The graphic design industry can be somewhat of a minefield – particularly when starting out and entering into the ever-populated land of Instagram posts, Nike visual identities, blogs and “living your best life” online. For Bára Růžičková, a graphic designer and illustrator based in Czech Republic, she tends to navigate towards projects that have an impact.
At present, Bára is studying for an MA at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Brno, during which she tackles that looming task of how to make it as a graphic designer. Having interned at Studio Es in Vienna, as well as Non-verbal Club in Porto, Bára has now taken the plunge into the realms of freelance alongside her studies – creating work that echoes with significance. “It’s always nice if your work is truly helpful and it’s not just a flyer that will be thrown away after an event,” she tells It’s Nice That. “But there is no such thing as a typical day. Right now, I am trying to come up with more economically sustainable projects so that I won’t have to rely only on the client work in the future.”
Bára’s designs mesh with illustration and playful typography; each project evokes a sense of experimentation, as well as a conscious decision to advise its audience and poke fun at the rigid structure of the design industry. “Dream bigger”, writes one poster created for the Open Day at the Faculty of Fine Arts. “Wow, it’s so beautiful”, states a further project – a brochure and identity for the Fotograf Festival based in Prague. These subtle tones of knowingness allows Bára to express her views on design.
A recent favourite project of hers is one compiled for the summer multicultural festival called Luhovaný Vincent, located in the small town of Luhačovice. Known for its mineral sprouts and wellness culture, Bára adds: “The aim of the festival is the enrichment of the cultural life of the town, and also the progress of spa culture as a sociocultural phenomenon.” The outcome is a continues system that repeats yearly – “each year we make a collection of products and merchandise that will be sold at the festival; we took pictures of them so the final identity is very flexible and we don’t need any additional information, because everything needed is already on the products.”
Design was something that Bára always knew she would delve into. An arty kid from the get-go, she acknowledges a slight contradiction to the ways in which she used to perceive the art and design worlds – her “naive teenager beliefs” are now surpassed by doubt. “Generally, I find it problematic that we all live in our design bubble (and I am probably not different),” she says. “We build our hyped personas and pretend to be the coolest designers out there – but in reality, our FOMO just gets bigger with each #nikevisualidentity post on Instagram and, instead of focusing the real problems, we just continue to support this ego trip.”
This perception of the world and the design industry, in particular, is one that has lead Bára to consciously delve into the issues throughout her work. “I just think there should be a more honest discussion about the reality of working in the industry,” she explains. “Almost nobody talks about the financial struggles that come with managing a studio, about negotiating rates in general, about ethical questions regarding (unpaid) internships, dealing with tough clients and so on.” Combatting these concerns, Bára is in the midst of launching her own studio with long-time friend and former classmate Terezie Štindlová. Both share the same views on graphic design, so founding a studio together simply just “made sense”.
With a few projects already under their belt – including the visual identity for the Fotograf Festival – the duo have decided to call the studio Day Shift. “It (maybe obviously) refers to this nonstop working paradigm in graphic design,” says Bára. “We try to work more positively, healthy and we don’t like the glorification of overworking; we consider graphic design a work and not as a mission of life that is worth giving up your mental and physical health.” A business model and mindset that is forward-thinking and inspiring – and perhaps one that we can all learn a thing or two from, as well.