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Work / Graphic Design

New year, new you: designer Leeza Pritychenko on how to stop being a human and become a squirrel instead

“Ironically, it was actually my inability to choose a specific creative medium that eventually brought me into graphic design,” explains Moscow-born Leeza Pritychenko. Currently based in The Hague, Leeza’s portfolio is a coalescence of editorial design, 3D graphics, moving image and VJ-ing all informed by a design education spanning three countries.

At the age of 18, she left Moscow to study graphic design in Milan and later found herself at the Royal Academy of Arts in the The Hague. “I see my education in these different countries as complementary to each other,” says Leeza. Russia provided her with a strong theoretical base in classic arts due to its traditional academic style, whereas in Italy she learned a broader history of contemporary art and a thorough understanding of how to use the Adobe creative suite. It was at KABK, however, that Leeza was taught to think conceptually and develop artistic perceptiveness which plays a major role in her practice today.

Leeza’s work has a distinctive visual language – something that occurs naturally. She explains how it’s the result of a “subconscious and intuitive process rather than something rationalised.” Despite the strong visuality of her projects, it’s the subtle use of conceptual mediation that really makes Leeza’s work stand out. By combining goofiness and nonsense with “dark existentialism, while questioning the habitual reality around us,” Leeza creates work that resonates on several levels.

How to stop being human, is one such project. Part of an ongoing collaboration with fine-artist Katerina Sidovora, the book is deceptively absurd. Presented as an instruction manual on – literally – how to become a squirrel, it’s ultimately about “the burden of self-awareness – a trait that is inherently exclusive to humans.”

Inspired by late soviet guidebooks and manuals, Leeza manifested a design comprised of practical and straightforward sensibilities. In order to reflect the research in an emotionless and logical way, the book features a distinct lack of decoration influenced by technical illustration and documentary black and white photography.

Currently working as a digital art director at the Department of New Realities – a future-forward division of Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam – Leeza’s practice spans far beyond the printed page. For instance, her graduation project at KABK, Welcome to The Desert of The Real, saw her creating an interactive narrative in virtual reality, told in several chapters. A metaphorical interpretation of Baudrillard’s concept of hyperreality, the project involved creating traditional designs, 3D assets, interaction, writing texts for voice-over and working with Isabel Caligiore on the right tempo for these as well as a soundtrack, eventually coming together in a game engine.

With such an eclectic portfolio, Leeza’s work is a prime example of employing graphic design as a way of thinking, not only as a practice. Being able to “maintain a certain level of structure and quality in communication that can be applied to different mediums,” for her, is key and is something she’s not planning on changing. “I can’t imagine myself doing the same thing for the rest of my life. I guess I’m just creatively greedy.”

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Leeza Pritychenko and Katerina Sidovora: How to stop being human

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Leeza Pritychenko and Katerina Sidovora: How to stop being human

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Leeza Pritychenko: Welcome to The Desert of The Real

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Leeza Pritychenko: Welcome to The Desert of The Real

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Leeza Pritychenko: Again, Hero’s Journey

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Leeza Pritychenko: Again, Hero’s Journey

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Leeza Pritychenko: Again, Hero’s Journey

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Leeza Pritychenko: G for Dag in de Branding

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Leeza Pritychenko: G for Dag in de Branding

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Leeza Pritychenko: Itchy Tongue

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Leeza Pritychenko: Ugly and over-used fonts can also be used non-ironically (or can they?)

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Leeza Pritychenko: Ugly and over-used fonts can also be used non-ironically (or can they?)