April 25, 2009

Stay Curious and Always Give Away the Sock Monkeys

An Interview with Interaction Manager Raoul Flaminzeanu
(Part 2 of 2 - link to Part 1)
click on any image to enlarge it to original size
Your blog adds an interesting compliment to your ‘corporate’ website. What relevance do you see in terms of working with a blog on a professional level?
In terms of maintaining both a website and a blog, it does help. A lot actually. The blog reaches out to other professionals and even clients. I’ve meet many interesting people so far in my career that at the beginning only knew me through my blog. But it also allows for simple networking and a way for free expression. I don’t hesitate to write about my personal life, even what it’s like to be openly gay in Romania. I mean, do you think I should write about my last affair on my professional site?

But, yes, they are connected, even visually. Even though the professional site has a black background and the blog is white, both maintain the same the personal visual identity, the cloud voyager, the ‘Kingdom in the Sky’.

You recently left Basel to return to Romania, which I understand was (or still is) somewhat difficult for you. Why the decision to return? Furthermore, I understand that you are looking to move to Canada soon?
Obviously, I lived in Switzerland as an expat from Romania. This means that even if socially and professionally I did manage to succeed in feeling at ‘home’, there were still certain limitations. For example, my permit did not allow me to live in whichever city I wanted to within Switzerland. Plus, it’s just a simple fact that even after 7 years residence, I still couldn’t apply for the citizenship and so on. Things are a little easier now as there is a bilateral contract between Switzerland and Romania, but as
you’ve mentioned before, there always remains that aspect of being a foreigner in Switzerland.

But you’re right, I do not intend to remain in Arad or Romania. Since I’ve been living in Switzerland, I have dreamed of moving to Canada. So, as a Romanian citizen, the immigration process is more straightforward if I am currently living in Romania. And afterwards, with a European and Canadian passport I can move anywhere in the world. Plus, I have a real purpose now for learning French! And I love to have the challenge of adapting to a new culture. And who knows, maybe professionally it might also be rewarding (I hope so!). We learn while going where we have to go.

Looking back at your experience at the Institute for a moment: you worked on the Rhythmus project for your bachelor diploma project, which reflected upon changes of circadian rhythms and their role in influencing our creativity, focus and group dynamics. First, asking for a bit more of a ‘normal’ description, what are circadian rhythms?
Well, since you used Wikipedia earlier, I will, too: “A circadian rhythm is a roughly-24-hour cycle in the biochemical, physiological or behavioural processes of living entities... Circadian rhythms are endogenously generated, and can be entrained by external cues, called Zeitgebers (translation: lit. ‘time givers’), the primary one of which is daylight. These rhythms allow organisms to anticipate and prepare for precise and regular environmental changes.”

What did you learn from that project, both as an artist and also privately?
It is difficult to summarize in only a few words. But very briefly, I learned that creativity is influenced very strongly by the environment you work in. This includes the spaces around you, the time frames in which you work and, most importantly, the people with whom you work. Many people may think that’s already kind of obvious, but at the next brainstorming session you’re involved in, try sitting back maybe in a corner of the room and just observe the group (without participating). I think you will realize just what I actually mean.

As an artist you have to actively struggle to create an environment that allows you to be comfortable with yourself, that gives you the trust in your abilities and imagination. A place were your demons are friends.

After completing the project, what was the answer FOR YOU in terms of ‘will a change of rhythm increase our motivation, creativity and focus?’ If yes or no, then why?
There was no answer. Really, the study would have to be organized on a much larger scale to actually be able to draw empirical quantitative answers. Even so, the analysis of the project (
www.rhythm-us.ch) does include some very interesting and solid observations when it comes to time management and group interactions.

FOR ME, though, the answer actually came earlier. The original plan for the project called for working with three separate circadian rhythms (day rhythms):
8 h work + 8 h free time + 8 h sleep = 24 h day
4 h work + 4 h free time + 4 h sleep = 12 h day
12 h work + 12 h free time + 12 h sleep = 36 h day

I in fact tested the last 2 rhythms as they were the most ‘unusual’ in terms of corresponding to daylight and normal conditions. My diploma assistant assisted me in this experiment and we tried the rhythms for 5 days. We tried the last plan first. In fact, the 12 hour ‘sliced’ rhythm was easy to apply at the beginning but became much more difficult toward the end. We found that we lost focus on work and the quality of our free time decreased. Plus, trying to sleep 12 hours was a challenge.

On the other hand, the 4 hour rhythm – even though it was pretty hard to get used to at the beginning – turned out to be the most efficient rhythm I have ever worked in. We were so focused in those 4 hours of work that we even gave up our smoking breaks. Everything was more condensed and more energetic. Solutions came quicker as we were working under tight time pressure. Even the free time had more quality as 4 hours of free time were between midnight and 4 a.m. in the morning. So you couldn’t just quickly go to the bank, drop something at the post and there were no friends available to talk to you on the phone for hours. It’s time that you can solely use for yourself without external influences. We were under this rhythm for only five days, and our body accommodated already after 2 ‘normal’ days (24 hour days).

If I had to summarize it, I think that a more focused time plan based on shorter time slices stimulated a more efficient use of time, both personally and professionally. This works especially if there is also a reset segment (sleep) in between the free time and work time slices. Still, I’m not aware of what the side effects (physical, sleeping, etc.) might be in terms of maintaining such a rhythm on a long term, so I definitely wouldn’t just recommend it based on our experience.

The Rhythmus project was great though and helps describe in many ways what I do today. My role in that project was initiator and project leader, as well as designer, cameraman, video editor and animator. I authored DVD’s and also did the book layout. The final ‘product’ included the home-page, the book which is mentioned and 3 video documentaries. In fact, if you’re curious to learn more, there is an
on-line testing tool where you can find out more about your ability to work within different working rhythms. The project was with the sponsor (National Swiss Television), the partner (Institute of Sociology Basel) and a team which included the project assistant, 3 students from the Institute as well as around 20 people that worked on and off the project, plus the 9 participants themselves that took part in the 3 models studied. In all it took 9 months to complete.

My own web-site also features a little bit of the
animation we wound up using (see the project home-page mentioned earlier for more) as well as the artwork, which is very much content oriented. Just go to the ‘Visual’ feature and click on the planet in the upper left hand corner, or if your German is really good, you can even download the whole book.

I sense more than a slight influence from Asian art on your designs, including among others ‘Kingdom in the Sky’ decals and others. I also notice you went to Vietnam late last year. Does this region hold a particular affinity for you? How about the influence of travel and getting to see new places in general?
I do find travelling inspiring. The visual prints remain in my sub-consciousness and will often surface even randomly in different projects.

Still, the idea and concept for ‘Kingdom in the Sky’ existed before I went to Vietnam, in fact, while I was planning the trip. On the other hand, I am currently flirting with the idea of creating a ‘Floating Kingdom’ which is inspired by my Vietnam/Cambodia trip. I got fascinated by the various shapes of the boats, the floating markets and villages, the improvised bridges. The trip was a visual delight.

I do like travelling, but normally I want to do more than just ‘visit’ a place; I really want to experience it as a local. To be able to stay a couple of weeks in a city and to behave as I always lived there. Sadly, I don’t always have time to pursue that, but I do always search for renting a flat rather then checking into a hotel. I find that it allows you to reach another level of connecting to a place and understanding the energy that fuels it, you know, the energy on which the visual swarm was built.

What message do you want to share when you include not only on your website but also your CV : ‘Always leave room for improvement’?
Actually, I took that out of my CV. :)

Again, I think it is so important to keep being challenged and to stay very curious. Don’t assume you know everything or that you are specialist in something. There is always room for learning or experiencing more.

What’s next for Raoul Flaminzeanu (free space to plug away)?
Having a beer with my friends and keeping an eye open for a gorgeous guy. Oh, you mean professionally?

Well, professionally: I don’t know what’s next but I know what’s now. At the beginning of the year, I started working on a small project called Manufactura 9 (9 = noua which means “new” in Romanian). The project is in collaboration with Irina Ternauciuc, a local fashion designer I know. She designed these special gloves to protect her hands from the daily use of her wheelchair. I picked on the idea and proposed to mass produce them. We are at the beginning with it, but the gloves are really cool. You can check out the project at

My latest ‘bigger’ project is working on some new menu animation for
Ringier Academy. The interface of the site itself was done by another company but we’ve been asked to make it more user-friendly for the students. This is only reserved for their internal usage but you can see examples on my web-site (for example here). The latest version isn’t finalized yet with the customer but we’re getting closer and closer. Irina, who I just mentioned above, is also working on this with me.

And beyond that, I’m still pushing ahead with my immigration plans for Canada – including keeping up with my French lessons! – and continuing to work as a freelancer.

Finally, I have to ask: what is the fascination with sock monkeys?
While watching a movie, I tend not to do anything else besides watching the movie. But this can be a bit of a time loss especially in case the movie turns out to not have been worth that amount of time from my life (and so movies are to loooong now-a-days). As such, I decided to look for something to do while watching movies, you know to keep myself occupied. So I started to do sock monkeys.

But I have a rule about sock monkeys: A sock monkey is never to be kept. Always give them away.


Raoul Flaminzeanu resides in Arad, Romania and can be reached via his home-page. He currently describes his professional focus as a ‘Freelancer in graphic designer & interaction Manager (PFA)’ including specializing in various skills including ‘digital production of promotional material for indoor and outdoor advertising, video editing, animation and DVD authoring, developing user interaction architecture and web interface design, creation of brand identities, working with-in an establish network of national and international of service providers, animators and advertising material production companies.’ Again though, if he can’t do it himself, he’ll find the right person to get the job done for his clients.

He has conducted an endless list of tasks for clients of all sorts, including filming while flying over the Alps in a balloon, acting as in field project coordinator for a documentary video titled ‘Conflict Transformation and Islam’ in Tadjikistan, and even found time to be very well versed in just about all of the currently fashionable and diverse multimedia software. Top it off and he can hold his own not only in his native tongue of Romanian, but English, German and French as well!


All pictures and images used by written permission of Raoul Flaminzeanu and belong exclusively to the artist and/or the customer/corporate entity involved. For more information, visit

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