A UKRAINIAN DESIGNER AGAINST A BACKGROUND OF WILD CAPITALISM

08 November 2006
Oleg Veklenko
Oleg Veklenko

Design by Oleg Shishkov and Alex Tavrin (Ukraine)

Ukraine is most widely known for the Chernobyl disaster and perhaps for their football team, Dynamo Kiev. Designers from this central European country are virtually unknown. If in the 1980's and 1990's Ukrainian poster artists took part in international events such as the Poster Biennale in Lahti (Finland), Colorado (USA) or Brno (Czech Republic) they were usually considered as Russians. Ukraine is still 'terra incognita' for designers around the world.

Much of Ukrainian design is omnivorous, indecipherable and amenable. It is geared for profit, a manipulated product catering to the wild tastes of the consumer. Most of the new generation of graphic designers in Ukraine know very little about the hows and whys of the greater system that inspires professional designers and builds the foundations of design education. With little in-depth knowledge, even with talent and good taste, a Ukrainian graphic designer cannot resist the stifling pressures of consumerism.

The demand for design services in the Ukraine comes from foreign manufacturers selling their commodities in the country. These manufacturers spend approximately 70% of their budget on production, communications, and advertising. About 10,000 company agents are currently involved in the advertising business. The number of employees directly involved in advertising design is around 5,000 people (about 1,500 of them are in Kiev). The average salary of an advertising designer in Ukraine is $200 USD per month.

The Ukrainian graphic design sector is divided into the following fields:
Printing/publishing, edition adaptation, packaging - 44%
Mass media back up, edition design, advertising layout, TV airtime - 28%
Visual advertising - 21%.
Creative design, advertising campaigns - 7%

The web design market is currently run by non-professional designers. The demand for elementary web design and the lack of professional competition enables programmers without design backgrounds to deliver a wide range of services in this market. According to Rambler ratings there are over 1,000 agents in the Russian speaking Internet zone actively promoting their services. Approximately the same number deliver web design services. The web design market represents a turnover exceeding one billion US dollars and is a significant component of the Ukrainian economy. These figures attest to the degree of commercialism in the country and its impact on Ukrainian design and designers.

Nevertheless, in this vast ocean of commercial design, there are still islets defying the pressures of consumerism, designers finding their own niche where they can freely express themselves. You may find their work in artistic, cultural or social events not related to moneymaking. These individuals are unselfishly devoted to creative work, and are not focussed on material things. Rather, they are searching for the essence of the things around them. Eventually, they may find themselves stepping from the background of capitalism and into the foreground of international design.