You graduated from university as a marketing manager and worked according to your education just for one year, then you started your creative career. How did you make it?
It was very spontaneous or even random decision. After working in the marketing department of a garment factory (in a provincial city) I moved to the capital aiming to realize my creative dreams. Without livelihood, I had to find any possible job right from the beginning. A friend of mine told me that the easiest profession in this world is a designer as you do not need special education or knowledge and it is not bound by any responsibility… At that moment I didn't even realize how wrong was I and how wrong was my adviser. This way I started my work in a print shop as a designer on the fourth day after arriving in Kyiv. A half year later I started working in small but very progressive design agency as a leading designer. During one year of working there, I started to understand what is real graphic design and my projects had won the majority of awards for this agency. Being successful I was invited to join the marketing department of a famous Ukrainian wine and brandy brand. So I had a chance to be an agency designer as well as an in-house designer; to have courage for creating something new and patience to evolve already created things. I was learning to combine my marketing education and design experience. Finally, I started my own agency inspired with the idea of creative freedom.
What kind of role does marketing play in your design career?
At the beginning of my design career, I underestimated my educational background though while working independently it appeared very useful knowledge to be. Each of studio’s projects I develop and analyze like a team of two different persons – designer and marketing manager. It helps me to understand real client’s needs and stay focused on target audience during all steps of a design process. I do not take design as an art and I care about design impact on brands, environment, and well-being. This is the main reason my clients trust me. Eventually, the design studio is a business and it needs marketing support as well.
What was the biggest difficulty you had encountered during the period when you established your studio?
As the graphic design was a comparatively new industry at that period in Ukraine, the biggest difficulty and the most boring thing were explanations on what is graphic design, why do people need it and why is it so expensive. Many clients perceived design as a decoration of their businesses and rated design with likes and dislikes. This type of clients is still widely spread today as well though now I have a possibility to choose with whom do I want to work.
“We love what we do and believe that any work could be interesting as a result only provided that it is interesting as a process.” --I quote this from your website. Can you explain this or give me an example?
The question “Is this project interesting to you?” is quite popular in design sphere and it sounds like designers are kids and clients have to entertain them with something interesting. This question is totally wrong for both sides. Asking this question, clients try to arise inspiration constituent hoping to reduce financial constituent. Answering this question, designers try to concentrate only on a pleasant part of creativity and reduce difficulties connected with additional research, analysis, and experimenting. One of the right answers to this question is “If a project is interesting itself, it does not need design solution”. I believe and I proved it with my design that only designer can make a project to be interesting. The design process is very important for me and one of my secrets is that I am in love with every project I do. I adore every little step of development and try to perfect every tiny detail while I can do it. Love cannot last from 9 AM to 6 PM. I have this feeling inside of me all the time.
This approach allows getting high-quality design but it has the price. Collaboration with other creative people is often difficult, as I demand the same attitude from other team members. That is why I work only with the most passionate people.
As a joke, I would say that knowing marketing helps me to survive biologically. It always forces me to compare the level of my exhaustion and my bank account statement.
About design style, some people say it takes years for a designer to form his or her own style, while some designers are not willing to confine themselves in a specific style. What do you think about it?
I discussed this topic with a few mates-designers during the years. And I will do it again and again because it is one of the most important questions in designer’s development. My belief is that designer should not have a specific style. If you have the own style you risk creating similar projects over and over. But projects cannot be similar as they have different backgrounds, markets, target audiences, etc. The predicted style is convenient to clients who just want to copy the success of someone else and not to create their own. Designer with individual style creates one project all his/her life and name of this project is the name of the designer. At least this is boring. I like diversity and I like to evoke different emotions that are why I try to make every new project with a new style. I have to admit it becomes harder and harder as I already tried a lot and I started feeling attracted to some certain methods and techniques but I do not give up and try to innovate, experiment and discover something new. This is the reason I chose to be a designer.
In the past five years, you have been focusing on packaging design. For this area, what aspects do you usually take as the entry to innovation?
First of all, I gather information about consumers and their preferences or fears, about the possible and available technologies of packaging production. I figure out how expensive this packaging could be and what innovative materials or techniques could be used if any. Based on this information I build restrictions’ area. Then I analyze all competitors and similar products on chosen territory and worldwide. Based on this information I set a level of design quality I need to reach or overcome. In addition, I see a scope of ideas that are already used or obvious. I try to find successful approaches that were used in other spheres of design and art but never were used in packaging. Now it is time to surprise and I ask myself “What can I do to steal people’s attention?”
In your opinion, what kind of package can catch consumers' eyes immediately?
Modern consumers are spoiled by design industry and to impress them I need to be even more spoiled and capricious. It means I need to evaluate my own ideas very critically and I need to show something nobody has seen before or at least nobody expected to see. Consumers positively react on the packaging that looks expensive as it makes them feel that product inside is more valuable than the money they spend to purchase it. Probably, typical packaging design is closer to advertising than to graphic design. The trick of success is in balancing and knowing which rules you can break.
With more than 16 years of working experience and as a lector on design topics, what do you emphasize most in class for students?
During my lectures, I always try to give information on how my design was taken by the audience. What messages did I put in design and what messages people get? I analyze why did it happen and was it good or bad. The design process is not finished after the designer has sent layout to the client. I do not try to teach how to design, as I do not believe that lectures are a good source for this purpose. I try to make people think about design, about the profession itself, about perception and communication. Analysis, ability to listen, to hear, to ask a question and to understand takes much bigger part of design than drawing. Young designers do not know it or ignore it and this is the main reason of early stage difficulties and misunderstanding.
What kind of environment for designers does design industry provide in Ukraine?
Design scene in Ukraine is definitely becoming better and better. There is a new generation of people that want and try to improve life in Ukraine, including design and art spheres. When I started there was no single contemporary design school except few institutes with outdated and useless Soviet programs. Now there are several private design schools in Ukraine that offer long-lasting courses as well as single lectures or workshops. These schools cover not the capital area only but also a few big cities on the west, east and south of the country. Design conferences, meetups, reviews, competitions became regular events in Ukraine. Unfortunately, the economic and political situation in Ukraine is remaining hard and it prevents business development, foreign investments and forces numerous businessmen and creative people to immigrate or work abroad. This situation strongly affects design industry. As a result, there are no big, ambitious or long-lasting design projects in Ukraine. Designers mainly work for short time, small to middle-sized non-risky projects. Volunteering and non-profit projects become trendy.