Roll up, roll up, it’s time for the second of our new Studio Series insights! This week we’re travelling to the capital of Russia, Moscow! for an insight into one of the countries most exciting up and coming studios, The Bakery!
We got on our imaginary EasyJet flight (also known as GMail) to chat to Ivan from the studio about why they do what they do, and what’s going on in Russia these days…
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How did the Bakery come together?
I was about to find a job in Moscow, but was feeling uninspired by the interviews I was going through. I didn’t feel any relation to their creative output and thought they were lagging behind.
Anna (my partner & wife) suggested we’d try to go on our own and establish a practice with different attitude towards work and studio culture. We wanted to do contemporary stuff, try new things, work with materials and print — things that are still not that popular in Russia.
Did you both have a bit of business knowledge before setting thing up?
We thought we did :) From what we’ve experienced at previous jobs we had some basic knowledge of how a studio operates, but when we started we had to sort lots of legal stuff, find a space, set up accounts and all of this was completely new to us. We also had to manage clients ourselves, take care of billing and payments, etc. There are lots of things I’d have done differently if I had the knowledge I have now.
How do you two split the business side against the creative side?
Luckily there are two of us, so Anna manages the business side, while I manage things related to design and we also contribute to each other’s duties. But still there are routine tasks I have to carry out on my own and they take a lot of time, so I try to work from home, either at breakfast or before I go to bed.
Has there ever been a moment where you’ve thought you’re in too deep or could be in trouble?
Oh yes! Our first year was very hard in many ways. We were proving ourselves in Moscow design scene and had few projects that hardly payed the bills.
Things changed the following year and we grew in staff, but at one point we underestimated ourselves. We took on a big project that involved outsourcing and managing production, which was executed poorly, so we had to change production 3 times and pay (quite a lot for a small studio) from our own pocket. We ended up struggling and had to part ways with 2 of our designers and are still recovering.
How do you go about attracting new work?
Luckily enough we never chased clients until recently. Word of mouth and features in design related media kept a steady flow of new work. But now we started looking for interesting companies or products we can relate to and try to approach them through personalised emails, Facebook and (OMG) even LinkedIn.
It is a systematic process, we carefully target businesses we can create a successful collaboration with. It might be a micro brewery or a international corporation, but money matters only as much as an interesting task. To be in the right place at the right time is the best way to gain new business.
Is there a type of brief you can or would turn down?
We’d never work to promote Russian political establishment (not until the current corrupted government is gone), that’s for sure. In other cases it’d be depending on my personal bias towards a given subject. Racist, homophobic or in any way discriminative project would be turned down straight away.
How do you deal with inevitable unpaid pitch work – is there a limit to how much you do?
We almost never do unpaid pitches. There been a couple, but we tried to minimise studio time spent on these. Usually we’d spend as much time as possible to think out a smart concept and then put together rough mockups in a couple of days. It’s almost never a finished design as I think idea is paramount, execution can be improved once the concept is finished. We never force the ideas we pitch. If we have just one, we show just one. Only if the client is really interesting, we’d do some extra work as I believe clients rarely choose an idea, they still choose the agency.
If you do – How do you balance client work and side projects?
We’re not so good at balancing them right, so side projects are usually carried out in spare time, like late nights and weekends. There are a couple new ones at the moment though, that take as much time as client work.
Is there a discipline of design maybe you don’t focus on as heavily that you’d want to grow into?
Prior to starting a career in graphic design I was very interested in furniture and product design. There are a couple of product related sketches we’d really like to see the light of the day and we’d love to work with retail on window display designs too.
How is the design scene in Moscow?
I’d say there’s nothing too exciting about it at the moment. The scene is dominated by established agencies doing sub-standard work, but there are a few exceptions that hint towards better things. But there are now quite a few young professionals doing a great job of putting Moscow on a global design map. Obviously the industry is too young here, so many more talented creatives are hopefully to emerge sooner or later).
My main concern is that it’s still pretty much unregulated in terms of how young designers break into the industry, landing jobs straight out of Uni. In my opinion it devalues experience and professional growth and eliminates competition between designers. Rather than doing placements and changing jobs a few times, they get swept away by routine work without having to prove themselves. Getting aware of different approaches, developing critical thinking and personal opinion would benefit not only them, but the industry as a whole.
What’s next for the studio and where do you see things in the future?
We’re really looking to establish the studio as part of international design scene and attract more work from abroad. We’re looking to work with music industry more, as music is a big part of our life and studio culture. There are two projects we just finished for two big international clients and we really hope they help us attract more interesting projects.
In general, we don’t want to grow into a big agency with several offices in different parts of the globe and such, there’s only a few good examples I know and believe in smaller, tight-knit teams that excel their craft together. We’re exploring new territories now and looking to start a new business, still design-related though.
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For more information on The Bakery head over to their cracking portfolio here: www.madebythebakery.com
or check out their lovely instagram page here: instagram.com/thebakerymoscow
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If you’re interested in getting your studio involved in the series, get in touch with us here.