Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
By: Ekrem Dupanović
For a long time now I’ve been planning an interview with Vladan Srdić, a Belgrade designer whom NATO “drove off” to Ljubljana. Today, Vladan is a partner in the Studio 360 in Ljubljana. Destiny, I guess, didn’t want this interview to happen earlier than immediately before the opening of Vlado’s retrospective exhibition You are What You See, which will be opened at the Museum of Applied Arts on Thursday at 19:00h. As this is a retrospective exhibition, so in this interview I wanted to run with Vladan through the most important moments of his career, which started with Dragan Sakan in Belgrade’s Saatchi, right after he graduated from the Faculty of Applied Arts and Design. In one day, he got a job at the Belgrade’s best agency and a prize at the most prestigious festival of theatre posters in former Yugoslavia. Everything else is slowly becoming history, and the story of Vladan is turning into a legend.
MEDIA MARKETING: Immediately after the studies you were hired by Saatchi&Saatchi where you worked with Dragan Sakan. What was the experience of working with him?
Vladan Srdić: It seemed a bit surreal – projects for big brands, public figures, competitions, festivals, parties … It was like Hollywood for a fresh graduate student. Now, from this perspective, I can say that it was a romantic, but by no means a simple time, in which creative process and execution were nurtured. And Sakan like Sakan. He was a good psychologist and the creative dad. He knew how to make a stand, how to get you interested and motivated. That’s what many people in the profession today lack – the mettle, the vision and the heart. Sakan moved his work into art, challenge into entertainment, giving us a goal and dignity – that’s why I honestly appreciate him. Today all this is getting rapidly lost, which is irreparable damage. When there is no love, there is no relationship with the work you do, and the results are plastic, mostly average and per kilo.
MEDIA MARKETING: Slavimir Stojanović, whom you said was your role model, also worked in the Belgrade’s Saatchi back then. What impressed you about Slavimir?
Vladan Srdić: Even before I formally met Slavimir I got to know him through his works. I was impressed by his posters for the Skopje Jazz Festival. Through the director Anja Suša, with whom I cooperated at the time in the Torpedo theater troupe, I came into contact with Saatchi, which opened the doors for me and marked my further professional road. Slavimir, as you know, is a unique phenomenon in the regional creative industry – designer, entertainer, footballer and a great guy. He achieved high professional goals and, which is even harder, he kept his guard all these years. And it’s as if he’s just at the beginning.
MEDIA MARKETING: In your professional career fortune followed you from the very beginning. Job in the best agency (Saatchi), working in a team with the best designer (Slavimir) and awards. Already at 26 you won the most prestigious award in the then Yugoslavia for theatre poster. How did that affect you? Did such an important award come too early? And you’re no stranger to awards since, as you’ve won many international awards: ADC NY, D&AD, European Design Awards….
Vladan Srdić: It took off at the galactic speed – in the same day I won the Grifon award for the best design in former Yugoslavia, and got a job at the prestigious STB Saatchi & Saatchi. My graduation work at the Faculty of Applied Arts and Design was the visual identity of a theater. I visited the best Belgrade theaters, offering my work pro bono – provided the projects would be implemented. People at Zvezdara theater were open for the idea and so the poster was created for the legendary performance of Dušan Kovačević’s Lara Tomson – The Tragedy of a Youth, in which the entire line up of stars of the Yugoslav theater scene played. Laria was my second print work in my career.
After that, everything started falling in place: motivation – work – results – motivation; and so on. I have always tried to breathe “parallel life”, dignity and depth into projects. The theater has remained my first love, as well as all projects from the cultural sphere, which are a priori intellectually more challenging and more open to personal interpretation, and a visual commentary of our everyday life. Awards are a logical consequence of love for the profession, effort and personal engagement.
MEDIA MARKETING: NATO “drew you out” from Belgrade. You moved to Ljubljana. How big of a change was it? Did you have to adapt to the new culture, new understanding of design…?
Vladan Srdić: That’s a very nice observation. NATO really did “escort me” from Belgrade because I wasn’t planning on leaving my hometown, family and friends. I worked at the then best agency, had the conditions for professional development and progress. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to be a collateral damage to political games, manipulation and thieving demagogery. With the start of the bombing I went to the Ljubljana office of Saatchi. It was, I must admit, a cultural and social half-shock for me. In Slovenia, things were standing on much more “realistic legs”. The rhythm of life was calmer, and people were more turned towards themselves and to nature. The “adopted” false paradigm that clients are there because of us, and not vice versa, which I had before, was replaced by the rules of the market – everything is business, everything revolves around money, around ROI. I can note from the “historical” distance: I’m leaving to return, and again see the old with “new” eyes. This makes the upcoming retrospective exhibition in Belgrade all the more significant for me.
MEDIA MARKETING: In Ljubljana, you worked for several agencies, and in 2005 you and Lidija Dragišić opened the Studio 360, in which you are partners today. Why did you leave agency job, and why Studio 360 as a merge of graphic design and architecture?
Vladan Srdić: In Ljubljana, I spent two years in Saatchi (today’s New Moment), and the next five years in the agency Tovarna vizij Y&R (which no longer exists). I collaborated with a number of Slovenian and foreign agencies, including Imelda Ogilvy, Mayer McCann, Publicis One and Austrian Mensalia GmbH. The agency work is primarily related to the creation of an artificial “desire” for consumption, while my true love has always been the design of visual communications, ie. branding, which, unfortunately, in the local agency environment has a secondary significance (with honorable exceptions). I started Studio 360 with my partner Lidija Dragišić, a master of architecture. We have rounded our creative service and expertise into a logical and consistent whole – through architectural design, interior design and furniture, to classic offline (visual identity, illustrations, publications, posters, packaging and wayfinding systems) and digital online branding (user interface design, making websites and e-stores, digital apps). Literally 360.
MEDIA MARKETING: Studio 360 today, 12 years after it was founded… what are your key activities?
Vladan Srdić: Studio 360 is an independent creative studio with great ideas (when circumstances allow it). We don’t create things “by a kilo”, but with a heart, soul, and head. We care about the whole, we nurture functionality and we believe in details. We devote each project and client the time that is needed for the best idea to ripen, implemented in a manner that is materially optimal and dignified from the design standpoint. The most interesting are the multidisciplinary projects that combine creative storytelling, branding, digital and architecture. Occasionally we cooperate with other compatible agencies in the region.
MEDIA MARKETING: Among your most famous artistic projects is Commonications, in which you ask the questions about capitalism and demagogery in contemporary society.
Vladan Srdić: Ever since the first witty life lessons I got from the legendary comic book Alan Ford, I was interested in the relationship of the big capital towards the individual, the consequences of market manipulations and the demagogery of contemporary society, which I visualized about ten years ago through the project Commonications. It was presented to the public at the BELEF Festival in Belgrade’s O3one gallery. It was also exhibited at the Magdalena Festival in Maribor and in Ljubljana’s KUD France Prešeren. In the near future I plan to continue the cooperation with the outstanding Lazarom Džamić and bring new interesting projects in the field of social activism.
MEDIA MARKETING: With Lazar Džamić you did the project in which you visualized the answer to the question why the life of people in the most developed countries is less happy than of those in poorer countries. Can you explain this to us?
Vladan Srdić: Lazar and I have known each other for a long time, ever since our Belgrade beginnings. We are compatible in our spheres of interest and observations – he in the field of content, and I in its visualization. The Ride of your Life is an infographic of intricate systemic ingredients and perfidious “spices” with which we are daily “cooked” in capitalism’s pot. The results are what we are living each day – lack of time, fatigue, tension, anxiety, superficiality, hypocrisy, a race for ever greater earnings – I won’t list any further. So, neoliberal capitalism is not a solution for happiness, because it treats man as “flesh” and as an expendable commodity, which we wanted to highlight in our project. All of this is, of course, more pronounced in more developed countries – it is, unfortunately, our modus vivendi.
MEDIA MARKETING: You continued collaboration with Lazar. You did great illustrations for his book Flower-shop in the House of Flowers about Alan Ford.
Vladan Srdić: Nothing is difficult when you’re surrounded by inspirational people and good ideas. I had the fortune of working with Dr. Andrej Horvat from the Belgrade office of GIZ, as the contractor and project initiator. He recognized the potential of Lazar’s Flower-Shop – how to present the Balkan mentality to foreign investors and diplomats through the story of the legendary success of Alan Ford in ex-Yu space. The positive approach, open cooperation and complementarity of the author with the orderer enabled a great result, attracted the attention of the public and brought a number of awards to the project – among other things, the award at the European Design Awards and feature in the Luerzer’s Archive.
MEDIA MARKETING: You also did several projects for Mladina, you made t-shirts with socially engaged messages… What does social engagement mean for you? Is it some drain valve, you can’t keep silent or something else entirely?
Vladan Srdić: We are “good” as much as we participate in the spiral of consumption. Global corporations are consistently doing a mass lobotomy on us, digitization and automation lead us into the dead end street of lacking future, or the so called Jobless Future (a paradise on earth for some). We need to warn against these phenomena – inertia and active acceptance of the given situation is the worst thing, and that is what awaits future generations. We have already seen some of this in Hollywood SF productions. We believed they were pure fiction, but Orwellian future is already knocking on our door. I wouldn’t want my children to live in such a world. Since I’m engaged in visual communications, it’s my personal drain valve and it is my duty to point to it.
MEDIA MARKETING: On Thursday, 5 October, you will open your retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Applied Arts in Belgrade. The exhibition, in which you will show about one hundred of your works, is titled You Are What You See. What is the message you want to send with this exhibition?
Vladan Srdić: This exhibition is a cross section of my best works and selected projects created in the diverse field of visual communications in the first 20 years of my work. For large and small brands / clients – both in commercial and in the field of culture. Whenever possible, I like to tickle the imagination of the observer, to give a visual rebus and, through the satisfaction of personal revelation, I want to offer multiple accurate answers. Just as I titled the upcoming retrospective exhibition – You Are What You See. Welcome to Belgrade.