“Accidental” Designers With A Subscription To Awards

Browsing the exhibits presented by the young masters of design at the recently held D-Day had not been a particularly demanding thing to do, physically speaking. Walking among fifty or so stands presenting new ideas on a hot Saturday in June can certainly be considered truly refreshing for starving designer souls of these regions. Among a great number of visual treats, one group of the designers has offered a glass of a somewhat more literal refreshment to the visitors. A bottle, to be precise.

The Kancelarija Team has come up with the best possible way of how to attract everyone’s attention to their exhibits and keep it focused there for at least fifteen minutes – they have presented their work on custom-made beer labels. Full beer bottles, of course. True, this strategy may have not impressed the panel of judges, but the dispersion of the Kancelarija’s exhibits around the area of the old slaughterhouse had been unmatched. Enjoying a cold bottle of “Ostvari.to” beer, we have seized the moment and had a short chat with the Kancelarija’s duo Jan Pavlović and Zoran Đukić. (Kancelarija’s Jan, Maša and Zoran are the authors of the project that won the Pogledaj.to Planner Competition).

The two of them have recently won the competition for the new visual identity of the Croatian Chamber of Architects (which we have covered here), and are currently involved in organizing the new edition of The Motovun Film Festival. They are also trying to graduate from the School of Design, and hoping to do it soon.

The designers “by accident” (Zoran, who swears he doesn’t know how to draw, had plans to become a student at FER – Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing – but, it simply wasn’t meant to be; and Jan, who is really an architect, ended up in design as a consequence of being in love) say that this whole designer story is really just a combination of fortuitous circumstances.

“Our first collaboration goes back to 2009, when we rented a space.” Jan laughs: “Purely on the basis of socializing. And then we won first and second place at a competition organized by the Croatian Chamber of Economy.” Winning one award after another, the duo has managed to gain an enviable array of clients and ‘without much ado’, make the transition to the ‘upper-class of the younger Croatian graphic design.

“We accept new projects based on recommendations and ‘good word’. We’ve realized that we benefit the most if we do a good job (laughs), rather than a lot. We try to maintain a certain level of quality and we don’t work just to ‘get it over and done with’.” Zoran says.

“Everything that can be found on the website, is exactly what we do. All our exhibits have undergone a selection, we make everything public, and we are rather ‘transparent’ about that.” I’ve asked how the freelance duo has managed to cope in terms of organization – within a profession known by its indiscipline. “I don’t understand how the whole world can simply go along with it.” says Zoran about the 9-to-5 working concept. His short ‘desk’ job at Laboratorium notwithstanding, both have successfully managed to avoid the hassle of coming to work early in the morning and adapted the working rhythm to the beat of their own drum. It usually means taking the first coffee of the day at 10.00 and brainstorming about the project at a safe distance from computers and software. *

* Kancelarija

“We sit in a bar and make sketches. We’ve realized that, too often, the computer is actually blocking us, especially at the initial stages of an idea. So, until we are sure what we’re actually doing, we try to keep away from it. A blank page in Illustrator is not an incentive for a creative start, at all.” Zoran says.

“We have a rule that stipulates when working on an identity, we are not allowed to enter the project’s name in Illustrator for a week; we mustn’t ‘visualize it typographically’. Things like these always lead us up the same path and we get stuck.” Jan explains. “The great thing about the computer is that it allows you to experiment with a huge amount of things in a short amount of time, but in the designing process itself it doesn’t really have a crucial role.”

“The methodology has come spontaneously.” Zoran laughs.

“It’s simple – no computer until we know what is being drawn.”

With the visual language itself, that the duo uses for communication, and with the way they handle their projects, they have gained clients without much interference in communication, and they say they are really pleased by the understanding of the process of visual communication and esthetics by the people that hire them. They stress their absolute support for the introduction of the educational programs at primary and secondary schools (such as  OPA) regarding those programs as the foundation of a better position for the design profession in Croatia, and ultimately, better understanding and respect.

“The Scandinavians didn’t just come up with that, out of the blue – they’ve been dealing with it for fifty years, they’ve taught people how to value and recognize quality. It’s difficult to achieve the same here, because here things are done only periodically.” Jan says.

Both agree that Croatia may not be the most fertile ground for design, at least for now. “For instance, things like “anti-design’ here. The way I see it – it’s normal for something like this to happen in a country where there is a tradition of design and where there is saturation by it. But, here, I think it’s awfully ‘artificial’ – somewhere where the signalization looks like it does in Zagreb, insisting on this anti-concept… What’s the point? That’s why I think that these ‘Dutch moments’ in Croatian design are pointless.” Zoran says.

In Croatia, there is still an amount of good design that is losing in comparison to huge amount of the ‘accustomed’. Therefore, this deconstruction, which in our case precedes construction, to me, makes no sense. Let’s first do something and then we’ll make a mess.” Jan agrees.

Since the two agree on the fact that the design in Croatia exists only in Zagreb. Zoran, who was born in Dubrovnik, doesn’t even dream about tilting at the windmills in his native town. He doesn’t think going back is a realistic option. “I think I would ‘snap’ after just two meetings there and return to Zagreb.  Conception of design as something more than just a word-art extension is still too rare there.”

When asked to state their biggest designer weapon, in the battle for clients, Zoran says: “I think we are thinking the way we’re supposed to. Maybe we don’t always manage to articulate it perfectly, but I definitely see this as our advantage.”

“We are looking forward to every project, we love this diversity in our work, and we give 100% to everything we do.” adds Jan.

“Every new project means a fresh set of research, interesting things, and things that make it special; and that’s why we never get tired of the whole thing.”

About complementing interests and talents, Jan says that “it would really be great if we could think in a completely different way. When working on projects and competitions, firstly, we each make separate sketches so we could have as many different directions and motivate one another to come up with ideas, and afterwards to articulate them together. However, the situation always looks like this:

‘OK, I was thinking stairs.’

‘Damn. Me too.

‘OK, I have some graphs.’

‘Been there. Done that.’”

“The situation where we have a discussion in a sense that I have my version of how things should look like, and he has his; happens extremely rarely. The collaboration with Jan runs smoothly and the only ‘division of ideas’ that we have is based on the ‘good/bad’ principle rather than ‘mine/yours’. A  collaboration with a compatible ‘brain’ is extremely beneficial, it’s like going into some sort of warp and there’s no stopping.” Zoran says.

Our chat continued for a while longer, and then we realized that the Kancelarija’s ‘exhibit’ fridge had been running on low, which of course spelled – urgent need for a refill.

According to the evidence from D-Day, the Kancelarija’s presentation concept had been a raging success – after a few beers with their exhibits on the bottles, the memories of the other exhibits had become a little blurry and we had welcomed morning with the “Kancelarija” beer.

Granted, it had proved to be somewhat of a distraction in terms of our daily routine the following day, but the guys kept their eye on the ball – and a few days after our conversation – graduated, with honors of course.

As if anyone expected anything less…

(The Kancelarija members are: Matea Bronić, Tin Kadoić, Kristina Volf, Maša Milovac, Robert Čanak, Draga Komparak, Zoran Đukić i Jan Pavlović)
For more on the group look here.