Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Turns out Mishah and I know the guy who designed the orange symbols of Yushchenko's campaign: Dima Maksymenko, director of Belka i Strelka photo and design studio in Kyiv. He's a wonderful photographer, and I'm quite proud to know him.

Here's a translation of parts of his recent interview (Telekritika, in Russian):

- Dmitry, your studio specializes on ads for [several brands of juices]. You also do ads for vodka, drinking water, beer. How come you work with various political parties, too?

- There's nothing strange about it. Political advertisement is as much of a product as anything else. We began doing it for the previous election, when Marat Guelman - whom we knew as a gallerist, not as a "political technologist" - offered us to work for SDPU [Social Democratic Party of Ukraine, a pro-Kuchma party]. We agreed. This time, my partner and I decided to stay away from politics. But when Yushchenko's campaign HQ contacted us, we agreed to work with them immediately and almost for free. We spent a month and a half developing the style for Yushchenko's bloc [Our Ukraine]. [...] It was clear that the market is Ukraine and the audience are the people living here. We also knew that the campaign was aimed more at east Ukraine - and we had to make sure it wouldn't scare anyone there. We also knew for sure that the main developments were to take place in the fall - and orange color, though a little daring, was likely to work well in the fall. We offered more radical and more beautiful variants, but they didn't pass. Speaking of the design, the horseshoe, the letters and their placement - it's all bad design. But we did it on purpose, to have people perceive the ads adequately.


The choice of the color had been forced on us, in a way. Other main colors - red, blue, green, yellow-and-blue - had all been taken. We were left with orange and purple. Purple is very expensive to produce, and in addition, it's a disturbing color, inspiring anxiety, and people wouldn't have understood it.


- Would it be correct to say that it was orange color that shaped Yushchenko's campaign?

- The color wasn't a decisive factor. Everything just worked out well and the people created the rest by themselves. We were happy about the extent of the people's creativity. It was the people who turned orange into a revolutionary color, it had nothing to do with psychologists. [...] If you take corporate styles in Britain and the States - some have a combination of red and white, others have little donkeys and little elephants. And we have orange color. That's our mentality - we love everything that's bright.

Actually, we used to do fun experiments. For instance, we were working on the labels for kvass bottles for one company and ended up with two colors: one was classical and the other radical, in the 1930s style, with the poisonous, fire-red color. The same product was being sold with different labels. The red ones sold three times more than the classical ones. The only place where it didn't work was west Ukraine: people there don't like the red Communist color, I guess.

Does it mean that the nation's mentality should be taken into account when creating ads?

- Of course. We relied on the style of Western social democrats when creating a cool logo for the Ukrainian ones. But our social democrats are like a porpoise [morkaya svinka in Russian, a sea pig] - they having nothing in common with pigs and have nothing to do with the sea. But if you taken German traditions, our design could've been good for them. It didn't work in Ukraine, though. Here, the rose looks tacky, as on a May Day [Soviet] greeting card.

- You said you worked nearly for free for Yushchenko's campaign...

- Normally, we charge ten times more for this type of work. I bought myself a yacht on Medvedchuk's money. But this time it was important for us not to support the pro-government candidate. But our colleagues toiled for him, and kept buying cars. It was disgusting to look at it. But that was their choice.

Only idiots in the ad business didn't understand that if Victor Yanukovych came to power, the ad market would collapse, because it relies heavily on import companies. Investments woud have been gone and we wouldn't have been able to get a visa to any normal country. That's why you shouldn't saw off the branch you're sitting on, even for big money. But there were examples of the opposite, remember? An amazing story about a sign language translator from the First National [TV channel], who said, after the Central Election Commission announced the results of the second tour, that those were lies. She could've lost a lot more than our "artists." If they and their kids were starving and had nothing to eat, that would be one thing. But they do have their food, more than enough of it. Those people don't fit into their t-shirts anymore. It's ridiculous and disgusting. Those who were working for Yanukovych realized that they weren't doing the right thing. At the previous, parliamentary, election, there was hopelessness and there was no use bothering. At our studio during that election, we were shooting Brodsky, Tymoshenko, Medvedchuk, Kravchuk, Zinchenko - who, by the way, was with the SDPU then. The situation was totally different then. And for this election everything was way too clear. There were two ideas - the good and the evil. As in a fairy tale.


Our revolution was bourgeois in a good sense of the word. Those who came to stand on Maidan, did it conscientiously. They were losing time, their cows stayed un-milked, their farms [neglected]... But they came to defend not just the financial future of the country, but their own and mine as well. I met a village policeman [...], a decent man who had left everything behind, took his gun and came to Kyiv to help. People like this can't go back without victory because people back home wouldn't understand it. We are indebted to these people. No one should reproach them for standing on Khreshchatyk, no one should be saying that the view of the dirty tents offends someone and makes it uncomfortable to stroll and eat ice cream. Yushchenko's bloc prepared to the election awfully. We really have almost missed the revolution. If at some point the ordinary people hadn't joined in, nothing would have happened.

- Are you proud of having created the revolutionary style?

- I don't know. This is not our first successful project. It's nice, of course, that people have achieved all they wanted, with our help. But it's funny that there weren't even enough of the flags. Normally, you're thinking hard on how to sell your product - while here there wasn't enough of it.


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