When Sergey Khilobok, a self-taught graphic designer, met Dima Goreniuk at a co-working space in Kyiv 2017, the former was feeling a little worried about his lack of formal training. “I don’t have an education in design, therefore all experience I gained was through practice, mostly in commercial projects,” Sergey tells It’s Nice That. Dima himself was facing increasing monotony in the design projects he was offered. “It was lacking some fresh solutions, experiments and ‘game’ aspects,” says Dima.
The two formed a quick kinship in that first meeting and, within a few weeks, travelled together to Montenegro to attend a workshop ran by Eike König – at a place called Jugoceania. The two-week workshop refreshed the duo, giving them new ideas and a rejuvenated spirit, which led to a decision to open a studio together when they return to Kyiv named after the location of the workshop. “At the time Sergey and I met, there were no studios where we wanted to work. Going to Berlin or London wasn’t fascinating to us, since there were already lots of interesting guys [there],” says Dima. For them, Kyiv was missing exactly the kind of work that they wanted to do.
The studio approaches graphic design as meaning-creation through research, which often sees them delving into the abstract and reconsidering boundaries. “What we like to do is investigate and explore the borders, how ‘it’ can be, what ‘it’ could be, searching for new shapes, new ways of interaction and communication,” says Dima, stopping short of “when there is just one step left for ‘it’ to become totally trashy.”
Sergey also shares similar beliefs, having developed a passion for “all the weird stuff that is even a bit confusing, based on intuition, inner state, feelings and emotions.” It’s not surprising then that their work appears as wonderfully creepy as they are – featuring CG hands with six fingers, eyeless faces, and a portfolio website that scrolls to perpetuity, like diving into an abyss.
This approach of reaching towards undefined boundaries is usually combined with a personal challenge they set for themselves on every project, constantly incorporating new techniques into their work. The logo design project for Tight magazine was their first time experimenting with typeface design. “We’ve never developed typefaces before, but felt like it’s the perfect opportunity to combine the brief with our personal interests,” notes Dima. The result is an uppercase typeface, with curves and ellipses carved out from sharp angles. At a quick glance, the words form parallelograms and trapeziums, enclosing plenty of negative space within each letter.
Jugoceania also went through a similar process in its collaboration with Tunica magazine for its seventh issue, producing a chaotic mask with facial recognition-inspired motifs for one of the magazine’s covers. “We came up with a mask and made it through 3D-printing, but also released it as an Instagram mask,” says Sergey, who felt that the project was the perfect opportunity for them to discover unfamiliar territories.
For their current project, a work-in-progress identity development for Rhythm Buro, Sergey and Dima wanted to see their work interact with Kyiv’s environment. “The major task was to make it large-scale,” describes the studio. “We came up with the idea to make posters that are four meters tall. We placed them in various locations in Kyiv and got different photographers to capture them. For the fourth anniversary of the event, we lit up one of the posters like a candle.”