A Hungarian designer now living in London, Bence Balaton takes his beautifully intricate illustrations into all different worlds of graphic design, from logos to infographics and product packaging to flyers and prints. But to each project he brings an eye for detail, a personal design style and an innate ability to find that simple way to display large amounts of visual information.

When he first started on 99designs, Bence had little design experience and no portfolio. Within a year, he was promoted to Top Level, a Top 9 nominee and finally had the confidence to start his creative career. Today, he works as a professional animator and graphic designer at a London-based film studio.

We chat with Bence Balaton about his inspirations, his endless search for new things to learn and his journey to becoming a winning Top Level designer on 99designs.

Bence Balaton

Name: Bence Balaton
99designs handle: Bence Balaton
Location: London, UK
Specialty: Label design and illustration

How did you get interested in graphic design?

I always wanted to be an artist, since my childhood. I was an introverted kid, and drawing was my hobby.

We can see that in your work — you’ve experimented with a lot of different genres, but a lot of them are really illustration-based! Is there a kind of design you enjoy the most?

I always found it hard to find my own ‘voice’ amongst the genres. I can’t just do one style, I always try to learn something new, and master it: vector art, digital painting, comic book style, right now pixel art.

When I learn something new or something hard to achieve, that’s when I am happy (I am a dork, I know). I am not the artsy type of guy who wants to be a traditional artist, but I always try to make my work aesthetic and about ‘more than just a product.

Your style is, as you put it, “modern/classic vintage with a hint street art.” What is it about those styles that inspires you?

I would say, the rock ‘n’ roll and how it’s so provoking. But also street artists like Shepard Fairey, Banksy, Hydro 74, just to mention a few. They’re using very raw visuals and I love how the colors are separated, the tiny lines and details that come out.

On the other hand, I love Alphonse Mucha and his tender lines, color palettes, the motion of his work. I try to learn from all ends of the spectrum to make something new with design.

But I can be inspired by anything, honestly. It doesn’t have to be well known. Sometimes I can look at stickers in a small alley for minutes. Or game art. From pixelated to realistic, comic books to platonic shapes and fractals… anything. The important part is to receive impressions, and then add yourself to the mix.

bence balaton
Ninja and samurai playing cards
You often have to include a lot of information in your designs, with infographics and label designs. How do you have that but keep the design simple enough to still resonate with the viewer?

My forte was always the illustrating, or coming up with something out of the box. I have to admit that I learned data visualization, and conveying every important message through working on this site. All I know about this is by the help of Hexapeach, who works on 99designs as well. She is a wonderful person, and I can not thank her enough.

If I can give any advice about information visualization, I would say that the most important part is that the design has to be coherent. I never make a design and just paste the text, I always play with it as much as I can. The info and art have to be in balance, and help each other. Typography and lettering is a serious business, I am just scratching the surface of it.

bence balaton
Craft brewery label concept
How has working on 99designs affected your design career? What is your favorite part of working on the site?

When I started working on 99designs, I was a guy with no experience, no portfolio, no equipment. I actually made my account a year before I started to work, because I didn’t have any confidence in competing actual designers. I started with Gimp, Inkscape, and a mouse. That’s it. And in one year I became a Top Level Designer, I was in Top 9.

99designs helped me start my career, really. I eventually moved to London, and now I am working in a small but awesome indie film studio, as an animator and graphic designer.

That’s fantastic! So from here, what are you hoping will come in the future for your career?

There are a lot of things I would do. As previously mentioned, I am always up to do something new. I would like to work on video games, and I already working on multiple graphic novels/comic books. Also would like to learn more animating, more 3D stuff. So the list is endless, and growing (exponentially — it’s possible BTW.)

bence balaton
Snowboard design
What kind of challenges have you faced working with clients, and how have you gotten through them?

I like to think that I am a problem solver. There’s no issue I can’t solve with a client, the important thing is to listen to each other. The project is the client’s only focus, a business that is the most important thing to him or her. So it can be hard, but it helps if the client open to ideas and suggestions based on the designer’s experience.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a designer?

Actually the two most important advice I got so far:

  1. If you and the client are proud of the design, then it is finished.
  2. F*ck it… you can do it! You can do anything!
bence balaton
Tallgrass Brewing Co.
And a fun one for last — what else inspires you outside of your design?

I have played the guitar for a few years now. Music is my everything, and I have the weirdest taste in it: yesterday I was listening to the orchestral version of The Legend of Zelda, today it’s Mindless Self Indulgence and the Incubus discography, tomorrow it’ll be The Silent Hill Soundtrack and Smashing Pumpkins.

See more of Bence Balaton’s work here.