re looking to learn design (or just need some inspiration) then Stefan’s story is one to read.

Name: Stefan Petrov
Location: Bulgaria
99designs handle: Stefaaan
Projects won: 47

How did you get started in design?

I got started in design 2 years ago when I created my profile here on 99designs. But it started further back when I was a little kid — I loved drawing. I drew in elementary, drew in secondary school, then found some twisted inspiration when I was serving in the military. My interests in any form of art continued well into college, and afterwards.


How do you get inspired?

When entering contests, I get attracted by the brand name and title which is the very first thing I see when browsing. I don’t really know how to explain it, but my brain does the rest… and it’s awesome! I usually don’t even bother checking corporate contests, since I hate corporate. If the brief is cool, I start considering concepts… sometimes on paper, sometimes on my tablet when I’m lazy. There are sometimes cases when even clients might inspire with ideas and suggestions — I love cooperating.

Additionally, I also meet and talk with friends, watch a lot of movies, play games, read books, and browse art sites, galleries, portfolios, the Internet and of course Google.


Are there any other mediums or forms of art you like to work in?

When I was a kid, I loved doing sculptures. A friend of mine introduced plasticine to me when he made little figures and put them on the rails of his toy train, but that wasn’t for me. My father and I went to this dam one day and filled a huge bag of clay. Then I started creating dinosaurs, vikings and even a Lara Croft statue.

About 2 years ago, I started doing 3D work. I had this course in 2007, but I’ve always been amazed by 3D Max since its early editions. I also have a Game Character Artist certificate from CGCociety workshops, though most of my work is done for personal study and I’m not able to provide a link.

Ideally, I’d love to get a job in a game studio here in Bulgaria, but there’s a difference between what you want and reality. But that’s a longer story…


What led you to start using 99designs?

Things weren’t going well with finding a job working in 3D, and I had to make a living. So, friends told me about this website, 99designs.com, where you can sit on your PC all day and make money. I was like: “Pff, you’re not serious!” Believing in my drawing skills and knowledge I decided to give it a shot.

Being that I’m self-taught, I never used Photoshop for things other than generating textures for 3D models and paintings. I didn’t even know that logos should be in vector. So these very same friends showed me a couple of tricks, and I was ready to test it myself. I entered contests all over the place hoping to win my first. Totally new to each aspect of designing a logo I got desperate after a while. Then, one of my friends said, “Don’t worry Stefaaan, you WILL win after your 100th contest!” That was scary, but one of the main reasons I pushed myself was so I could learn and rediscover the world of logos.

I started learning Illustrator, developing my skills even more and I won my 100th or 101st contest, can’t remember exactly. I started winning more often, surprisingly at a quick pace, and continued to improve my skills and pushed myself even further. I had side projects with clients I met here on 99designs, and began chatting with master designers here and there.

So far, so good! I can’t complain — I feel happy I met you guys 🙂


Why is design important to you?

Personally, design helps me test myself as a creative person and artist. It’s really cool when you have the ability to help a customer in a way that makes them proud. This affects your confidence and pushes you to discover and develop even further. That’s why design is constantly moving. It’s mutual.

On the other hand, good design is important for a business to stand out amongst the sea of rivals. Cliché, but true!


What are the 3 most important things that designers can do to have success at 99designs?

Well, there are many things that make a designer, a successful designer. Here are just a few:

  1. Love creating art and if you do, trust yourself.
  2. Choose contests that match your criteria, taste and passion.
  3. Read the designer blog for useful tips and tricks 🙂

How do you see the field of graphic design changing in the next few years?

Things have started to grow really fast in the 21st century — movies, games, IT, etc. I don’t really see it changing… I would rather say it will constantly evolve as we’re pushing our creative minds and technology even further.


Describe your hometown. Do your surroundings impact your design style?

I have this Irish Pub near my home, which really impacts my style and inspiration!

Is there anything else you’d like to add? Now is the time to tell us.

I owe a drink to a friend from the Community Team.