Anna Baydinger: ‘You can’t approach a Russian artist and just ask for help’

Our instagrammer of July on the future of NFT and the importance of a personal brand

December 21, 2021

Let’s start with you telling us a bit about yourself. Do you live in Nizhny Novgorod?

Yes, I live in Nizhny Novgorod and have been doing graphic design for about five years. My account is about two years old.

You have graduated from the institute recently, haven’t you?

No, I am still studying, distance form of education, but not graphic design — specializing in economics.

So, you have no profession-related education?

No, I completed Skillbox courses some time ago.

It’s actually more and more often that we meet great designers who never studied design, or studied it a little. Is it a trend?

The barrier of entry to the profession is low, and it is not that hard to master some tools, especially Figma. If you managed to design a landing or do something in Photoshop, you already consider yourself a designer. I have been doing design for four years and I am still learning. I have a long way to go.

Where are you working now?

At the company called Riverstart, and I hope everyone will hear about it soon, because it does great projects. We perform full cycle marketing tasks, but have not taken part in any competitions yet. But I’d prefer to do UX, be promoted to a senior designer, and do art direction. And have more stressful projects to develop and to grow.

Why UX? One would think differently judging by your works — at least those posted on Instagram.

For me Instagram is rather a form of escapism, just a way to relax. I have yet to learn how to make money on things like that — there are lots of more creative and professional designers on Instagram. I follow many people who do 3D and see what monsters they are, how great their work is. Even my computer is not suitable for that sort of stuff. My 3D is simple, rather typography-based. Though, clearly, I would like to create large scenes. But for that I need a more powerful machine.

Please, tell us a little bit about Nizhny. Are there places to study at? Is there some kind of design community?

There is no design community as such. There are a few great studios such as Unblvbl and LOCO who are particularly good at branding. But there are no full cycle studios doing really great design projects. Though, there are quite strong ones, MediaNation and our Riverstart. But everyone is eager to leave for bigger cities. Regions are developing slowly, it is easier to come to a Moscow-based studio where all processes had already been established and refined.

Space spices packaging design. By Unblvbl Studio

Nord Stream canned food packaging design. By LOCO Studio

Do you mostly work for Nizhny-based clients?

No, we work all over Russia, many of our clients are from Moscow, there are also foreigners. Our company has two business lines, Riverstart for Russia (we are now finishing its website), and Oceanstart, for the audience abroad.

Do you work a lot for foreign customers?

It’s 10-15% of our projects, I guess. Mostly marketing. They wouldn’t want to develop their webpages themselves, they are not interested in that for some reason. I don’t know all the details, because we have a large team, around 50 people, with 30 of them being developers/engineers.

Please tell us about a project that you’re proud of.

We have recently designed a website for fashion industry research in Russia, a state project supported by the Agency of Creative Industries. It was a certain challenge for me. It took us a long time to do research, to reach an understanding in terms of general concept. The team was very big — it was about ten people from the client only who were there to agree on everything. I was teamed up with the art director and have been able to grow in terms of infographics, complicated grids, typography.

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Website for fashion industry research. By Riverstart Studio

A few years ago Nizhny Novgorod saw certain serious developments around contemporary art. Has it eventually developed into something?

It hasn’t. There are these really serious guys, Dreamlaser, who do light shows for Moscow and international projects, but most artists still work within Nizhny. For some people it works to make money on it, for some it doesn’t. For example, for me it all started when I was designing posters every day. Then I couldn’t do it on a daily basis, and I just began doing it sometimes. Instagram gave me many opportunities. I believe that a designer should be able to grow and build a certain personal brand. The fact that I have an account that I can always show and that I am proud of, gives me, as a designer, confidence.

8 Adidas × FIFA interactive installation. Проект студии Dreamlaser

9 Realtime graphics for Almaty Symphony Orchestra concert. By Dreamlaser Studio

Does this kind of activity affect your commercial works somehow?

It does. It shows my clients how professional I am. I was approached by a large online store from the US. I am also approached by musicians, but I don’t like working with musicians.

Why? Wow, look at you! Everyone dreams of working with musicians.

I already have, and I didn’t like it. Public figures presume that you owe them, and don’t value the fact that you do a high-quality and considerable job as well. You work on their terms.

And how is it possible to make money using your skills without working on someone’s terms?

You have to develop yourself, your personal brand. That’s the only way. When your work is shared by certain powerful accounts, you are approached by many people. There is this artist, Beeple, he’s been a great influence on the motion design culture. He has been doing rendering every day for 13 years. There is no place where one can get this kind of experience, no studios. It is much more important to grow and develop yourself as an artist.

How can this be monetised later? Then it’s the brands that approach you as an independent artist, right?

Yes. Brands approach you to ask for your design precisely — to you as Anna Baydinger, because they like what you do, and they trust your taste.

Do you know such examples in Russia?

Sure. VFX artist Brickspacer, my friend Misha Danilov — he does AR. His customers are world class stars. They have strict technical design assignments, but they are interesting to work with. Now we witness a boom of NFT platforms — and that is really affecting art and design, too.

Do you believe that NFT platforms have a future? Or will it eventually blow over?

That same Beeple, for instance, posted a collage of five thousand of his first render works on an NFT platform and sold it for 70 million dollars. So, I think, it’s a new brand of contemporary art, and it won’t blow over but will become stable. But it won’t be that kind of money anymore, not as much as it was at first. There are now lots of platforms, no one is interested in working at a studio and doing web design, because you can become an artist instead and sell your works for NFT. For example, 3D clothes are popular today.

How will it impact commercial designers, what will happen to this language?

I don’t think it will significantly affect commercial design. We will just see the arrival of artists in Russia and in the world who will do that. I mean, web design doesn’t care for how exactly a task was solved, it is rather about functionality. Whereas things happening on Instagram are rather about visuals. That will probably affect branding. Perhaps, it already did.


We now see a more aggressive typography, more ‘playing with fonts’, more courage, more 3D illustration. Whereas back then any branding of a new project — for example, a coffee house, — was happening according to a certain standard way, while now there is a large room for creativity. And it can happen the same way artists work. Artists running their accounts on Instagram have a great influence on design now, setting trends.

Can you define these trends? This sort of design currently dominating over Instagram?

That’s exactly what I call ‘aggressive typography’. Today everyone’s trying to design their own typefaces. I don’t know about Russia, but that is highly popular abroad — every other person does typefaces. Everyone bends the rules, and I do, too. I design letters and don’t try to follow any typographic rules at all. That’s how I like it — the thrashier a typeface looks, the more I like it. And all the designers are now seeking to just do how they like. But still, we don’t come up with certain new things — we just get back to the old, rethinking and reimagining it. I believe it is now impossible to design a typeface that never existed before. It did exist, but now looks slightly different.

Where will it go, what do you think? Has it reached its peak, or will we exist within the framework of this aesthetics a few more years?

It depends on every person who does design. I am sick of it already, because I always see exactly this type of design everywhere. And there are also artists who just came there — they start with it, that is something new for them. Or my superiors who see only commercial design — for them, that is something new as well. At the end of every week our studio carries out a design talk where we discuss certain design accounts and references. And when they look at 3D and ‘aggressive typography’, they don’t understand how it can be applied — how to present it to a client so that he buys it. Such aesthetics will go away one day anyway. I think we’re already witnessing it on its peak and it begins to slowly quiet down. It is not as popular as it was, for example, two years ago. Today I see more — or it is that I am subscribed to this kind of artists, — spiritual design, lots of blurred images. I enjoy this sort of design more.

Can you give us a few names of people whom you follow?

Those are all English-speaking ones: @aeternno, @marcelkohlr, @harry__vincent, @auguste_lefou, @rydeas, @kushlet. I communicate a lot with foreign artists. I don’t know why, but when you have an international audience, it’s not toxic at all, everyone is very helpful. When it comes to Russian design, it’s vice versa — if you enter a certain area which is new for you, you will definitely deal with negativity. You embark on 3D — everybody will judge you; you come into typography — everyone will look at you as if you were doing everything wrong. I can’t approach a Russian artist and just ask for his help, it’s difficult for me. I would rather write to some dude from Germany, and he will certainly help, send me some sources, evaluate and appreciate my work.

Is there a way to change things?

Artists themselves have to help increase the professional level of designers — point out their mistakes and educate them. Inviting to designers who are not really professional — that could be a great practice, too, I believe. I am already an old-timer among young Instagram designers who are trying to do something of their own. Newbies come, create accounts, design some very bad works, take images from Pinterest and try to repeat those, copying things that already exist. One can — and should — act like that at the beginning, yet the most important thing is to find your own style and work on it.

Whom do you follow when it comes to type design?

I follow plenty of German studios: NeueDeutsche, Deutsche & Japaner and those who are working on Typostammtisch. However, judging by tomorrow, our guys now show a quite high level of works as well.

What role does typography play in your work? How do you work with type, what do you base on?

If it’s branding, I proceed from associations, research on what the brand is associated with. Typography for me is 80% of success. It is particularly true when it comes to websites. If it’s my work for the Instagram, the main thing is associations as well. For my Insta I often design the letters myself. I don’t know what this kind of typefaces is called — smooth form, yet with sharp angles. I have not seen that among chargeable or free fonts.

Do you design in a special font software or using a graphics editor?

First I draw a sketch, then bring it to Illustrator. I don’t design an entire typeface, just separate letters, some text. That’s rather lettering.

How did it feel working with our typefaces? Are there any typefaces that you discovered for yourself and would like to use again sometime?

I liked many typefaces, and I will use those anyway. For example, we took Tesseract for one of our most recent Riverstart project. Loos is really great, I would like to work with it again.

Could you tell us about your concept? It seemed like pieces from some imaginary (yet great!) self-development course.

It was actually only in the middle of the month that I realised that I needed a concept. Initially, there wasn’t one. Those are phrases that got lost in my notes, sometimes — quotes from books. Basically, my own Instagram is built upon the very same concept, but my posts are mostly written in English. For me it was a real challenge to create works in Russian: I barely can perceive Cyrillic — I constantly feel that any phrases sound stupid.

Why does it happen this way, what do you think? Do we feel ashamed of using our own language?

Because a phrase in English sounds way more mysterious. And it is targeted at the international audience, unlike Russian letters. Artists doing works in Russian are very smart people, because you have to find something hidden in the phrase, some issue — only then you will be able to engage the viewer.

Judging by likes, our audience was most engaged in the image ‘There is no meaning, but it’s fun’.

That is not the most successful work, I think. For example, the idea of ‘What?’ was most liked among those whom I consider heavyweights, most competent in terms of design, yet it got little likes overall.

Who are those heavyweights? Have you consulted someone?

Yes, I have. I consulted senior designer at Riverstart and several other designers that I am in touch with. We have also talked with our art director a couple of times. And I spoke to Misha Danilov, a very good friend of mine. I’d want young artists and designers to not be afraid of asking for help. I’d want the design community in Russia become more open. We don’t consider ourselves very cool, we all face the same problems in design. And we need to stick together, speak about it and raise these issues in order to increase our professional level — and prices. On a design weekend, nobody talks about their problems. Everyone talks only about how their great projects are, or about their mental health, sometimes. But I would also like to hear about the specific issues in specific cases.

Shouldn’t we perhaps arrange some sort of community for these purposes?

We probably should. But what will it address, what will it do? Clearly, there are great design schools. Bang Bang Education, for instance, — they are very human and open. You’d want to study there, the guys who teach are great. But when a person with a profession-relevant education comes to give a talk and says ‘I am so awesome, I made a cool presentation, look at me, what fancy projects I did. Follow me on Instagram’, I don’t like it.

Anna Baydinger


Mentioned fonts