Interview with Dmitry Kudinov

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Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Dmitry Kudinov (DK) for A’ Design Award and Competition. You can access the full profile of Dmitry Kudinov by clicking here.

Interview with Dmitry Kudinov at Sunday 24th of October 2021
Dmitry Kudinov
FS: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
DK: I have technical education, I am a medical equipment engineer by degree. I started my design activities in parallel with working at the factory. At nights I studied graphic software and took some orders from the people I knew. That was how I developed my portfolio.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
DK: We started with an informal status of a creative union; a group of people united by one idea. The name came by itself, we called it Supernova meaning transformation of a massive giant star into the new supernova star. Initially, it was in the format of a creative union, we called ourselves Supernova Creative Conglomerate. Having obtained the official status in 2017, we renamed ourselves to Supernova Art Embassy. After a while we realized that we consolidate different parties. That was our initial mission and it goes through all our creative works. We unite different parties and try to solve tasks for several interested persons and companies involved. This is what our embassy does. Since most of our projects are urban, we manage festival programs and creative projects, that was the reason why we have called ourselves an Art Embassy.

FS: What is "design" for you?
DK: Design is a process in the first place, not a result. When people say, hey, that’s a cool design, looking at something. It seems to me that they talk about the process itself, how designer approached his task and solved it. This is some kind of modification. Designs may vary for the same thing or product; design might be totally different. Essentially, it is a process of modifying a thing. For instance, we can talk about bicycles. There were times when bicycles had a big front wheel and a smaller back one. There are monocycles, there are classic bicycles, road bicycles, tandems etc. You can unite all these under one category, but they are different, targeted for different audiences and different functions. Design is an application tool which modifies something in process.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
DK: It is a creative process. Design is not created from scratch. There is some information, and processing of this information and transformation of it into some visual language, form and plot is what is interesting. But I do not want to limit myself by idea as a concept. I always try to complete a project. This balance between mental work while sitting in the office and on-site production represents an interesting change. The season is very short, in winter you mostly sit and develop these projects which is a more monotonous work. And in summers you move and travel, do some handy work. You do some physical work which also brings pleasure.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
DK: There are a lot of favorite projects, I would even say I don’t have unfavorite projects. Maybe the first projects implemented stay most memorized. One of these was realized in 2012, Lucky Tart festival formatted as Murrell Festival involving both foreign and Russian artists. There were 45 participants representing 9 countries. Their participation resulted in 35 objects in the city, starting from small walls to large scale Murrells, works on buildings facades. I had my own purpose there – I wanted to meet the people I knew about from the Internet. And they themselves came to my city and created something. The atmosphere of the event, communication occurred, this friendly spirit of the whole festival, some surprises, gifts, improvisations – that was cool. Even after 8 years I recall it. I still can send a message to any participant and I will get some warm replies. They do remember me. It is important that when you went through such festival with a strict schedule and very tough work conditions for the whole team and the artists involved – this is what unites people. This friendly spirit is still there.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
DK: I started doing author projects even before our Art Embassy team got together. That was not a pure start-up. We already had projects for the city. My first work was on a building façade in my hometown. There I acted both as a manager and as an artist. It is very nice to know that this work is still taken care of. It was a funny situation related to this work because the building façade should have been equipped with extra heat isolation. So, my work was covered with isolating materials. This was the painting of very cute pandas. At the end that was kind of a sandwich: panda-isolation-panda. We often joke about this, looks like these pandas are freezing in the Russian climate.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
DK: I have to work with various materials. It is very interesting to use available materials for another purpose, for instance, recyclables, process and use them. I am talking mostly about installations. It does not occur often. I like to work with wood. Most of our works are connected with paints. We started with spray paint but eventually we switched to façade paints. Their colors are warmer and the effect is more artistic. I think these are the most perspective materials now, including working with wet roller technology.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
DK: Most probably, the moment of the first meeting with a client. I realize that I already have clear ideas. I talk about some ideas at these meetings using them as some kind of a bait. But I keep some of them to myself because it would be very easy to devaluate them. You have to keep the balance: on one hand, share your way of thinking, on the other hand you can hold on with some most interesting ideas and details. It all happens within one hour. As one of my friends says, if I do not have any ideas within the first ten minutes, it will be very difficult to work on this project.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
DK: This is about context and infrastructure, the environment around the object, other peculiarities, historical facts and historical context, cultural codes, everything that makes this puzzle complete.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
DK: Initially you feel excited, you feel courage and inspiration. Later on, you come across difficulties. You need to be able to complete what you do. You have to be more concentrated to make a project work. You need to go through a lot of interim stages important for project implementation. The last emotions are relief, satisfaction, joy which passes quite fast. As I said before it is interesting to follow further destiny of a project and what is going on around it. Your author work becomes public heritage, and something happens to it.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
DK: Sometimes you feel this excitement when your idea starts to develop. You don’t have a complete idea from the start. You see your result, but how do you reach it? You start to guess. And this moment of your discovery of solutions creates this excitement. It does not mean, though, that I scream and shout in excitement or run around my room filled with joy. You just have more courage, and you do it and do it and do it to come to some optimal solution which will be relevant to all requirements.

FS: What makes a design successful?
DK: Most probably, consciousness. Consciousness and harmony. This is always a balance between dualistic things. You want to do something just to be beautiful or you want to do something functional? This balance, this line represents success of a project. It should take into account a lot of opinions and parameters.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
DK: When I have a concept and an idea, and I have visualized them, I start using it. If a project is most adaptive for various tasks because tasks and context may change overtime. Initial parameters do change. If a design is adaptive to new conditions, then it may be considered a good one. There are cases when I need to adapt it to new technologies, and it is very difficult to do it. For instance, there are technical restrictions which I have not considered in the beginning. I would not say that it is a bad design, but it is more difficult to work with it. This is the thought about cases when designers give something to clients in a digital format without producing it in a physical form. I imagine how a client without any design work experience, without a brand manager and without a team which can clarify this idea, experience difficulties in adapting a design. I think that this is the criteria of a bad design when a person does not understand how he can use it for his purposes.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
DK: This is responsibility when you give out something to people and they do not understand how to work with that. Your responsibility is consulting, assistance, giving hints. You should not just sell your product or your service. You must be responsible and be able to admit mistakes. This is the criteria of your social responsibility. Unfortunately, not all people can admit their mistakes, but there is no development without mistakes.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
DK: I think there is a strong demand for design in pandemic conditions. Not in the current pandemic peak conditions but later on when people realize that they will have to adjust to new conditions. When digital is the only form of presentation of your products and services, digital is hard to imagine without design. All areas of design are involved here: development and projecting. It is hard to get rid of the material world but there will be higher demand for digital design than before. There are pre-conditions for VR and AR development. It also uses artificial intelligence. Neural networks are something on the peak development, but I suppose there are more prospective developments which relate to design.

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
DK: I never participated in exhibitions. I was a company representative on smaller markets which can be hardly called an exhibition. You may consider public spaces work an exhibition. It is more interesting to work with urban spaces since these works stay as art objects within the city. Essentially, they represent an exhibition of my works. They are spread around many cities.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
DK: First source of inspiration is communication with people. Travel is the second one. This is also communication i.e. going deeper into different cultures and contexts. It all is kept in your brain, and at a certain moment it works as a trigger. The more information you get, the more active is your brain in establishing neural connections between seemingly different moments which you witnessed somewhere, heard about them, read about them or somebody told you about them. And this moment of integration of totally different ideas is inspiration.

FS: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
DK: I believe that I do not have any exact style, I am a multidisciplinary creative personality, not even a designer. I am always interested in technologies and manufacturing. I cannot avoid connecting design with manufacturing. I see a gap between those two. They must interact. That is why I am interested in various fields and related or even remotely related professions. Apart from art practices and design, you must be aware of the basics of architecture, urban science, sociology, psychology and art science.

FS: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
DK: It is very often that I work with cultural codes representing the cultural heritage. Our country has a very serious generation gap. There were several gaps and it required time to develop new schools and new styles. Unfortunately, continuity was not saved. In this respect I feel more restrictions than inspiration. I feel some inspiration but from very old projects of 1920s and 1930s as well as those of 1960s to 1980s. This is the development of Soviet schools of monumental artists, architecture and many other things.

FS: How do you work with companies?
DK: This is quite simple. Companies are people. And we work with people in the first place. Now it is the Internet era, the epoque of remote interaction. But we try to involve and personally meet the companies’ managers who work with us on these projects. Word of mouth works very well, same people migrate from one company to another, and their experience follows them. They recall you when they have a task where you can be of assistance. The company has the case of cooperation with us. But I would like to point out the people with initiatives, able to offer something to companies, to become project authors. This is the most important thing.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
DK: For me it is a serious problem. We have a team of people working in different areas. We have an understanding who possesses strengths in certain areas, and you refer to them directly. When working as a multidisciplinary designer with a company, I had to do a lot of things. On one hand, it is good. On the other hand, you are overloaded and you are unable to complete your work. New tasks come up. Anyway, it seems to me that taken our teal company strategy, these are self-organized groups. Our idea is that the team should be staffed depending on a task. You cannot just take one designer, artist or any other specialist and tell him: look, you will be doing this here, and there you will be doing totally different thing. The guy has certain strengths, you need to see them. Here you act like a tutor and you offer him something. Even if a person did not do this before, it is important to ask whether he wants to try it. If he does, you must create conditions, let him try. Maybe he can show himself in different fields. Sometimes he takes a position in a company just because this position seems the most comprehensible and most obvious one for him. But he can show himself as a specialist in other fields. I often met such people. You need to see their strengths and provide them with development opportunities.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
DK: I start with analytics and concept. If we talk about stages, there is pre-production, formulating of an idea, drafting budget documentation. Preparation takes a lot of time. Ideas show up fast, but pre-production is stretched in time. The production itself takes a short time, i.e. the implementation of a project. It consists of many parameters, but you already thought them of. There is a post-production stage where you put the cases together, publishing on the Internet etc. Application for competitions is also post-production. It is difficult to say where it starts and where it ends. It is also not clear where ideas come from. The more experience you have, the more spontaneous is the process. You get more excited by the process rather than torture yourself with one idea trying to implement it. You have to do everything gradually, then you won’t experience difficulties.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
DK: I love vintage items very much. When I travel, I always go to flee markets and get old things there. I do not know whether you can call these things designer items. I also have a lot of canvases by artists we work with. We try to collect their works and make it our first priority. So, the great number of author’s canvases and things I brought from my travels. I do not think it makes sense to point out exact things. There are some clothing items designed by us. We use them in our day-to-day work. We also have collaborations with artists, all these improvisations which are interesting because of this spontaneity. We have the jersey shirt of Argentinian team from the FIFA World Cup. At that moment these shirts were not yet officially on sale. Somehow, we got this exclusive item. We framed it and put it on the wall. Unfortunately, it does not have Messi’s or somebody else’s autograph on it. It was initiated by the city municipality. It was nice to get such an exclusive gift. These artefacts fill in any space where we work. It is very interesting because these things animate the space.

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
DK: You always have a lot of routines. Roughly, a year is divided into two seasons: summer season from April to September, the key concentration of production projects, self-realization. You move a lot from region to region, from city to city adapting to each new situation. In winters your mode is more settled, you start to work on new projects and ideas, deal with things you had no time for before. You cannot avoid routines; they are part of any process. You need to make it your habit. Working with documents distracts you a bit and it helps because before when you lacked experience you started your morning with surfing professional groups in social media, you follow other people’s work. It took a lot of time, you tried to get a note board either for your current tasks or just for inspiration. Now I do not need it. There are a lot of different tasks, you are deep into permanent thinking process. There is no point of loading yourself with some extra ideas. But there is another part – to watch and to monitor what is happening in the world in terms of trends, what solutions do other guys find, whether they are from your field or the fields close to yours. Information is a very strong tool for a designer. It comes up when you need it. Maybe the brain works like this: it activates when you realize, aha! This is the solution. I can compare myself with mathematicians when they have their insights. If you do not know a solution for something, this means that you lack information about the task, about the object, you have not analyzed the situation. If we talk about production, communication is what makes me excited and happy. Sometimes it is useful to switch to other tasks, to work with figures, do some analytics. It is important to see the results in figures. It can be profit margins for a certain project, how many projects you have completed, budgeting a project may also be rather interesting. You need to know how to develop tools which will eventually optimize your time and to have an ability for forecasting, to develop tools for your future projects in order to be less involved in routines

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
DK: You need to learn to work with people. People are different. At least they are divided into introverts and extraverts. Even in a smaller company you have to take into account specific traits of character of different people. Sometimes it is even funny. When you are on a business trip somewhere and you distribute the rooms – somebody snores, somebody is a vegetarian, somebody follows the religious lent. This is the reality we experience now at our current project. And it is complicated, you need to be a psychologist, you must see what is going on around you. This relates to organizational issues. Anyway, the key issue here is a person’s responsibility for the work done. You cannot come to somebody else’s space, do something there and will not be held responsible for that. You have to have conscious attitude to the project and be responsible for that.

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
DK: I think that can be related to negative trait – young designer is always a maximalist. He tries to change everything around him even if nobody asks for his opinion. When he grows up professionally, he realizes that it is impossible to change everything around you. But this power to change something as a designer is still in place. This is such an ephemeral tool that you cannot feel it originally. But it allows you to change something. This changes with experience, this changes with technological development. Designer always has a perspective because he depends on many external factors and can always develop. There is no such thing as an upper development limit.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
DK: It can be related to my slogan: ‘deeper roots, stronger branches’. It is reflected in my role model character and defines the essence of my approach.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
DK: You gain professional skills through practice. You learn from more experienced people and you improve your technical and professional skills. Values possessed by a person are important as well as meanings he inputs in his work.

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
DK: The main one we use is Adobe Creative Cloud including Photoshop and Illustrator. There are others which allow to structure projects, manage projects. Mostly this is some basic office tools. Google Drive for data storage. Each software is used for certain tasks. Pictures on Google Photo. For our production we mostly need handwork. Software is just a tool allowing access to documents and files from any point, send and receive them. It is also necessary, it simplifies everything. But mostly our work involves handwork. We use minimum equipment, like aerial devices for working on high objects, different painting devices like compressors. We have the team of industrial climbers using more extended equipment - lifting devices, safety ropes. Paintbrushes and painting rollers mostly, spray paint was a key element in our culture. But many of us leave it behind while growing up. Now we use façade and exterior paints which allow to produce more picturesque works. They are smoother and better fit the landscape.

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
DK: Yes, it is so. From the moment of the first client’s request, the first idea to the end of the project it is difficult to set up an exact time frame. Many processes follow one another, and something happens to them all the time. It is important to set priorities, define those niches where it is interesting to work and build a short-term development strategy basing on that and move in that direction. Then you have more time. It is important to be able to reject projects if you understand that they will be time-consuming, but you will gain nothing as a specialist. Designer’s function is to assist a client, but self-education and professional growth are of equal importance. Many designers to not change their field because they get used to it.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
DK: It differs, there are very short-term projects, you have to create something overnight to implement a project next day. These are spontaneous projects; they are normally related to some events in the city or at the location. And there are some very long-term projects, from 6 months to 2 years, these were the longest projects. Pre-production takes huge amount of time, working with documentation and budgets, everything that precedes signing of a contract and payments. The implementation itself takes the shortest time. Pre-production and post-production take much longer. You have to be able to book time for that.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
DK: The questions asked about my artistic practices are the same throughout the years: how much time and paint you spent, what was your original idea, do people like it and these literal things. Very rarely people get deep into the processes and (however strange it seems) ask questions about how my concept was reflected. If there is a meeting or any other communication and you are able to share things, people start seeing my work differently.

FS: What was your most important job experience?
DK: It is difficult to say. Experience is important, practices of interaction with professionals from other areas is important. It is always interesting to work with people from other areas because you can learn a lot from them. Since we have professional climbers, artists, photographers, videographers working with us, all of them can be called artists, but areas of their business are totally different. Now we have come to the project of making a documentary. We never did that before, and it is always interesting to learn something new.

FS: Who are some of your clients?
DK: When I was a designer employed by a company, I worked with Nike, Adidas, Kidzania, Gett. Among most recent – a large number of municipalities, we are friends with a lot of mayors’ offices because urban projects are our major. Also, different brands work with us like MegaMall, IKEA. There are less renowned but very interesting clients like Drop, Senezh (the tower project), Artek kids camp, we also had Moscow Zoo. These are just those whom I can recall immediately. There are many more of them and I do not even remember some of them.

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
DK: I like both to develop ideas and implement them. I like when there is some practical application of these projects, i.e. thinking about functionality of things. This includes art projects, industrial design, brand development, I like all these in complex. I like projects where you cannot define that this is just one design category. Many categories of design, architecture and research part are included in one project. That’s the interesting part of them, because you cannot select the most efficient tool set without going deep into a project. Here you start to include various specialists because you understand that in integrity this project will be much more interesting and comprehensible for most of the public. That is why we always invite photographers and try to make videos since they reflect some internal processes seen only after implementation of a project.

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
DK: We have this story with a festival tour, we have a full presentation of this project. Unfortunately, we cannot make it for the second year in a row. This season we should have travelled through several cities, including foreign countries with some participants. But in the meantime, we have difficulties related to travel restrictions due to pandemic. We have enough work to do but we are desperate to implement such format because it presumes going deep into different cultures and contexts. Using this road show format, we want to tell about metamorphosis happening when you get into different situations. I really hope that this project will be financed, we will have cool partners and we will be able to implement this project globally. When the project was developed, we planned to cross Russia from Vladivostok to St. Petersburg and then we will cross Europe from Portugal to Belarus. This amount to approximately 40 000 km. This is a symbiosis of a journey, practices, painting and pure fun.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
DK: Most often we work as a team. We tailor teams for specific projects. Every time there are different participants involved in a project. I develop some projects myself, some of them are developed in collaborations. When you come to the starting point of a project, you realize that you will not be doing it just by yourself, you need other people for project implementation. But sometimes I want to do some work for myself. That is how I made the prints for clothes, and they have become gifts for the people I work with, I can give it as a gift.

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
DK: Now we are in the project for two weeks already. The project has been being prepared for the last 6 months. It means that we start preparing for 2020 season as early as at the end of 2019, and it happens every year. Currently it is a project called Memorandum dedicated to 75th anniversary of the Victory in WWII. In fact, this is just the first part of a big urban project. It consists of three full-time festivals with participation of international colleagues. The projects presume participation of the local people. We are just starting to facilitate these projects. The interest is growing. But we cannot make the tour format. We already have key points where we will travel further. Anyway, we want to implement this festival tour. When we are finished in this town, we will leave for another one or another country. If it gets cold, we will head south and settle there at some art residence and we will do something there. We want to implement such a project very much. There are certain hints that we can do it. We had to update the initial idea and adjust to the current situation in the world.

FS: How can people contact you?
DK: We are quite transparent. We are modifying our website. But other contacts are available. The easiest way to contact us is via email. One of the platforms where we present the extended portfolio is Behance. is our major account in all social media. You can easily find any of our contacts there. We always react very promptly.

FS: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
DK: Since it was of first experience of participating in competitions, moreover, in international ones, and we did not count on any award or even nomination. We just wanted to present ourselves because you realize that you are doing something important, but you cannot always share it, you do not always have time for that. Festivals and competitions formats are optimal solutions for translation of your ideas, projects and skills. This is concentration of all experience you gained throughout the years. It is clear that it takes a long way to go. I have been doing street art for 20 years

FS: Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to interview you.

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