“I would like to see designers and agencies engaging even more with people who need ‘creative’ help. There have been some greatly inspiring agencies and individuals who donate their time to some incredible causes but I’d like to see many others following the idea. I would like to see creativity used as a tool to help others.”
These are the words of Radim Malinic, art director, graphic designer and leader of one of the UK’s best known creative forces, Brand Nu™. As the graphic design industry becomes increasingly pervasive in our society, Radim Malinic sets himself apart by calling for leaders in the field to use their creative talent for the greater good.
In the last few years, graphic design has boomed in the public domain. In 2013, employers posted more than 28,000 online job ads for graphic designers, an increase of 15 per cent on the previous year and more than 80 per cent over the past four years. Despite this, Malinic argues that “graphic design is in the same demand as it’s ever been” and that it has simply become “a lot more prominent and fragmented.
There is a lot more emphasis in the 21st century on what it is that brands do and how they convey their marketing message. There are many more client facing channels, some of them are directly in our pockets, it makes design and communication unavoidable. Design is scattered in smaller pieces now. In broad terms, the quality of design has gone up with the surge of online affordable resources.”
Indeed, the distribution of information via the internet regarding methodology and design trends have transformed the industry. Malinic stresses this change: “I think we are seeing a surge of excitement. When standards are raised, then ‘just ok’ is not enough anymore. People try to outdo themselves and each other, creating healthy competition.”
When asked how his career in design materialised, Malinic reveals that he in fact studied Business Management and Economics at university. “I didn’t study graphic design or art”, and when asked if he had always been a creative person, Malinic, to my surprise, responds: “No, not always. How I ended up being in graphic design really differs from many of my contemporaries in the industry. I wasn’t the kid spending time drawing alone at home.
At the age of 10, I took a year of drawing classes but got thrown out for drawing ‘Disney eyes’. In my early adolescence I discovered heavy rock and I started my first metal band. By the age of 16 I got into DJ-ing many eclectic styles. I would always say that I discovered the medium of graphic design through music and album art. Although I learned some design basics through making gig posters and band T-shirts, I didn’t think too
much of it back then. I didn’t know it could be a career choice.”
When he finished his studies, Malinic moved to England at the break of the new millennium. With this change of location, he registered a huge shift in attitudes towards design, which eventually inspired him to pursue it as a career: “I noticed the quality of the design and everything around me was of a different calibre to what I was used to from growing up in a different place. One day, I remember reading the Guardian newspaper and I began to analyse the design.
I quickly realised that the layout and the typesetting all had a purpose and a meaning! From that moment, I knew that that’s what I wanted to do, I wanted to know more. I’d found that ‘something’ in life and I was going to give design a shot! I was on a mission and I haven’t stopped since.”
The chance for Malinic to explore and express his own ideas for graphic design came in April 2007 when he quit his full time design job. From this point he began to focus solely on his own design studio, Brand Nu™, which has hit the industry by storm, pulling in clients as well-known and wide ranging as Blistex, Cadbury, Dell, Mini Cooper, Harry Potter, London Film Museum, O2 and many more. Malinic talked about the freedom that setting up Brand Nu™ offered him as a creative designer.
“When working within a company you’re part of a very long food chain with too much white noise. When I set up my own studio, I had a clear vision about the direction I wanted to take. I could afford to treat every project with importance and the time it needed. That’s an attitude that I still carry; whether I’m working for a startup or a household brand, I treat them exactly the same. The quality of ideas and their execution matter every time.”
As Malinic found himself increasingly swept up in the design world and began experiencing a level of success with clients worldwide, he moved to London from his original studio in Hampshire. “London is again about a different approach to design” says Malinic, who suggests the difference is in “the thinking, requirements and quality demanded by clients”. Despite this rather intimidating audience, Malinic also picks up on the fact that “client briefs are more ambitious, innovative and forward thinking. There’s also an added level of competitiveness in every aspect. I love it.”
As he works with a huge range of clients, I asked Malinic if he took a unique approach to each project: “Absolutely. These days I spend more time on research, mood-boarding and thinking how to tackle each new commission in the most unique way. Let’s say if a project takes a month, I now spend the first two weeks thinking, sketching and researching to get me and the client on the same page. Then the work naturally gets produced and meets people’s expectations. Applying this formula really helps me to work more efficiently and allows for better results too.”
Given that the industry of graphic design is arguably one without established institutions as a source of training and employment, I asked Malinic whether he felt, as a designer, one was obliged to be more self-motivated than other professions: “Absolutely. You can work 18 hours a day and it might not be enough. Creativity is a perpetual machine that doesn’t let you out once you get in.”
As a designer, Malinic tells me he has “always believed that you have to spend enough time on your own development by experimenting and trying new things even if it is just for yourself or a client with a tiny budget. At the beginning, every commission is worth taking on because not only is it good practice, but you’re also building bridges and setting yourself up for your career ahead.”
Collaboration in graphic design is now easier, and more prevalent than ever before, Malinic suggests. He says that “designers now share ideas through platforms such as Dribbble or Behance, getting feedback from one another. It’s a fantastic feeling for a designer, getting to talk to someone on the other side of the world. The tools for talking to each other are such beautiful simplifiers.”
Moreover, Malinic comments that people of the design world “are actually being nice to each other right now. Some 10 years ago if you went on a graphic design forum, there would be a fair amount of negativity and grumpiness, whereas now there’s a lot of encouragement. It’s nice to see that change. Now, the industry feels a lot more connected.
There will always be glory hunters in the industry, who will want to pave their own way, but then there are others who will happily give out an open source or make project files available for everyone else to download and make it better.” For Malinic, the industry is ultimately “about constant development. ‘Everything is a work in progress’ and that’s something I truly believe in. When you look at it, nothing is and will ever be the final version of itself. Ideas are always evolving.” This concept of continuity is something which Malinic holds as a central value when designing.
In terms of inspiration, Malinic stresses that it is not about pin-pointing specific places that you think might influence your work, but about never dismissing or remaining closed to a possible stimulus. “I keep my eyes wide open. I like innovative advertising, product design, fashion and interior design.
I’m also inspired by ‘non-design’ elements such as neuroscience, consumer behaviour and psychology – anything that forms a bigger picture. Design, when you think of it, is like a drop in the ocean. You’ve got to think about the spectrum of the environment where you’re going to put your work. I could be inspired by anything in my daily life. I try to just keep my eyes open and be influenced by things that are not necessarily from the same field.”
Finally, we return to Malinic’s belief that design should be used as a tool to help. “It’s something I truly believe and something I think we can always do more of. The idea of ‘creativity as a tool to help’ really stands for giving your time and lending your skills to people who really need it. Last year I helped Little Big Africa, a small charity based in Uganda, with their rebrand, website and extra collateral, all done pro bono. I donated my time because I wanted a charity with no financial resources to look equal to forces like Oxfam or WaterAid.”
Having returned from Uganda three weeks ago, Malinic exalted that he “absolutely loved it, it was very moving to see how the work is used on the ground, and how people interacted. The first hand experience made me realise that I had created something worthwhile. I got to see that I really made a difference far away from home.”