In order to make a great product one needs a really great team. It is very hard to achieve something on one’s own. Communicate and work with people who have more experience than you and whom you admire as much as you can.
Please give us a brief bio of yourselves.
AN: My name is Andrey Nikiforov and I am 26 years old. I graduated from one of the leading technical universities in Russia, and then from the British Higher School of Art and Design as an Art Director. I have worked in advertising agencies for the past six years and am currently the Head of Digital in 2sharp digital creative agency. I am also a co-owner of 2morrow digital agency. Ilya and I are working together on several projects.
IK: My name is Ilya Kazantsev and I am 25 years old. I discovered Photoshop for the first time when I was 14 years old during a computer science class, and since that moment have used it nearly every day. Many things have changed over the past 11 years. Firstly, it has become clear that design and Photoshop are not the same thing. These days 50% of my work is art direction and the other 50% is working with design software.
What do you do for inspiration?
AN: Inspiration comes from the very thing you are working on at any given moment as well as marveling at the creative endeavors of others. Communicating freely, traveling, being outgoing and curious about everything around you also provide ongoing inspiration.
IK: The most important thing is to structure one’s thoughts and set clear objectives. Sometimes I turn off the computer and ponder the project in hand in order to better realize it. I recently made a large 7m2 marker board for my study for this very purpose. When I work with it, thoughts can be properly ordered. The importance of talking to colleagues and thinking through next steps cannot be overstated.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
AN: There are three websites I use every day. The first one is, naturally, Google with Gmail. The second is Freedly where I collect websites and blogs for inspiration and also read digital news. The third one on the list is Pinterest which helps me to collate the best creative materials.
IK: If we’re talking about design sites these would be Dribbble, Behance and Feedly. Everyone knows these of course. I also like Brain Pickings, Core 77 and Co.Design blogs.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
IK: My daughter was born a month ago. This is my greatest achievement to date.
AN: I prefer not to get hung up on achievements. One should be constantly achieving, come what may, and there are both small and large achievements. 99% of our life is the process of achieving something. My main goal is to make this process as pleasant and efficient as possible!
How many hours do you work each week?
AN: About 60-70. The more you work when you are young, the better the ultimate pay-off. There is simply no other way.
IK: I try to work around 70 hours a week.
How do you relax or unwind?
IK: Sport plays an important role because it stimulates productivity and means you are much less tired at work. I like cycling, running, yoga and CrossFit. I try to practice all of these sports.
AN: It is very important to remain fit both mentally and physically. The gym and swimming help me achieve this. My favorite way to relax is simply at home with my girlfriend.
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
IK: I would most probably be involved in designing something: engineering systems, architecture or industrial design.
AN: There are so many possibilities. For example, I’d love to open my own small restaurant somewhere in the south of Italy; occasionally I would serve the guests myself.
What software could you not live without?
IK: Photoshop, Illustrator, Sublime, Sketch, Chrome, Skitch, Dropbox – that’s what I use almost every day.
AN: My list is very similar but I would also add MindNode and Keynote.
In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?
IK: Sketch is a very interesting program and many designers use it. But in my opinion Adobe will buy them or they will make their own version. I like making interactive prototypes via Facebook Origami Library. There are disadvantages but in general it is a nice way to introduce new prototypes. One shouldn’t forget Bootstrap – it is not software but it’s a useful way of making new web page prototypes.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
IK: Fantasy Interactive, Teehan+Lax, Sagmeister and Walsh.
Who is your target audience?
AN: We design projects for both big clients and end users. It’s an efficient approach.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
AN: The first website I designed was for guys who were running courses on how to date girls the right way. The website was really quite ugly; all the guys are married now which is probably why the website no longer exists.
IK: I designed my first website when I was 16 years old. We did a mailout and were then asked to design a website. We had very little business experience then and the negotiations weren’t very successful. We came up with a very standard design but added a hedgehog with a chainsaw on the request of our client. It’s funny to think back on this now.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
IK: Of course, nowadays education is becoming more of a formal thing. On the internet there are enough resources (books, educational courses, blogs etc) which can help you to become a good designer.
AN: Almost all designers in Russia are self-educated. We have very few schools where modern design is taught. However many people have an artistic based education. It is not application oriented but it helps to create a taste for art and design in a person.
If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?
AN: In order to make a great product one needs a really great team. It is very hard to achieve something on one’s own. Communicate and work with people who have more experience than you and whom you admire as much as you can.
IK: I would start making real projects, on my own, as for a client. Not a formal project but a real life one for real people.
How difficult do you find employing the right people in a world where everyone calls themselves a web designer?
AN: It is very difficult. A really good designer is like a needle in a haystack. But what is even trying is that a designer can be a complete idiot as a person and it then becomes impossible to work with him. So if you have good contacts, please let us know!
IK: It is difficult but possible. If I’m working with freelancers, I sometimes interview up to 100 people per project. It’s one of my favorite parts of the job - finding the person who best fits the project and offering him favorable terms.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
AN: In order to learn stuff, you need to love what you do first and foremost.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?
IK: 1) Blogs. I subscribe to more than 70 design themed blogs. The easiest way for me to read them is via Feedly Reader. 2) Courses: There are so many excellent websites where one can procure knowledge: CoursEra, Skillshare, Codeschool. 3) Projects. Knowledge is best acquired through practical experience. One should begin by tackling small projects on one’s own.
AN: There are two basic areas demanding attention: the design and technical parts. Different people are responsible for different areas within the company. At the same time, I try not to miss anything. One should not only monitor trends, but set them too.
What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?
AN: I can’t say that one particular country excites me more than others but I would like to say Russia, which isn’t too far from the truth.
IK: Every country has its own particular features: both good and bad ones. I can’t say which countries inspire me more than others.
There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?
IK: My childhood dream was to make a car interface. This industry is somewhat in decline. Large companies don’t understand the best way to approach it. Even Tesla, favored by many people including me, did not make a great interface. It was better than most but there is still so much more to do.
AN: I like global goals which serve the greater good. Projects which can boast real scientific or technical achievements. Transport for the future, unique medical inventions, things that really change our way of life.
What does the future hold for your company, or you as a person?
We should not expect anything from the future. We should build it ourselves.