Anton Synytsia: “Everything else just disappears, you’re just doing it”

Our instagrammer this May talks his graffiti background, music and design, and how a personal style emerges

October 15, 2020

Anton, judging by your Behance page (and your month with our Instagram), you are into music.

I am. At some point, when I found a job in the design field that I liked, I decided I wanted to develop the underground scene in my hometown, city of Ternopil, and started organizing parties: techno, house, different kinds of electronic music. We already had a community of DJs and musicians, and I figured I should try doing something on my own, bigger and not tied to any locations. We began bringing DJs to Ternopil, mostly from Western Ukraine or Kyiv. During the last year or two one of my friends and I we’ve been doing a series of parties in Lviv called Moral. The concept is that you have a mixed line-up, each DJ plays his own music, vinyl or digital, plus one of our residents plays lives; other guys write music as well. Now everything stopped because of the pandemic; I don’t know when we’re getting back to normal.


Posters for Moral

Do you act as a designer, or as a promoter?

From the very beginning I acted as an organiser, a designer, and I also played music as a DJ. That’s my hobby, but it gives me a reason to do different things, such as figuring out cool pictures, develop myself as a designer. Even though I’ve been doing design for a long time now, — I started playing with clipart in the ninth grade, making things like clothes prints, but eventually I ended up in graphic design. I began receiving commissions for events; foreign customers came to me asking for covers for their releases. All this defined my area in design — a mixture of grunge, futurism, anime posters combined with the 1980s and the 1990s, even though all this has been changing over the years. On’s Instagram I mixed various styles and genres, trying to show such a symbiosis where all those are getting mixed and there’s no limits or borders anymore.

Did you study graphic design?

I didn’t. Although, I studied at an art school, and I started doing design while studying. I began getting my first small commissions since my freshman year. I designed posters and logos for glamorous clubs, weird ones if you ask me now — I did all I could for getting money and experience.

So, please tell us where and how did you learn to handle type so bravely, easily and brazenly?

It is my graffiti background, actually, which I’ve been doing since twelve years, I think. I wouldn’t say I did great stuff, but it made me start to get interested in type and art in general.

How does one shift from graffiti to digital? Those are two very different skills.

At some point I started wanting to reproduce it in digital. Over the years I gained experience, — in fact, here everything is down to how much you’ve seen. As of layouts and typography, I obtained more skills thanks to working at Other Land, a Kyiv-based studio.

What else do you do as a designer, apart from parties?

Until the end of last year, I worked at Other Land, where it was more about commercial projects. You can see some of those commercial commissions on my Behance. Yet I have a special commercial portfolio that I show only to my clients, — there are both big visual identity projects and the projects that can’t be revealed to the public. In parallel I was constantly working on parties which I classify as more of a design art — after all, it is not something that you can raise money with and have a great life. But I’m pushing exactly this genre in the first place. which is more of an underground, as for me it is a more interesting thing to do. Half of my portfolio lately is about my own art projects. One of my latest projects was a release for this girl from Kyiv, I made a cover for her EP and also some merch. Sometimes I make posters for parties, like for these guys from Odesa, from Kyiv. Occasionally it translates into more long-term projects where we’re collaborating for several months, while the events are happening.


Zlo EP cover for Toochia (2019)


Fervent Gum tape EP cover for Lithe (2017)


Stamps for Another Country, a virtual state (2016)

Are your art projects related to music and parties as well?

No, they are more about some social issues and my personal feelings, that is just my thoughts and emotions brought outside. Sometimes I just wanna do something that is not linked to any requests of a client. In this kind of work I address design as visual art, trying not to limit myself.

Where can we see the results?

It’s mostly on Instagram, as I believe today it is the most significant platform for expressing yourself. As for Behance, I had maybe ten clients who approached me there, and half of them disappeared after. Plus my website. But the main focus is on Instagram.

Are you following type foundries?

On Instagram yes, I do follow plenty of type accounts. Yet it is more about nasmotrennost (cumulative visual experience — translator’s note) that eventually brings you the results in process. I’m trying not to fixate on visual research and references. I don’t obsess about this idea that for each project you need to gather a super moodboard of, like, five hundred images. Although I do have a certain amount of pictures I saved on, the pictures that I liked, but it is rather about sharing my aesthetic preferences.

Music was having a great impact on design in the 60s, and in the disco era, and in the 90s, too. I’d like to know what is happening in this field today, as from here it looks like that’s a certain mix of all things.

Yes, that’s what it is. That’s why when I start making pictures, I have no strict references — instead I just use the things in graphic design which I like the most. I don’t set framework for myself: “You can do it here, but you can’t do that, ‘cause it doesn’t fit in this style”. These days, there are no more limitations that would have set the strictest definition — which does fit here, and nowhere else. Today those limitations are not stylistical; it is now about key emotional moments which create a necessary visual image, and this image will translate this very vibe your event or musical album must have. Plus, when I do projects that have something to do with music I’m trying to embrace this music. Which is exactly what happened with For every image I created I did research, but musical one — from the roots of the genre to the present day. I had to process it through myself and come up with my own visual emotion.

That is, your research on our Instagram, that is rather emotional than historical?

No, there is history after all, but it is a combination of all periods when the genre was trending. For example, if you take hip hop, now there are no rules or limitations when it comes to a hip hop album cover. It can be very old school, with worn typefaces, but it also can be very neat, digital, 3D.

Could you please tell us about your approach. Where did you get visual references for a music genre that you handle?

I can’t say that about all of my pictures, but I tried to hold on to a certain time frame — which correspond to the years when those genres were popular. Take New Beat — it can be immediately identified as the 1980s, — but I was seeking to reflect the vibe of this music. For J-Core, a Japanese genre of music, I used certain anime elements to reflect the fact that it is Japanese. I’ve been generating an idea, and the text doesn’t always literally correspond to the image in terms of time.

Okay, let’s talk about our typefaces. When we invited you to our collection, were you already familiar with it, or everything was new for you?

I’ve been watching for quite some time and I am familiar with your releases. Yes, I did like the collection. The moment I started getting to know it, I thought that there were lots of typefaces and it would be difficult to deal with all of them and intersect it with music at the same time. But it actually was very smooth in the process and worked out great, if you ask me.

Did you find new typefaces for yourself that you are now going to use?

I chose a couple of typefaces, although it will depend on a project whether I’m going to see them or not, especially if we’re talking about commercial stuff.

Which typefaces did you like?

Frankly, it is hard to name one, two, or three typefaces, as I simply enjoyed in the process the way many of them worked with the picture and crossed paths with each other in the layout. Let’s say, Karloff Neutral and the entire Karloff family. Рarmigiano, also the whole family. Menoe. Graphik. Druk, but now we already see it in many places, and it is used in plenty of cool projects. I liked Stratos. Kazimir is great, too.

You had to come up with a picture a day, how did you manage to?

I had absolutely no problems with working this way and creating funky content, probably because this whole story is exactly what I like about design. That was some sort of fast flow: the result had to be more or less good, — and I also needed to demonstrate the diversity of the collection and tie it to music. It didn’t occur that with a certain typeface I just wasn’t able to fit in somewhere. I figured in advance where I could put them, what typefaces are good and where they are good, but I don’t think I could explain the algorithm — in most cases it is all about the feeling, I just have a feeling that it would work there.

On your Behance page, you have plenty of things, very dense and very different. Do you work fast, Anton?

It depends. If we’re talking about the projects I relate to, I work fast. As for commercial projects, everything depends on the amount of work. Though, sometimes clients approach me with a deadline ‘due yesterday’, and in such case I need to generate something super quickly. At times in a fit of enthusiasm I create something good in a matter of hours. Large projects are better done with a team, so my job at OtherLand was a nice experience for improving my team skills. But the important thing is not to tire yourself out, otherwise you’ll have a burnout and won’t be able to work for next week or two. When I am working on a big project for a long while, I do some things in two or three hours, just to distract myself, later finalize and publish it.

How important is it today for a designer as an artist and a researcher rather than as a realizer of commercial jobs to hold on to his own style?

When I started out, I had a goal to develop my own recognizable style, for it to be some sort of trademark. But these days it is very difficult to distinguish yourself from others this way. Perhaps, there are designers with recognizable, distinctive styles, but it is the case when you’ve been knowing them for a very long time, keeping an eye on them, and you can easily read off their tricks. And here this artistic approach is highly important — when the images are coming exactly from you and no one else, when you’re engaged in a dialogue with your audience, trying to translate certain social or emotional moments which could be relatable for other people, too, those who felt something like that. It is precisely in such works that you can show your skills and express your style. It happens as a flow, or even certain meditation: everything else just disappears, you’re just doing it.

Yet do you think it’s possible that in a hundred years someone will find your poster and say ‘Oh yeah, that’s Ukranian underground design from 2020’?

No. Today you can’t know in what country it was created. As I already mentioned, I have a mix of various styles that originate from different countries, and you can’t attribute it to a certain genre. Type designers from Ukraine who had worked during the Soviet times, they had their own authenticity, and it was recognizable. Today we don’t have things like that, and it would be hard for me to identify what the Ukranian design is. There are shapes, patterns, figures, images originating from this culture, but there is no such trick that you reproduce in design and everyone immediately understands that it comes from Ukraine.

Do you have a designer community? Someone close to you?

We have many great guys in Ukraine, from different cities, but most of them are currently based in Kyiv. Like, the very same Jugoceania and lots of other cool guys: Looch, Orchidea, CREVV, Kyiv Type Foundry, Stanislav, Masha, Vlad.

What is design and type today, what do you think? Where is it going?

I wouldn’t say it will be super beautiful or where it is going, that’s kind of hard. I believe that’s rather a story about doing things a bit differently, going against the rules. However, these days it’s not easy to make something super unusual and unreal. Though, it is obvious that we now have a great focus on 3D and how it all gets mixed with graphics. I mean, if you look at all this, you’ll see that all those things we had in the very same 1980s-90s, we still have them around us. It’s just that visual trends are slightly different, — those that make us recreate them in a different manner and present the image in a slightly different way.

Anton Synytsia

Mentioned fonts