Hi Tako, and thanks for accepting my invitation for the interview, I have a lot of questions so let’s get to it.
Hello, thank you for inviting me to the interview. I’m a founder and an art director at Pragmatika, a small independent design studio based in Tbilisi, Georgia. I’ve been working as a freelance graphic designer since graduating from LCC. I currently live and work in Tbilisi, in a customised apartment, which also serves as the studio for Pragmatika.
My country of origin is located on the crossroad of Europe and Asia and is very culturally diverse, which seems to appeal to tourists. As a small country, we have fought for independence throughout history and that spirit of freedom and non-conformity can be felt everywhere. Wine production and a unique alphabet are some other interesting aspects of Georgian culture.
There’s one story I want to tell about myself. As a kid, I went to a kindergarten in Moscow, which I hated. All the Russian kids were blue eyed and pale-skinned. I, on the other hand, had long brown hair and huge brown eyes. In terms of my appearance I did not fit in, and was nicknamed ‘cockroach’. There was a rigid daily schedule at the kindergarten, which we were not allowed to question. Every day between 1 and 2pm we were told to sleep, or should I say we were forced to pretend to be asleep. One day, I realised that I was wasting my time pretending to be asleep and got out of bed. My disobedience was met with some words of warning, which were followed by screaming and forcing me back to bed. There was no way I was going to go back to bed, so I started a pillow fight. After that event, I was allowed to sit in a glass room next to the sleeping area, painting sun and flowers while the other kids were pretending to be asleep. I guess that’s when I realised I was an artist.
There was no single turning point… After school, I majored in business management and fashion, neither of which felt quite right for me. I guess that when you’re choosing a profession, neither talent nor skills play a huge role. What is important is your field of interest. Books, movies and music have always fascinated me. I was collecting Rolling Stone magazine and reading its music album reviews religiously, until it became a mainstream magazine. As someone who wanted to be close to music, I eventually figured out that I’d be able to fulfill that dream by becoming an editorial designer.
Working with George was extremely helpful in terms of finding the right direction for my talents. As I mentioned before, I studied at LCC which was a college of printing, Therefore, there was a clear emphasis on editorial design. During the one and a half year period in which I was working with George, whose work was mostly logo design based, I began to become acquainted with logo design and brand identity. What I learned during that period was neither sketching nor the technical aspects, but rather to discipline myself to work daily and to be extremely details-oriented, which is what logo design is all about: the details.
I have learned that you need to make sure that you have established yourself as a freelancer before you start a studio. You need to have a reputation as a reliable designer, as this will help you to attract the right clients. If you plan to focus solely on graphic design, you should be prepared not to make a great deal of profit in the first year. I would not advise either to extend very fast or to hire full-time employees. All good things take time, so don’t be afraid to take your time. Also, one of the most important things is to know how to recognise and utilise other people’s talents, how to delegate work and how to manage time. When you start your own studio, consider hiring an accountant or taking accountancy classes, because there’s going to be some paper work.
Most design studios don’t have predictable schedules. You can have 20 clients in one month and none in another, depending on time of year. From what I have observed, July and December are the worst in terms of workflow. One piece of advice I can give to other design studio owners is to abstain from getting loans during those seasons and to save money instead, so that you are ready for another seasonal dry patch. Other things to do in the case of slow activity is to work on self promotional materials and side projects.
As in other fields, there are some top players and there is a crowd. The top players are the people who live for design and are willing sacrifice time and comfort in order to be creative. Most pieces of work that are produced by the crowd are bad copies of each other’s work. In order to produce anything of quality, you need to learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.
There’s nothing wrong with perfection. Perfection can protect you from mediocrity. It only becomes a problem when you no longer know when to switch it on and off.
I always tell my employees to never fall in love with their ideas. There’s a quote from Cheese Monkeys, which is a book by Chip Kidd:
“Never fall in love with an idea. They’re whores: if the one you’re with isn’t doing the job, there’s always, always, always another.”
The best approach I have come up with so far is to create a studio culture where people work towards a common goal. In that kind of environment, criticism is perceived as a means of improvement and challenging one’s abilities, and not as someone making fun of another person’s work.
Josef Muller Brockmann, His spirit visits me in times of despair and during creative blocks 🙂
I’ve been obsessing over the Chase logo lately.
Any David Lynch movie
Electric blue, Pragmatika color
Best Music Band?
Can’t think of a band, I love Pj Harvey
Cooking or Delivery?
Coffee or Tea?
Coffee, of course
Books or Podcasts?
Winter or Summer?
Best Travel Destination?
Money brings happiness?