Artem Militonian: «An artist has to talk about important things»

We talked to a person who was running our Instagram in February 2022 about design competitions, challenges in the field of blockchain technology, and Armenian history

November 10, 2023

The first sentence in your Instagram As some members of our team are living in Russia we have to follow the Russian law. According to the law, every time we post links to Instagram or Facebook we have to mention the fact that these socials belong to Meta, which was recognized as extremist by the Ministry of Justice if the Russian Federation profile says that you are an ‘award-winning designer.’ Why is it important for a designer to participate in competitions and get awards?

I think that if you’re into something, you need to be the best in what you do. Nothing proves this ambition better than awards. Moreover, awards bring practical benefits — making you more recognisable as an artist, and this helps your career. Each time I was awarded it was for the projects on the borderline between design and journalism, such as my longread on the Armenian genocide. If such a project wins a competition, it helps you address a wider audience, tell your story to a larger number of people.

Longread on the Armenian genocide

You’re on the jury of Awwwards. Could you please share what your engagement with the platform looks like?

There are three quite similar platforms: CSS Design Awards, FWA, and Awwwards. At first I was on the jury of CSS Design Awards (it’s the easiest place to be awarded at), then at FWA (where one normally submits technically complicated websites,) and I have been sitting on the jury of Awwwards for a year now. It is the most media-focused platform of those three, they have really well-developed social media pages.

How do websites get evaluated? The jury has access to the projects that have already been initially selected and do not violate ethical standards of the platform. Then we look into the website and score it using different categories — for example, evaluating its home page and animation.

It’s more of a hobby for me, but I have a feeling that, sitting on the jury, one can have an impact on the trends in the industry.

You currently work at a Finland-based on-chain studio, STRGL. Could you please clarify for us what an on-chain studio actually means?

This means that we specialise in designing blockchain projects. Our job is to be the bridge between businesses and users. We seek to make the design of complex products emotional, understandable, attractive, and interesting. For instance, we are now working on a new decentralised social network, a really big and long-term project. I think that we, STRG, are sure to become the world’s biggest and greatest studio doing design for Web3 eb3 is a new stage of the Internet evolution. Web3 is a decentralised Internet, where data is not stored on servers of large companies (as it is on the Web2) and actions of users are recorded on a blockchain.

STRGL: decentralized social network rebranding

What exactly is your idea of design for Web3?

In order to design for Web3, you need to get the idea of this field and understand what problems there are. Clearly, Web3 is the future which is about to arrive pretty soon. But it’s precisely due to the fact that Web3 still lacks designers that the technology has not reached mass scale yet.

If you take any technology, whether it’s computers or the Internet, all of them have not been integrated into the mainstream until the arrival of people who were convinced that design comes first. Therefore it is essential that Web3 embraces those who are seeking to make the technology simpler, clearer, and more usable.

We approach this phase, I believe. For example, starting a crypto wallet used to be a problem, but all you have to do now is to download an app where you can buy cryptocurrency using Apple Pay.

Could you recommend some designers putting their focus on Web3? Are there any?

I feel like it makes sense just to keep an eye on Web3 products and try to identify designers who worked on them. For instance, those who created the Open Sea platform or Rainbow Wallet. It often happens that the very same people were doing some great projects on Web2 as well.

Google Fonts lead operations manager Dave Crossland came up with an idea of distributing fonts as NFT — such as issuing licenses as a limited edition and permitting to resell them. What do you think of that?

All things considered, this licensing story requires a certain new creative approach. I think that’s a really good idea. The NFT technology allows to tokenise pretty much anything, including in the physical world. One can imagine that they have NFT to own an apartment and selling this apartment is as easy as selling, say, a jacket.

And when it comes to digital items, NFTs seem to be an even more logical tool. I’m all for tokenising anything, and we, STRG included, are currently working in this direction — for example, taking part in developing Digital Product Passport Digital Product Passport is a system to be used to record any changes happening to a product on a blockchain. For example, screen replacement on a phone, or changing the lock on a bag. And, overall, NFT is definitely not only about pictures.

11 Digital Product Passport preliminary research teaser

Will all designers eventually switch to working on-chain, is that possible? Will there be any on-chain graphic editors, in your opinion?

Even though I don’t think that it will be developing the way you mentioned, I definitely believe that many things will become on-chain. Basically, I would absolutely recommend any digital designer to be moving towards this direction, as they are very much needed there. Moreover, it’s a great opportunity for designers to make money, since Web3 is mostly all about startups with large investments. So far the entire industry has been made up of technogeeks and finance people who know nothing about the Design First approach, but I hope that’s about to change soon.

Why do most Web3 projects use sans serif type? Is there any future for serif typefaces in the blockchain field?

Things are cyclical in this world, but we rather move in a spiral than run in circles. We are moving forward with regard to certain approaches from the past. For example, when the first smartphones with a good camera arrived, it became popular to make smooth videos, 60 fps. Nearly all the phones in the world can do that now, but the shaky camera image is getting back on screens. Why is it not a setback, but the way forward? Because back then this solution resulted from the lack of technologies, and now we have those technologies, but this is the way people choose to film, and modern shaky camera videos look entirely different.

So, yes, I think serif type has a future.

What typefaces from our library did you find the best to work with?

I really liked Norbert, and Druk, of course, — it’s a classic. It is safe to say that this typeface paired with Atlas actually did most of the work in one of my Readymag longreads. As a matter of fact, we are really lucky to have some of’s fonts available on Readymag.

You quote Dieter Rams and Immanuel Kant in your statement on the website. Are there any modern philosophers whose ideas on design you can relate to?

I think that philosophers and designers (including Dieter Rams) just articulate the ideas that were there before them and will be there after them. Ultimately, we all just explore people, as it’s people we create our designs for. When it comes to our contemporaries, I like Stas Aki, product designer with Readymag. He has recently posted an essay on what values lie at the heart of Readymag, and that’s the key ideas of Dieter Rams that are built into the Human Computer Interaction concept by Jeff Raskin.

I would also mention Armenian designer Mane Tatulyan. She has a PhD in philosophy and often addresses aesthetic issues. In her articles, she shares the lists of literature which might be useful for a designer to read.

Essay on Readymag’s design principles

Our month our Instagram was initially supposed to address Armenian culture and notable Armenians, then the topic was suddenly changed to reflecting on the news. Do you believe that a designer can live and work without addressing the agenda?

I consider myself an artist and I believe that a true artist needs to make statements and react to what is happening. If you are a real artist, you have to talk about important things.

For me it’s not just the global events, but Armenian history, too. It is important for me to tell people the story of this country — many people know nothing about it. It’s a shame that Europeans, who are mostly Christians, don’t know where the first ever Christian country is, a country whose capital is older than Rome. They don’t know the place where scientists who invented, for example, ATM, MRI, colour TV, come from. I therefore hope that my projects could be a step forward towards the day when one can say that they’re from Armenia and people won’t confuse it with Romania.

Longread about the Armenians who changed the world

Do you follow any Armenia-based studios or designers?

Even though one’s visual experience is really important, I rather follow the trends and attitudes, works, than any particular designers. However, speaking of Armenians, I would once again mention Mane Tatulyan. I consider her one of the best representatives of the Armenian design school. I would also like to mention my friend Enni Hovsepyan whom I currently work on a big Artsakh-themed project with.

May I ask what this project actually is?

In September 2023, over 100,000 people had to escape Artsakh (also known as Nagorno-Karabakh) after Azerbaijani military offensive. This is a great tragedy, but it went unnoticed against a background of other (equally significant) global developments. Yet it is extremely important to remember about it so that such events as the Armenian genocide won’t ever happen again. We work on this project in a small team. Me and my friend Enni Hovsepyan are in charge of design — the project would have been impossible without her. The editor-in-chief is Rita Mkrtchian, head of the Armenian Museum of Moscow. Berlin-based journalist Manvel Asratian also handles texts and fact checking. At different stages of addressing this content, we have also been assisted by our journalist friends from The New York Times, as well as Red Cross employees.

We try to make this project both visually interesting and as neutral as possible, purely based on verified facts. It’s a lot of work, yet we hope to publish our longread this year.

Artem Militonian


Mentioned fonts