Our creative director Matija Vujovic talks for Business&Estate magazine about his design career and future of Matbold
Source: Estate&Business magazine
THINK BOLD. CREATE BOLD.
Matija Vujovic is an outstanding creative director and designer who has worked on brand identities, designs, websites, and campaigns at the biggest communication agencies for more than twenty years. Now, for the last few years, he runs an independent design studio called Matbold. The studio specializes in Branding & the creation of digital products such as Websites and Mobile Apps. They are based in Prague, Berlin, and Belgrade.
Matija’s work had been awarded over 120 times at creativity festivals such as Cannes Lions, Awwwards, ADC, Epica, Eurobest, London Festival, NY Festival, and it was featured in a number of international publications. He has been a speaker at numerous digital, innovation, creativity, and advertising conferences, while also being a jury member at major global advertising festivals.
He is a member of The One Club For Creativity / Art Directors Club New York, Type Directors Club New York / ADC Czech Republic / Awwwards Jury member 9 years in a row.
His clients now include an innovative tech start-up TaTaTu, founded by Hollywood producer Andrea Iervolino, Larry Kestelman’s LK Property Group and their iconic Melbourne project Capitol Grand and LK Tower designed by renowned architects Bates Smart and many others.
What are you up to these days?
In the last few years, we have shifted Matbold business strategy towards creating complex solutions for new generation brands. From design to design thinking. Great collaboration with clients in the US, UK, and Australia is enabling us to build great teams that are able to develop digital products for clients. We can do everything - from the stage of an initial business idea, through research and brand strategy, prototyping, UX/UI design, and testing, to the production of the final digital product with performance significantly better than those missing any part of this holistic process. We are always a partner for our clients, cooperating, and creating together. That is a very exciting and rewarding process for both parties.
Have the people around you encouraged you to pursue a creative path?
The greatest support always comes from my family - my wife and my daughter. They are my toughest judges and the biggest fans of my work. They are not faking support. Straight to the point.
You have Serbian heritage and you’re living in Prague and Berlin. How has your multicultural life influenced your career?
It increased my creative and business appetite and provided me with more insights to build my concepts on. Spending part of my time in Berlin being the capital of “cool” certainly had a positive impact.
Tell us about your path to becoming a designer?
I think this path is not just about the artistic aspect. Visual communication is a lot about sociology, psychology, media & society influence. We all have different stories. Mine was very dynamic and striking. I grew up in Serbia during the war, bombing, and isolation. It made the generation of survivor kids. Survivors in any situation. We don’t give up. Fear was not an option. That’s what I apply to my work, pushing design to its limits without fear. The artistic aspect was something I’ve started from my early stages and never stopped. Comics brought me to a world of visual communication. Storytelling, composition, strong graphics, culmination… All these are in comics, which I used later on in the creation of strategies, concepts, visuals, etc.
Do you think the design and the art world are in conflict?
No, I think the best pieces of design or branding are actually art pieces.
What do you love the most about the challenge of being a designer?
I love the diversity of possibilities - different themes, brands, approaches, visual worlds you can visit and explore… even to create new ones. It's like Minecraft for adults.
What triggers your imagination and creativity? What are you currently fascinated by and how is it feeding into your work?
My inspiration board is wide. I love and follow architecture, interior design, and music daily. But triggers are hidden everywhere. And I’m inspired by beauty, by life, spontaneity, perfection, innovations… If you have an open heart, you’ll see inspiration everywhere. If you have a goal in mind, what inspires you also helps you find solutions to a problem you are solving.
Is it hard to stay innovative?
It’s not that hard, innovation is the energizing part of the process! How boring must it be to copy others? Not all our projects are innovative and different, but the exploration of possibilities is always exciting. Sometimes you just need to follow a known path, but you always have the freedom to give it a new angle and leave your mark.
How do you think online design resources (blogs, tutorials, forums, etc.) have influenced the graphic design being produced today?
Today, with new devices, platforms, and social media, we are witnessing a boom in creativity. It influenced a lot us, designers and creatives with two things:
1st. Understanding that we are not “the best one”. There are hundreds and thousands of great creative people around the world.
2nd. Everyone thinks that they can be a designer. Our credibility is going down day by day… For clients, it is harder to discern and recognize quality.
What’s an important skill for a designer to have?
For design, it’s a good eye. I think it’s the most important skill. Everything else can be learned if you have an eye for design. For a brand or visual communication, it is empathy. We need to feel the brand and to see beyond the brief. We sometimes even need to see even further than the founders of the brand. That is our value. We bring up to the surface what was hidden. We have to materialize the essence of the brands. When it resonates with the customers, we’ve got it right.
Can you elaborate on your process of coming up with new concepts and the way you approach a new project?
After all these years I’ve learned or developed effective tools to shorten the creative process. When I was a beginner, working on the project was like 10% of the time for thinking and 90% for doing. Now it is totally opposite - 80% of thinking and 20% for crafting the solution. A strong strategy is what I build on. Diving deep brings unexpected catches to the surface. Very high aesthetic standards are a must in the realization phase.
You’re both the creative and the business head of your company. How do you balance your time between the two?
Titles can make you focus on the wrong things, or create an egotistical condition that distracts you from what’s important. I’m just drawing a path for our business. Big picture. A vision. I’m doing it after work. I have just one “corporate” hour a day. And I’m not alone in this. Listening to others, more experienced peers in order to avoid big mistakes. And not only from our industry. Inspiration comes from many facets of the business.
Tell us about the biggest business and/ or creative risk you’ve taken in your career and what you learned from it.
When I was seven, I was selling used comics on the street, in front of the shopping mall in my hometown in Serbia, to older kids, twice as big as myself. Like, alone. I’ve learned how risky a business start-up can be without serious backup and support. Hahaha!
Could you share a past project you’re especially proud of, and why?
I can be very proud that I had a chance to work on hundreds of interesting projects, to some I’m emotionally connected to… But the truth is that I was never 100% satisfied with any of them. There are just a few latest projects we did, and I’m very proud of each one of them.
How do you attract your most desired clients? What is your magic?
Through my work. My most desired clients are those who prioritize quality more than price and are open to pushing limits and exploring new possibilities.
Who do you want Matbold to work with?
Brands who want to be the best in their field, or to maintain that position. Being the best does not mean being the biggest in the industry, or making the most money.
Is sustainability and climate change something that is affecting how you run the studio? And has that become an issue with clients and collaborators?
Our business strategy gives a huge advantage to sustainability brands, with a goal to work in the future exclusively with clean brands. Our mission is to work with and support the next-generation brands and create new experiences that connect them with their customers. It’s hard, but it makes more sense. It’s my personal fight too. A bad thing is that half of the clients will drop out (laughs). Good thing is that each day there are more and more brands with sustainability thinking in their DNA.
What motivates you? Is it money, fun, life, or something else?
I find the biggest inspiration in my family, my friends, freedom in expression, good cause, and my lifestyle.
You are a seasoned lecturer and speaker at world festivals of creativity. With everything you've learned so far, what piece of advice can you give to those starting out?
Do what you enjoy and love the most. Do it every day.
A large element of your work is „play". How do you place yourself, your team, and the client into a place where you feel trusted and play can come naturally?
I’ve learned proper preparation is a key to being relaxed in a tense situation. But, in those moments when I’m not connected to myself, I’m lacking confidence or feel weak, strong faith in myself is something that brings me back to the right path to play strong, and makes others feel confident around me.
Have you always listened to your gut? Are there any moments when you didn't and regretted it?
Nooo. Not always. I was inexperienced, impressed by this and that, and playing a role in a movie called Business. Listening to your gut is something you learn on your journey and it comes spontaneously. In my 21 years long career, just for the last few years, I can say that I’ve started to listen to my gut. I’m still observing and learning how to take the best action.
What’s your personal motto?
“Relax. Nothing is under control.” I’ve stolen that from my wife.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
I would love to have a chat with my dog.
What is something that we don’t know about you?
I’m a spy working for the secret service... But don’t tell anybody.