The Creative Contemplation of Elia Colombo

These days, Elia Colombo is creating custom work for international clients like ING, Nissan, and Adobe, but this young Italian illustrator began his career as a humble pizza boy. Over years of dedication to his craft, Elia has become a masterful vector artist, known for his witty illustrations.

Although he is often deep in thought and gathers much of his inspiration from meditation and introspection, Elia has a jovial and carefree attitude towards his life and career. Even his path to success to in the creative field started out as a fortuitous decision to attend the Design School in Milan. “The main reason I decided to attend the Design School,” he explains, “was that the courses started later than other schools, so I could enjoy a couple extra weeks of vacation.”
Elia attributes this lighthearted disposition to his foundation in philosophy. His revelation came when he realized that “life itself it nothing serious at all,” and in fact, it should be more of an experiment, or a game, rather than a stoic undertaking. In typical Elia spirit, he cheerfully adds, “That’s why I became an illustrator, because you know, life is too short to get a real job!”

In truth, introspection permeates through Elia’s work. Humor and sarcasm are at the heart of his illustrations, and through these tongue-in-cheek messages, Elia aims to make people think, or at the very least, lead them to a different way of looking and thinking.
Even the choice of becoming a freelance designer was a meaningfully thought-out, deeply philosophically choice: “I don’t work as an independent designer because I want to be a designer – I work as an independent designer because I want be independent. My real goal is not directly related to my profession. Maybe I’m an idealist, but I prefer to dedicate design to my life, instead of dedicating my life to design.”

When it comes to finding inspiration for his vector graphics, Elia has a rather poetic way of describing his process:

The fisherman doesn’t know where his fish exactly is, and he can’t decide which one to catch. He only knows that there’s plenty of fish in the sea. So he waits. When it comes to having ideas, it works the same – we float on the sea of thought, totally unaware of what swims beneath us. We don’t know where to find ideas – like the fisherman we have to wait, ready to catch what comes to us on its own.
Elia stresses that this “fishing” phase is the most important. Once he catches sight of an idea, he’s able to envision the final product and quickly transfers the idea on to paper. Afterwards, it’s on to Adobe Illustrator where he turns his ideas into reality.

As a freelance designer, it’s important for Elia to be creative and imaginative, but of equal gravity is business savvy and practicality. “Let’s be realistic,” he shares, “the life of a freelancer is a hard life. I dedicate a lot of my working time reminding customers about billing and payment.” Elia sees his Stock portfolio has a long-term investment, where he can be appreciated and rewarded for the work he is creating for his personal enjoyment. It doesn’t hurt that unlike custom client work, he can sell the same image many times over, and the files continue to sell, even when he is on holiday.

See more of Elia’s work on Adobe Stock and on his Instagram.