Train clock at Bromma Airfield, Stockholm, Sweden

Design is subjective, art is personal.

Iuliu-Cosmin Oniscu


Over the last few months, I have been dealing with some health issues. In the wake of a few personal problems, the work relaterad nonesense of making a video game, moving to a new town, reintegrating, stress is a constant part of my life now.

Drottninggatan at sunset

I am trying to do good, seek some order, some structure so I picked up a camera and started learning photography. I started by looking at landscape painting, but chose photography as a way to train my eye, so when I do my work I get to see things better, and do my job better. This came as a response to some feedback I got, stating my visual composition skills were not very good.

Gase tanks between Stockholm and Uppsala

So I picked up the camera and looked around, and took some pictures and asked some questions.

While the tech side of things is pretty easy to pickup, I found my self in a state of constant confusion:

  • How do I do that?
  • How do I expose?
  • What is good exposure?
  • What makes a good picture?

There many answers out there, many oppinions, lots of confusion. The trouble is that there are no right answers. The Camera is a tool, your eye is a judge, your finger is the executioner. Beyond that, there are conventions about beauty, thrends, audiences, etc. but art is first and foremost personal. It’s a lot like learning to ride a bike: Your brain needs to get used to it before you can actually do cool stuff.

There is a substantial difference between being an artist and being a factory worker.

Dramatic Swedish sky

The artist persues beauty as a passion, as a way to elevate the soul. The artist creates for himself.

The factory worker works for the wage and while skillfull, remains engaged to standards set by the factory.

Standards, like all made up things, exist as parts of particular contexts, to provide structure to the work, so the buissness does not collapse. They are a convention, sometimes written, sometimes not so much.

Pedestrian crossing, Stockholm, Sweden

Conventions do not lead to increased creativity, just productivity.

It is my opinion, at this moment in time, that creativity and productivity are sitting on different ends of the same spectrum.

Artist should be still, vigilent, non productive, so when inspiration emerges they are ready to jump on it.

These days, beauty seems to be a convention. It’s what the majority thinks, what the algorithm things, what the elite think.

Booking reading in the spring sun.

However, if you fall in that trap you won’t find your own way. To make pretty things, look deep inside and see what makes you happy and then try to make that into a piece of work.

Bottom line: Look for inspiration, ask for opinions, but ultimatly do what you enjoy first and do it for others second.

It doesn’t matter if you suck. Practice makes perfect.

I seem to gravitate around design driven pictures, notan based, abstract, minimalism, shadow play, and I am learning not to question my taste, instead to persue what makes me happy and just practice. And it is very very hard.

As a side note, as I am picking these pictures, I realize a deep connection between context and style, as I seem to want to pick things that express stilness, waiting, calmness, static life waiting for the buss or taking in the sun.

Waiting for a train

What does this have to do with level design?

Well lots of things actually.

Lots of level designers run around asking what good level design is.

Let me save you some time: Good Design is Personal.

Lots of standards are being defined and discarded with the comming and goings of this industry. Lots of frustration and stress related to gatekeeping of secrets and production methods. Lots of youtubers and designers on linkdin (me included) telling you what the best solution for your problems are, firmly convinced that they are right, because it works for them, because it worked on the projects they all worked on.

Brutalism in Södermalm

I am here to tell you that level design, like any other type of design is art, and art is subjective. Stop listening to advice and figure yourselves out first. Pin down what you like and just do that.

Level Design is a means to an end. The end product is the result.

Level Design is design, and design is subjective, so just take it easy. Keep making things, play them, see if you like what comes out, copy others, keep iterating.

I would like to tell you that you will get there, but the truth is, I don’t really care. You might make it, or you might get somewhere else, and you might like it there more. Just practice and stop worrying so much about what others think.

Don’t be an intermediarry! Just do things for yourself.

Sometimes it’s just about clicking that button.

Södermalm facade

There are some reasons for why this is, probably, hard to grasp. We have been tought that these things are somewhat permanent and universal. The reality is that like all things artistic, inspite of the trully personal nature of the act of creation, have their worth decided by others.

The tastemakers of the world, decide what goes, but they are not creators themselves, they are merely critics.

Pensioners in the sun

The moment we decide that those are the rules, that’s when we sell out, that’s when the work stops being personal, and becomes commercial. After that we hit the wall and become sad that our work is not good enough.

Be your own person, don’t get dragged down that rabbit hole.

What is it that you like about it?



Iuliu-Cosmin Oniscu

As a level designer I am not a creator, I am a facilitator. Senior Open World Designer. #Leveldesign #Open World #Design @notimetoulose.