Wywiad po polsku dostępny tutaj
Martyna Wędzicka-Obuchowicz, a talented,
well-known Designer with multiple awards.
On a daily basis, she lives by the sea – in Gdansk.
Figure, that you don’t really need to introduce to those who follow polish graphic design scene. Educator, activist, popularizer of graphic design but also visual experimenter and a fan enthusiast of glitch aesthetics.
For Laïc: Type Foundry she is most of all impressive Designer and that’s why back in 2020 Martyna designed the second poster for the eighth issue of Print Control magazine.
Do you remember your first graphic design project?
Yes, that was my first commission and I was incredibly satisfied. It was about designing three icons for an e-commerce store. It was: a diffuser, the thingy with sticks that smells nicely, and a soap. I earned 450 PLN and I was very proud, that I managed to earn this much. The context of time is important – that was around 2011 or 2012.
Graphic design, computer graphics, visual communication, art, design? How do you define your job
The surrounding defines me more and more often as an artist and although I don’t like this word, I slowly start to recognize that it might be the right definition. It’s difficult to stay within the term “graphic designer” as my actions are certainly beyond that.
How did the polish graphic design market change in recent years?
From my perspective, there’ve been many divisions in the industry. Do not get me wrong – not between people but concerning what is understood under the term of “graphic designer”. If you think about this and look around, there are not many people that use this term anymore. We define ourselves more and more precisely, what we specialize in, like: brand designer, researcher, product designer, etc. I hardly catch up and my observation shows that clients don’t catch up at all. Sure – big agencies know what and how but small companies cannot be actively following our bubble and catch up with all the changes. Almost once a week I receive a request about web design, which is not really something I do.
Can you spot a difference in approach and the way of communication of the «design needs» that the clients have?
Yes, but I think that in my case this might be caused by two factors. First of all, a long-term presence on the market – clients already know why and for what they want to hire me but most importantly what they can expect. Because of my portfolio, they can trust me, and more and more frequently I can freely design according to my personal taste, which influences how the final project looks.
How to communicate with a client effectively?
Where to begin?
I begin with a question: what is the message, not how it should look. The visual aspect is a secondary issue. The more I design, the more often I wonder how to achieve the assumptions of my clients while still proposing a project with my own, personal style and taste. Sure, many designers might argue that the design must fit the brief and it should be adequate to the specific industry etc. but from my perspective, this is thinking inside the box, which doesn’t help to improve and develop visual culture – there is no risk in such way of thinking or designing.
How do you begin your designs? How do you approach a commission? Do you go for the classic pencil and paper?
My portfolio consists of very varied projects. Some years ago I’d start designing by going straight away for the digital. Now, being a bit older and more experienced, I tend to sketch more often. Unfortunately, they are very ugly and I’d never want anyone to discover them and make an exhibition.
Many of your designs could be qualified as experimental – is this a goal, a direction for you?
The definition of your practice?
Recently, I did a speaking presentation and one of the ideas mentioned was exactly about my approach and what is the most important aspect for me, to develop and design. My bet was on “UNEXPECTED”. My observation is that after around 2 or 3 years I begin to look for new ways, a new visual and design language that I can explore and combine with solutions that I’ve already found. This way I can test if this will be interesting for the clients, the viewers or no. Until now, I went through stages like: minimalism (because of branding, mostly), glitches (experiments with a scanner), maximalism (a lot of everything!), geometry and now I’m getting into gradients. It’s not really revolutionary as I do illustrations with rectangular shapes that are filled with gradients – they consume many hours, but the outcomes are unexpected. And this is what I want to achieve, what I aim for.
With the development of the design industry, can you also see improvements in industries like the printing industry?
Is it easier to produce the design as it was designed?
Let me be honest and straightforward here. Contact with printing houses, the process of printing, and everything about the production is a one, giant torture.
You design for clients but also you initiate your own projects. One of them is a series of clothing with typographical slogans. For example «Design like a girl!» Set in Iskry typeface.
How do you understand this?
«Design like a girl» is obviously a paraphrase of «Fight like a girl», a slogan with a rather negative meaning. Only after Nike’s campaign, where they presented strong women, fighting for their victory and not giving up – this slogan became a sort of manifestation of women’s determination and strength.
But also, for many years I would hear that I design quite well… for a girl. For many years I tried to build an image of myself as a designer – that designs well, as simple as that, without underlying my gender. In the end, with this slogan, I underline that you can «Design like a girl» and it is a compliment.
You have the experience of teaching, and working at the Academy of Fines Arts in Gdansk. Can you share some observations about the changes in design education?
I was teaching for 3 years, non-stationary courses, so my experience is probably too tiny that I could give you a broad answer, basing on my personal experiences. Still, I am in touch with people that I used to study with and who are teaching for a long time now and I can say that for sure there are changes in the way of teaching but also the programs of education are changing. It is very difficult to react and adapt to the market that is changing so rapidly. In my opinion, what is crucial is that more and more new teachers are designers, practitioners – and so they can be authorities for students.
Teaching how to paint and draw, is it effective for designers?
No, it is an old-fashioned, eastern system. Many designers from the west remind me everyday that 9 years of painting classes was a waste of time. I dropped painting after my graduation and I don’t think I could do that anymore.
How do you perceive working with colour?
What role does it play in your design practice?
For me, the most important are contrast and form, colour comes after that. But it doesn’t mean that my most recent stage of gradient-design is not exactly about experimenting with colour.
The city that you live in – does it influence you?
Can you spot some changes in the space around you?
Gdansk is a good place if you look for your own paths. It’s not a place for influencers or events for celebrities. You can take a walk by the seashore or to the nearby forest. In those places it’s easier to look within yourself and what you want to achieve rather than staring at others.
Unrealized projects, what is your approach? Are they a starting point for other commissions or they remain in the drawer?
Most of my unrealized projects are for contests. Quite often I’m invited for those yet I never win (ok, I did once). I never use those projects later on, they are designed for a specific brief and so in my portfolio, I have a special tab where I showcase these.
You work with other designers. What is important for you in those collaborative projects?
I invite designers or illustrators, that can supplement my skills. I’m not good in illustrating so if a client wants a certain style, I’m open to collaborate. There’s that, but there is also my project called #prettyuglycollab is about something else. For #Prettyuglycollab I invite strong designers, that are quite often better than me, to create collaborative projects and check what will come out of this creative confusion. It is a very cool thing – you can get to know the way of working of other designers.
What is that you appreciate in type designs? How do you choose fonts? What are your requirements for typefaces?
First of all, I admire people who do type design. I never had enough confidence to get involved in this, so I’m quite happy there are others, who are braver and more talented.
When it comes to choosing a font I go by emotions. It might be from the academic times. My Professor would always underline, that you cannot look at letters as shapes but as stories. This way of looking is somehow in my blood now. Quite often I look at letters and wonder, what kind of music or dish a certain typeface would be.
Do you think that the matters of law and licensing are too complicated in the creative world?
Yes, for me everything that is about casual things is too complicated. For half a year I’m getting to activate my new debit card… That’s how I am.
Graphic design, typography and rock’n’roll will save the world, so they say. One song which we should listen to after reading this conversation?
Eargasm God – Ecstasy
(this song presents my speed of working very well.)
Advice for young designers?
If, as a designer, you have to compare yourself, compare to the earlier version of yourself.
Advice for experienced designers?
If, as a designer, you have to compare yourself, compare to the earlier version of yourself PLUS life is not only about design.
Advice for clients?
Treat designers as your partners and not tools. Trusting in the design skills of the designer is the best you can do for your project.
Martyna, thank you for answering the questions!