London-based Designer of the Week Olesia Li began her graphic design journey with contributions to the branding scene in Russia and now specializes in book publishing, editorial design and branding, with clients such as Fabriano Paper Mills, Hugo Boss and Penguin Books. Having developed an interest in film photography while at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, her practice is strongly oriented on both typography and film photography.
Name: Olesia Li
Location: London, United Kingdom
Design schools attended: Cambridge School of Visual and Performing Arts (Foundation), Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design (BA), London College of Communication (MA)
How would you describe your work?
I absolutely love designing with black and white! I am of the opinion that there is certain purity to it. If a book is well designed, it might not need much more to it.
My work is mainly type-oriented. Big and bold typographic treatment might be a good way to sum up most of my projects. Putting across a strong opinion and finding the right visuals for it is my ultimate goal. I adapt to briefs, whilst striving to maintain my personal style.
I often find that limiting myself with colors gives a great emphasis on typography and has resulted in some of my best projects. Quality is also a priority of mine. I like finishing my projects to a high standard. I pay a lot of attention on print production and the materials I use. Most importantly I aim to make what I envision—otherwise what’s the point of being a designer? We are craftsman, just as much as we are creative thinkers.
Where do you find inspiration?
I think that you can look anywhere and find inspiration, as long as you’re receptive of it. I try to stay tuned to contemporary culture—film, music, art, literature or anything else. Architecture influences me greatly; some of the grids in my work derive from buildings.
As a designer it is important to stay current, going to talks, festivals and other events is a great way to do this. Even ones that seem irrelevant can broaden your horizons. I always say—everyone you meet knows something that you don’t know, and anything could become an opportunity to grow and learn. As creatives, we should inspire one another—graphic designers can delve into photography, illustration or web design, just to see things from a different perspective.
When it comes to inspiration, looking inward is just as important as looking outward. We are bombarded by hundreds of images every day. Learning how to process all of the visual information that we come across is just as important. As one of my all-time favorite film directors David Lynch wrote,
“Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure. They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.”
Who are some of your favorite designers or artists?
Berlin’s Hort, Savvy from New-York, Moscow-based Ermolaev Buerau and London’s Spin and Sawdust would be on the top of my list. Sascha Lobe, the founder of the German design studio L2M3 is someone I refer to a lot when working with print. Oh, and I love Erik Kessels humor! (KesselsKramer)
Amongst my favorite fine artists I’d name Yayoi Kusama, William Kentridge, Grayson Perry, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Kazimir Malevich.
Photographers: Martin Parr, Juergen Teller
Do you have a favorite among all the projects you’ve worked on?
I would say that one of the most successful projects I’ve worked on was a project called SLOKO, which I designed as part of ADESTRA team. It made me realize how important it is to share the same vision and values with my colleagues. A successful project isn’t just a nice outcome; there is so much more to it. The members of the team shared passion, value, aesthetics and vision.This made it one of those projects where everything falls into place, and feels right. I am really proud of SLOKO, every time I look back at it, it reminds me of a lovely time in my life when I met some of the most talented designers back home in Russia.
Is there a project that stands out to you as having been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
Taina—my most recent project—was a bit of a struggle. As I mentioned before, my creativity flourishes within limitations. This was a 6 month self-directed project, and I was overwhelmed by the range possible outcomes.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
Hm … I don’t really have a set plan. I like to stay open for any opportunity that might come my way. For the moment I would be excited to explore the directions in which my photography could take me.
What’s your best advice for designers today?
Absorb and learn as much as you can. All the resources are out there for you; use them! Make sure you know how to do a little bit of everything, but only be good at one thing! Your specialization is what adds value to you as a designer. And don’t be scared to fuck things up; it takes a few screw-ups till you get somewhere.
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