Design that makes you think

An interview with Ana Cvejić, student of Faculty of Contemporary Arts

Source: Aha magazin
By: Snežana Mišković


With a diploma in graphic design, she set out into the advertising world, alongside which she works in fashion, photography, packaging, industrial design. She says that all these creative endeavors are quite compatible and awaken the imagination. Ana Cvejić also made her own luxury (premium) product called “Ego Ballerina”. Her every shoe has its own story; it is custom-made to measure, with a personal mark and the name on the box that indicates whom it was made for.

Your graduation project at the Faculty of Contemporary Arts was “Shoes”. Did it mark the beginning of your creative output?

At the Faculty of Contemporary Arts in Belgrade, at the Department of Graphic Design, I acquired a diploma with a project whose working title was “Visual Identity for Unique Men;s Fashion Shoes”. This project ended up being much broader than the logotype and its use; the creative process also yielded the design of fashion posters, a number of sketches of shoes as patterns for packaging and sales space interior, all the way to actual sculptures of models made from wire construction and textile.

The following year, these shoes made it into the finals of the Funkshion competitions, ranking first in the applied arts category. This award, as well as the constant inspiration towards shoes, have largely determined my career, marked by fashion and awards.

For years, you worked at a marketing agency, within a big system. Alongside that, you also worked in the realm of personal satisfaction, shoe design. Was it an escape from the commercial into artistic expression and how do you connect these two sides of your work – creative (art) and business side (economics)?

As a child of advertising, I spent 10 fruitful years at an agency which, besides having a system, also had a design studio style; it nourished ideas. Besides the commercial, a creative person must also let out own emotion in order to withstand the everyday challenges. I was successful at that, both at my job and privately through various competitions in all spheres of design.

However much the business side “suppresses” creativity, it does provide a balance; after all, what’s the point of design without a purpose and a customer. On the other hand, budgetary constraints make the brain warm up even better, because “cooking a soup is easy with a good chicken”.

Graphic design constitutes the creation of a visual identity. What does your “Ego Ballerina” brand represent as a metaphor?

Graphic design has taught me how to style, how to take a minimalist approach to presenting a wider concept, how to represent it through a condensed sign which will be visually comprehensible to everyone. Therefore, Ego Ballerina, conceptual collection that essentially constitutes yourself / your ego condensed, in one place, a shoe! This is where one can immediately see what’s your favorite color, what style you lean towards, the symbol you adore…

“Selfie” photography is quite popular nowadays. You have incorporated it into your work in quite an imaginative way, designing leather ballet shoes with a portrait. Do you like to photograph yourself, too? And have there been any “crazy”, unusual customer requests?*

The ethical role of an artist is to inspire thinking through his works. Through visual provocation, you can evaluate the current social phenomena in a sophisticated way. So, selfie as inspiration was a part of the idea, while making photographs of yourself not only makes sense but also comprises a visual basis, as long as it stays within the boundaries of taste. I adore photography, I have studied it at the faculty for 4 years and as someone whom the camera loves I have quite enough of my own photographs. Quite enough in the sense that their quantity does not necessarily imply quality, and that taking random photos in all sorts of positions is not a reflection of style.

How do you fuel your optimism, to stay on course and make no compromises in your work, remaining faithful exclusively to the individual approach, handmade products and personal branding?

Every thrilled smile for a new design is my greatest impetus for further work and consistency. Today we are flooded by fast food, industrial fashion, globalization; everything leads towards looking like one another, while in fact each one of us is unique and each person has a different story. This is what I want to convey in Ego Ballerina’s each new collage.

Your career is full of numerous awards that provide important professional references. Which award are you especially proud of?

It’s the works that I am proud of; they are the ones who won over the juries across the world at festivals and authors’ competitions. If we are talking about fashion, then it’s certainly the “Fashion Prisoner” the shoe for a fashion slave, which qualified among the Top 10 models at the Alberto Guardiani competition, whose jury included the greatest fashion icon Anna Dello Ruso. In advertising, Blur, which won 2 golds at Golden Drum and EPICA festivals, as well as Horoscope – work dedicated to raising breast cancer awareness, my first success th festivals in Slovenia, Moscow and New York.

Dragan Sakan, founder and pioneer of the advertising scene, chose you to be the art director of “New Moment” company. To reach that prestigious position, you had to go through a lot. Could you share what made you stand out? And how are creative people recognized?

Creatives are recognized intuitively, by gut feeling. That’s the “sixth sense” that tells you which way to turn, whom to include in your team, what work you should send to a competition. Among many agency openings in 2004, I applied only for the Ideas Campus at the first BeogrAd Festival organized by New Moment agency and I was accepted.

With 20 other young, talented individuals, I attended a month of lectures by eminent professionals in advertising, art, journalism, management. I absorbed others’ experiences and sketched the outline of my career, discovered the domains of my profession and visualized future awards. After the campus, Mr. Dragan Sakan invited me to join his creative team. That’s how it all started!

In your opinion, what’s the most important thing in man’s quest for art?

Art is a necessary luxury. From the prehistoric times and the Altamira cave paintings to computer graphics and billboards of today, man has been expressing his nature and his vision of the current state of society. That’s food for spirit, for author and audience alike, an interactive circle that constitutes the cultural heritage and which we must not give up on regardless of the economic conditions.

How do you understand creativity and fuel your imagination? Who are the creative people from different domains in the country and abroad who have the most imagination at the moment, in your opinion?

Creativity is like curiosity that makes you do an ordinary and routine thing with a totally unexpected twist so that it makes sense in the end. It is a growth that makes you stay awake at night with excitement when the birth of a new idea starts to happen! Each successfully concluded project, each award, fuels the imagination and bring satisfaction. For inspiration, it’s very important to think outside the box, to combine all the accumulated experience and follow the technological trends. A good example is the globally renowned architect Zaha Hadid, who daringly expanded her reach outside the boundaries of architecture, through different projects in urban planning, industrial design, yachts, furniture and the ubiquitous fashion.

Fashion illustration has a special place in fashion design. Do you have a favorite illustrator?

I will mention only the illustrations by Manolo Blahnik, shoe designer, which, along with the highly pronounced fashion vividness, give the impression of a constructive sketch, and the future shoe which is not only beutiful, but wearable, too.

Have you considered leaving your trance in other design-dominated spheres, too?

A good concept can be developed through different branches of design, as was the case with the Ego Ballerina collection. From a shoe in unique print, I design an exclusive package. The collection presented at Belgrade Fashion Week had elaborate scenography and a concept that involved actual ballerinas.

A special mobile app was developed for the evening, enabling the visitors to take a photo of themselves and get their own virtual Ego Ballerina. Alongside the shoe, I created the first Ego purse as an indispensable accessory to go with the shoes. There are many more ideas cooking and awaiting their turn.

You adore traveling. Do you spend the time intended for rest looking for inspiration for new designs?

Travels are invaluable experience, something no one can convey second-hand, nor take away from you once you have them… Eternal inspiration, that breaks cultural barriers and breeds new ideas. I look forward to each new discovery of landscapes, old facades, half-open gates, scarves fluttering at oriental bazaars with the smell of curry and other spices… At the moment I am planning a new trip while still reminiscing about the past ones, in which I find inspiration.


You can download the complete interview with Ana Cvejić here.