The Daily Heller: Posters From Modern Belgrade

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Slavimir Stojanovic was 16 when he designed his first poster for the 1985 Belgrade Culture Olympiad. The piece was hung all around the city—and “I was eternally hooked,” he told me. It was at the height of socialist Yugoslavia, when culture was the “prime social identifier.” Unfortunately, in the beginning of the 1990s, nationalism imploded the country.

Graphic design served Stojanovic and friends as a creative escape. In the ’90s, he worked mainly in advertising, receiving hundreds of awards worldwide; he briefly studied in Sweden, and after the NATO bombing in 1999 he left Belgrade and started a new life in Ljubljana, Slovenia, formerly the Northern Yugoslav republic (close to Italy and Austria). He says he became a proper designer there, because both the industry and the aesthetics were already developed and creatively more demanding. After 10 years he returned to Belgrade, where he launched a creative communications studio called Futro Design, which has expanded to include the Futro lifestyle brand, with a web shop and two stores in Belgrade. He employs almost 20 people, and writes books for children and adults. He recently published Nothing Really Matters, But Everything is Very Important. I asked him to discuss his design entrepreneurship.

Why did you publish this book? And what is the inspiration for the title?
Fifteen years ago I stopped competing and sending my works abroad. It just felt counterproductive for the business since my success was oversaturating the local media space for years; it was a public relations overdrive where nobody would work with me because my image seemed too expensive and too exclusive. I also had to go back to basics and redefine my purpose in life, so this book now is meant to show what I have been doing all this time, what the backstory of it all is and, of course, to expand the influence of creativity and generate universal inspiration. The title comes from my artistic social commentary projects, where I search for the truth and all its children lost in contemporary communication.

Why are all your posters in English?
I was born and raised in Yugoslavia, in a truly cosmopolitan spirit-driven society. I always had a need to be universally understood on as large a scale as possible. The English language offers that. Maybe the fact that I spent almost two years living in Washington DC as a kid, with my grandparents who worked at the Yugoslav embassy there, has something to do with it.

After more than 30 years of all kinds of isolation, social depression, an unbearable stigma cloud above us all here and ongoing national tensions, this region needs to be heard in order to be understood worldwide. As a part of this cultural neighborhood, I have an obligation to take part in that effort.

How would you describe the “style” of the work you do?
I have a creative maxim—”Complicate Simply”—and I have been sticking to it ever since I was studying at professor H.C. Erikson’s class at HDK in Gothenburg, Sweden. I fell in love with Scandinavian functional minimalism there, but I try to combine it with the Balkan creative heritage rooted in soul-preserving disciplines: humor, irony, satire, and the works of Zenithists.

What is the intent or aim/goal of your messages?
The intent of the Futro Posters is to provoke and challenge people mentally and hopefully inspire and motivate them to do something creative, relevant and meaningful with their lives, instead of scrolling hours away.