How Forbes Ukraine designed its War issue

Camouflage, a shield and a pixelated pattern representing real people shape the cover of the special issue, Nation of Heroes.

13 April 2022


Over ten years ago, Forbes Ukraine’s creative director, Max Zoloyedov, was thinking a lot about camouflage, particularly about creating a pattern for the Ukraine armed forces. Zoloyedov was interested in how camo is the epitome of design functionality; “It works to keep people alive, while also it can be aesthetically impressive,” the CD tells us. Last week, he launched a project in which he had approached this idea again under entirely different circumstances, when Forbes Ukraine released its war issue. Nation of Heroes tells the stories of people; people in business, soldiers, people in the government, refugees forced to flee their homes and the thousands of Ukranians who have died in the war – “the heroes who stand up every single day to put an end to this war,” Max tells us.

The cover of the issue is a visual representation of this theme. It functions as both camouflage and a shield; “a single pattern of those defending the free world,” says Max. “The pattern comes from the pixelated camo design adopted by the Ukrainian Armed Forces in 2014, also called MM-14.” Both pixels and people blend together on the cover. Max continues: “Parts of themselves are invested into the common goal – all pieces are in their place, in the joint action for the future victory. Each one has its unique place – every pixel of the camouflage matters.”

Faced with representing a country’s experiences of war, Max had to differentiate from any issue that had come before, “and hopefully, those that will come after”. To accomplish this visually meant substituting decor for meaning; the design of the issue yields at every corner to the stories of real people and the consequences of the war in their lives.


Forbes Ukraine: War issue (Copyright © Forbes Ukraine, 2022)

“On every page of the issue, there are 82 names,” Max explains. “These are the names of men and women, who have taken their place in history of this war. Since the start of the invasion, President Zelensky has awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine to 82 Ukrainian men and women for their extraordinary feats in the struggle for Ukraine’s independence, values of liberty and dignity and the existence of the free world. We dedicated a page to each one of them in place of the usual side footer.”

Building an issue grounded in the reality of war also meant design concessions. Ordinarily used to working with a range of illustrators to visualise concepts and looking to work with many more Ukrainian artists for this issue, Max ended up using only two illustrations across 120 pages – “It was my personal anti-record”, says the creative director. Instead, Nation of Heroes matches stories with photographs of real places and events where possible, to better represent the reality of situations.


Forbes Ukraine: War issue (Copyright © Forbes Ukraine, 2022)

As for how the project came together, Max explains the process behind Nation of Heroes: “This issue was a very different issue for all of us also because the entire Forbes team of 30+ people was displaced. Since the first rockets landed on Kyiv we were forced to flee and the majority of us ended up in a small country hotel in Western Ukraine. For a month all colleagues, our families, our children, our dogs and cats shared the quarters and worked non-stop. As a result we had our war-themed issue.”

Nation of Heroes records the developments of the war “at its hottest phase” on many fronts, always centring the people and real-world effects of each development, while looking “into the future of the country, and the world”, says Max.

GalleryForbes Ukraine: War issue (Copyright © Forbes Ukraine, 2022)

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Forbes Ukraine: War issue (Copyright © Forbes Ukraine, 2022)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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