Interview
July 20, 2018
Customer experience

George
Kvasnikov

Love is a booster for creativity

We had a great chance to speak with George Kvasnikov — an award-winning interface and graphic designer from Russia, currently Design Lead at Fantasy in New York:

«George holds degrees in Master of Sociology (St.-Petersburg) and a Bachelor of Design (Berlin).

Because of his scientific background and classic German design school influence, he’s known as a problem solver who's design and aesthetic is based on conceptual approaches highlighting user needs.

Prior to joining Fantasy, George has over 10 years of design experience in Russia, Germany, and the US. His clients include Google, Asics, Fox Sports, The Weather Channel, MET Museum, Spotify, Royal Caribbean and others.»

AI

When will AI create truly individual design comparable to human?

If you are defining UI design as a pure problem-solving instrument, it may happen very soon. AI is very close to taking this over. I can imagine cases when we can ask AI to solve any UX problem and it will analyze all possible use cases and create a solution using pre-defined UI elements. So AI will be very helpful in product design and on early stages of the design process. But I barely imagine that AI can take over creative work.

User Interface should not only be useful but in most cases also inspiring, emotional, creative. It must match the philosophy of the product or service it was made for, satisfy the client vision and encourage the user to perform certain actions. UI design is mostly about marketing and psychology.

Don’t forget to grab your bonus from George and FlowMapp Team at the end of the interview.

When AI will be as clever to replace a psychologist, it will be able to replace a designer

Popularity

Is there direct dependence between designers knowledge and his professional popularity?

Being popular in the design community doesn't necessarily require a lot of knowledge. It's a different job. Some people are good at self-promoting, some people are not. Some people may just follow the most popular trends in design and become popular, but this not necessarily means they really understand what they do.

On the other hand, there are tons of brilliant designers, who don't even have an account on Dribbble or other social media. And those who have 20k followers can't find a proper job. So I think popularity has not much to do with professional experience and knowledge.

Does popularity influence on design works level?

This is absolutely not necessary and should not be the end of itself. But of course, it's always very pleasant to see that your work is appreciated as an acknowledgment that you are on the right track. This will also give you a lot of freelance proposals, so this is good for practice and for money. But don't forget that popularity is a big responsibility and for a young designer, it's easy to fuck up his reputation by doing something wrong. So a young designer (as well as any other designer) should always stay self-critical, keep learning and push his own bar higher.

Tools

I am an old-school and been working in Photoshop for past 15 years. Recently I switched from Photoshop to Sketch, maybe about 4–5 months ago, but only because it’s now required by clients. I found a plugin called Midnight and painted the interface in black so now it looks almost like Photoshop and it makes me feel good.

Besides that I really love to bring designs to live in Principle — this is so much fun and it works like meditation for me. I am also using After Effects on a daily basis. Form offline tools I use paper, colored markers and pen a lot. Drawing on paper gives me more freedom and stimulates abstract thinking, which is very important in the creation phase.

Do you feel lack in current software?

There is a lot of interesting happening on the UI tools market so I'm more than satisfied with it. What I really miss is some simpler and cheaper software to work with 3D. Now you need to spend around $3k to buy and set up Cinema4d. I think there should be some less expensive and easier-to-use tools for UI designers and enthusiasts, who just want to add some simple, but qualitative 3D elements to their designs. I'm also waiting for a designing tool, which will convert designs into qualitative code.

Front end should be done by designers and then the industry will change forever because the quality will be incredibly high.

Future skills

Few things: be curious about what is going on in the digital world, learn software, train your brain. As I said earlier, automatization is on its way, a lot of processes will be soon done by algorithms. There will be no need for designers, who just put blocks and fonts together. Only designers who can think outstandingly, think about the core, create something new and unique – these designers will run the world.

And a quick personal tip to all young designers: never be satisfied with the first solution you came up with. Criticise yourself, be rude to yourself and shit out something that is beyond your boundaries

Don't be satisfied with average.

Question to Designer

I don't ask anything, I start looking for his other works and if this guy looks like a good fit for our team, I share the link to his portfolio with my crew and we may try to hire him.

How to measure Design

I am completely agreed on 9 of 10 Dieter Rams principles of good design. Good design is innovative, useful, aesthetic, understandable, unobtrusive, honest, long-lasting, thorough down to the last detail and friendly. I have not agreed that good design is as little as possible. Instead, I would say that good design is emotional. I really dig the designs, which have their unique look and you can almost feel the love and passion the designer has put in it.

A good example is my favorite meditation app "Headspace" which was made with so much love, that has built the highest level of trust between me and the app.

And I use it every day because it just feels that they care about me. And it's all through design

Product creation = product designing?

Often «Design» is considered as one of the product creation stage (analysis → dev → design UI-marketing). But there is modern practice: the designer has to join work from the very early stage, cause «design» leads to product look, smell, number of functions, audience and etc. That needs lots of additional skills, I consider. Is this an evolutionary path for all designers now? Should everyone strive for that?

I'm convinced that a designer is not the one who just wraps something up to make just pretty encasement around some product. The design is all about business. UI designer should very deeply understand the philosophy of the company, the product, target audience, marketing strategy etc. Only then he will be able to create an innovative, well thought-out, honest design.

Fantasy, New York

We are always taking the business of our clients seriously. We are talking to executive leads, flying over to the client's office, taking a look at production, we are asking a lot of questions about the technology and the philosophy of the company. In other words, we are doing everything to understand the product or the service so good, that our interface will be the continuation of that product or service.

How project team in Fantasy looks like?

It depends on the project type. We have long-term clients, which require a lot of staff — producers, UX designers, product designers, motion designers, illustrators, copywriters etc. For one of those clients now we have a team about 25 people I guess. We also have projects, which take 4–6 months and usually there is one Design Lead and 1–2 helping Designers, one UX Designer, one Experience Director and 1–2 Producers. And we participate in pitches as well, which are usually about 2 weeks long and there is usually 1 Design Lead, 1 UX Designer, and 1 Producer. Pitches are my favourite because it's intense, it's quick and it's competitive, so you can have a lot of fun within these 2 weeks. And when you win, it just feels good to bring some good contracts to the company.

Work approach

Well, there is a lot to talk about, let me reduce it to 3 probably most important:

  1. The design is good and truly beautiful only when it's smart. I'm always investing a lot of time in creating a concept and this is the most important and difficult part. You need to have a firm idea for the project from the start, and then you create the logic for it as you go.
  2. Creativity begins with not knowing. It's never easy to create something really good and new from scratch because designing something new means being always in doubt and outside the comfort zone. If you know from the beginning what you gonna do, you'd better don't do it. So, as I mentioned earlier – never be satisfied with an average and trendy solution, take the risk, explore the variety of solutions.
  3. There are no "low priority" projects or tasks. I hate routine, so this is why every project is a challenge for me even if designing a newsletter. This is kind of annoying, but I'm a perfectionist. And I'm spending tons of time on working on "unnecessary" states, making the best "ease" and stuff like that.

How do you decide when to stop?

When the cleaning guy is switching off the lights and asking me to get the fuck out of the office. Honestly, I'm never really satisfied, so the end is when you stop me.

Do you compare your work with others?

I never compare. I don't think this is a good idea. We all have different situations, opportunities, budgets, clients etc. There is no reason to compare yourself to others. Just be honest with you and do your best. But I do follow the scene and spend time every day to be up to date with what's going on in design right now.

How do you work?

I usually work pretty fast. I hate to suffer too long and I'm trying to avoid any sort of routine if I can. Usually, my first days look like chaos, I'm searching, drawing, erasing, hating, doubting until I get to the point when I think I've got an idea. Not necessary a visual solution, but an idea which is strong enough to start creating an ecosystem around it. I'm approaching this in different ways, say I can start working on a website or an interface from a certain function or an inner page, it should not necessarily start with a home screen. At the end of the first sprint, there should be a strong design direction and few most important screens done. After the design direction is approved by the team and the client, the process starts looking more linear according to the project plan.

Hey, reader! Do you know perfect candidate for next FlowMapp interview? Just give us a hint.

How do you research?

I believe there is nothing revolutionary new in our preparation stage before actually designing. We spend the time to understand the business, target audience, to create and proof hypothesis, creating scenarios, personas etc. Parallel to that I still looking around, exploring what is out there in the market, what competitors do, what is good and what we could do better.

Module grids?

It is very useful. It creates structure and rhythm to the design and it's just easier to use for the user.

How do you combine colors?

Color is a serious instrument in design and you gotta take it seriously. Fortunately, I had a chance to study colors at university and practice on that. There are some rules about colors, like saturation, contrast, temperature etc. It is very important for the designer to be familiar with colors and use it right. There is a good book about colors, called "The art of color" by Johannes Itten, which summarize the most knowledge about color, so this could be a good start for those, who want to improve their color skills.

But to know how colors work and to come up with an interesting combination are two different things. I'm usually getting inspired by something. It can be nature, a movie, a magazine — there are colors everywhere and you see tons of nice combinations every day. Just be aware and remember the most beautiful or useful ones.

Magic

So the magic is: thinking (smart is sexy), exploring new (creativity begins with not knowing), paying attention to details (there is no "low priority" projects or tasks). Be passionate, love what you do and of course stay hungry, stay foolish. But also don't forget that there is a real world besides work.

Love is a booster for creativity

Achievements

I think it's important to specify what is an achievement for you? Is it a job title? Or a design award? Or a high salary? A true achievement for me is the knowledge. When I learn something new — this is an achievement for today, this month, this year. I believe — set up a high bar and you will never get bored. And the more you will learn, the more various and professional your work will be. In that case, you can never achieve "almost everything". I strive to learn as much as I can and this keeps me motivated. Once I will stop learning, I will most likely lose motivation.

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