AI is a Wonderful Conversationalist and a Master

Meet Natalia Klimchuk, creative director, creator of the graphic design agency “Bang! Bang!”, the design-studio and journal “Lunatum”, film director. Nataliya discusses contemporary graphic design and AI with Art&signatures’s Irina Vernichenko.

Natalia Klimchuk

Irina Vernichenko: How do you view Russian design from Milan, the capital of design?

Nataliya Klimchuk: I have been thinking a lot about the identity of Russian design, about Russian aesthetics. I have two films about it; in the documentary “33 Words About Design” hundreds of the best Russian designers talk about Russianness in a philosophical context, and in “Lepota” in the context of aesthetics. I think that the language makes us Russian, numerous codes are «sewn» into it and are transmitted through times.

I V: Does the visual code of Russian design exist?

N K: Naturally, it exists, this layering of meanings, colours, patterns, functions is what we get from generation to generation and what we manage to capture and pass on via inheritance.

I V: Is this code more like folklore or high art?

N K: Folklore as well as art are used in contemporary design. Russian designers are the protagonists of the development of design all over the world. The borders were closed for a long time, so we rethought and even invented the design in many ways: we created stunning application interfaces and very fast and convenient websites. This phenomenon is 15 years old. When the borders were opened, we realized that we had been ahead of everyone and that they were copying us and happily hiring our talents to other countries. Russian design is multifaceted — it is possible to use Slavic patterns, inspiration from Vasnetsov, Deineka or Malevich, and minimalism, brutalism, constructivism and many other “isms” are possible, and, of course, it also takes into account the peculiarities of economics, geography and politics.

I V: Do you believe that a user-friendly website is part of Russian culture? And what is the reason for this? With the emergence of functionality as a key factor and aesthetics not being as crucial?

N K: Good question. Functionality now plays a huge role in a world striving for globalisation. There is a famous book in the circles of designers, «About Beauty» by Stefan Zagmeister and Jessica Walsh. It explores the nature of beauty, saying that aesthetics are important and people from generation to generation select things that are made according to the golden ratio and in certain colour combinations. In the world of Zara and McDonald’s, functionality is more important than aesthetics, but when we look at specific countries, we often encounter aesthetics of amazing depth and strength, but also inconveniences — often so.

journal “Lunatum”

I V: You said aesthetics and inconvenience?

N K: Aesthetics prevail all over the world when we talk about individual design. Aesthetics are far from functionality. A designer chair is likely to be synonymous with an uncomfortable chair. I am currently working on the documentary “Two Chairs”, where I will ask designers why they are going to create the perfect chair and what it should be, and I will ask philosophers to use the example of a chair to explain the structure of the world and talk about aesthetics and functionality.Very often in the audience during a lecture, when a philosopher talks about the philosophical system of some author, he appeals to the chair in the room.

I V: What makes a work of art? How do you define the criterion of artistic quality?

N K: There are millions of answers to this question. The work does not have to meet the generally
accepted beauty standards, there may be broken criteria. For example, one line and a cut canvas, behind which lies a big idea that makes this work exceedingly beautiful. This idea can be either very complex, or it can be very easy, simple and questioning.

There is another good question: «Who are the judges?» who has the right to judge whether it is a work of art or not.

Natalia Klimchuk

I V: The critics or people?

N K: Now, in design, as in advertising, they often work with test groups answering questions: «What do you like, dislike, how would you like the product to look, what are your needs?» As a result, there is a product that is often something in between and we can rarely call it a work of art.

Very often, the most powerful things are done by one person and with the power of the human mind, when a designer creates something simply because he can’t help but do it. And it turns out to be a masterpiece, and consumers didn’t even know that they needed it, or that it satisfied their needs.

I V: There are groups of artists working in collaboration

N K: I believe that people learn from each other and, having worked together for a long time, can make the idea more radiant, when they create something either in unison, in dialogue or in confrontation.

I V: I agree that there is only one creator and the history of art is the history of biographies.

N K: I judge from my experience, I remember how illustrations, products, and sites were created: most often it is the idea of one person, which is improved by others, but the initial impulse is created by someone alone.

I V: Can a website become a work of art?

I V: And in what case? When is it functional and when is it aesthetic?

N K: Both. It can be convenient, it can consist of a single button that works and it will be as functional as possible, minimalistic and be a work of art, or vice versa, be aesthetic. It can be minimalistic or complex, with special effects and animation, with motion.

I V: And magazines?
A magazine can also be a work of art.

I V: Are electronic journals different?

N K: In the electronic version, animation, hyperlinks, etc., all kinds of travel through the magazine are possible. It’s more difficult to do this in a physical magazine, but it has great examples of pop-ups or beautiful typography.

I V: Is the context important for a graphic designer: London, Milan, Moscow.

N K: The cards are shuffled bizarrely. We can say that there is a Berlin, London style, but it is dictated again by the personalities who set this fashion at a certain moment.

I V: Tell us about the design school you created

N K: I created the Bang Bang Education design school for 7 years with my friend Olya Morozova and was CEO of it, in 2022 we sold the school to do other projects.

We had a manifesto, it was as philosophical as possible: the main idea was that the most important thing is humanity, and beauty and functionality are forces subordinate to it. The school’s manifesto was as much about ethics as possible, aesthetics serves ethics. We had such a dichotomy: not functionality and beauty, but ethics and aesthetics.

I V: About style. There is an opinion that a person’s style depends on inner intelligence, it’s not what you’re wearing that matters, but how you present yourself.

Design has a social function, can design change the world?

N K: That’s why I’ve been in design for so long and I’m still in it. I think there is a lot of social responsibility on the people who make the world the way we see it. It was important for me to talk to designers about ethics, about inclusion, so that they would bring good to the world. Improving the world for the better is also a reflection on whether they will not litter the world by what they are doing.

You said about the style interestingly, there is a writing style that expresses inner intelligence, For me, the style of clothing is the language, the way a person expresses himself. It depends on the city and the mood. It is different, sometimes you want to wrap yourself in gray and black, sometimes combine brands with the philosophy of which you are in tune. You can also find your own through external attributes.

I V: You are busy with design issues – drawing, composition — from day to day. What is the perfect combination in clothes?

Natalia Klimchuk

N K: It’s different every time. Despite the fact that I have a certain style, I admire different styles and I like the standard combinations. Again, you understand that there is some kind of state, mood behind this. There is a story behind each brand, you see these signs on the principle of «your own»or «stranger».

There are many stylish people who dress in second-hand and mass market and count accessories in the selection of textures looks very stylish. The cut of clothes also says a lot about a person: notes from different cultures or a reference to 60m. You understand that a person is now interested in what he is looking at.

I V: Your approach to directing the film.

N K: I make documentary almanacs. I find people who are interesting to me, ask questions, and create a film on the montage. For me, all the magic is created in the combination of frames and meanings.

I V: What is the role of AI in design and in business organization?

N K: AI is a wonderful conversationalist and a master, which speeds up many processes in business and design. Artificial intelligence is developing incredibly fast, solving previously unsolvable problems, greatly increasing the speed of creating.

It is very important that the team has one member with good taste and morality who could handle this tool with love.

AI is a change of an era, something akin to the transition to cellular communication. you can create masterpieces and be in demand in analog world.

Natalia Klimchuk
creative director, creator of the graphic design agency “Bang! Bang!”, the design-studio and journal “Lunatum”, film director