Petr Rubáček: With us, the client ceases to be merely the assigner of a brief and instead becomes a co-creator
INTERVIEW / 22 March 2016 / Darja Jochimová, www.startitup.cz
Petr Rubáček studies graphic design at the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen. He has worked as a graphic designer at Designpoint and as an art director at the RTB Media advertising agency. He is a co-founder of Mladý Ateliér, an independent student studio operating at the Ladislav Sutnar Faculty of Design and Art, University of West Bohemia in Pilsen, and of the creative studio REMEMBERSHIP_, which in addition to graphic design also focuses on visual identity and branding. At the Colours of Ostrava festival in 2012, Petr exhibited large-format pictures as part of the authored exhibition “A different view”. He also does work for the non-profit sector.
Hi Petr. To begin with, tell us a little about the REMEMBERSHIP_ agency. Why did you guys found it and how does it differ from other graphic design agencies on the Czech market?
We established REMEMBERSHIP_ in April 2013, so this year we’re celebrating three years, which according to many matadors in the field is more than half way to the point when you can say you’ve survived the beginning. This horrifying information was given to us by Tomáš Hrivnák, but I’m convinced that we’ll manage, and that someday we’ll be able to go have coffee with Tomáš.
REMEMBERSHIP_ is more of a studio than an agency. Generally, we specialise in graphic design from print, to online, to creative campaigns, but most of all, we want to focus on branding using Human-Centered Design. We like to partner with brands and to enter their organisations as a micro-team which they hire and which is theirs — not as suppliers. In so doing, we want to distinguish ourselves from the rest — especially from agencies, which are not nearly as agile as we are.
At present, there are four of us, and to a greater or lesser extent all four of us are co-founders. This is our dream day and night — often literally. My dream is to take REMEMBERSHIP_ abroad and thus to enable the team to work from Prague or from another super city. It’s a dream because it’s something I’d like to give to my current team as well as to the new talented people whom we want to take care of, work with and help move forward. Working all the time in one office or in one city is boring, and money isn’t the only consideration.
You use the process of Human-Centered Design, which is a creative way to approach a brief according to the client’s requirements, and which culminates in a new made-to-order solution. How does this process work and what does it offer for each side?
This process sets the client and the studio or agency on the same level, alongside one another. The client thus ceases to be merely the assigner of a brief and instead becomes a co-creator.
What should I understand that to mean? Let’s say I’m a client who wants something and comes to you. What happens next?
We’ll explain how we work at REMEMBERSHIP_ and what’s important to us, and we’ll elicit the same information from the client. If our values and convictions coincide, then we’ll want to collaborate and become part of the client’s team. We invite the client’s current team to an introductory workshop on group dynamics & jobs, pains and gains. The aim of this workshop is to break down the client-versus-supplier relationship, and in so doing to create a single team that will work together and where everyone trusts one another. Next, using the very rapid method of jobs, pains & gains, we determine what the product or service does, what its benefits are, and where the problems lie.
We end the workshop with a so-called focus question, where instead of briefs or the client’s wishes we identify what problem the client really needs to solve, and then we try and solve it. So instead of pretty pictures we try to resolve a problem or satisfy a need. This kind of work makes sense to us.
This is followed by the creative process, where we try to iterate the work as much as possible in regular cycles, in order to come up with possible solutions very quickly and to create a final concept together.
You were behind the establishment of Mladý Ateliér, which is an independent student studio at the university in Pilsen. Describe for us how Mladý Ateliér works.
That’s right. I co-founded Mladý Ateliér with twenty of my classmates, and for me personally it’s the best and most important thing I’ve ever done as a student. Unfortunately, this has also meant diverging a little from the path of a model student, or actually of a student at all, but I probably never aspired to that anyway. I don’t regret any of the meetings or the time that I’ve devoted to Mladý Ateliér at the expense of school, because school is full of students and to me it makes the most sense to do something for them — not just for myself and my degree.
Mladý Ateliér has changed a lot over time. At one point, there were thirty of us and at another point just two, and this has greatly influenced how Mladý Ateliér has functioned. But the aim is clear and immutable, and I don’t plan to give it up. Mladý Ateliér seeks to build an environment at schools that goes beyond the bounds of the studio where a particular student is studying. A micro-team is formed for every project, and every student has the opportunity to try out the various positions that he or she will encounter later as a graduate. Thus, a student in graphic design can try to lead a project or a team in the same manner as they can develop in their main field. Mladý Ateliér is open to all interested students, and the reward for that is the opportunity to participate in workshops with wonderful people who have never refused us. Briefly, these are Nomad Design, with whom we founded MA, my mentor, Marvan Shamma, as well as Petr Bechyně, Štěpán Prokop, Lukáš Pitter, Martin Charvát, Jirka Sekera, Pavlína Louženská and others.
A big thank you is of course also due to the school’s management, which support MA. I think everyone should be aware of this, because without the support of “adults” a young person’s path is very complicated, and in my view unnecessarily so, because it’s the responsibility of everyone who starts working to then help young people in their own field.
What about education at universities? Do you think the concept of Mladý Ateliér will catch on at other schools? What do you think is lacking most in the current education system?
Similar projects exist at some universities. Czech schools are full of excited and talented students, but unfortunately also those who don’t yet know that this is how they should be as well, because they’re the only ones who can influence the kind of life they’re going to lead. As soon as we manage to take REMEMBERSHIP_ to the next level, I’d like to focus on surveying how things are working at schools whick don’t yet have any projects of this type and to help them get started.
Society’s greatest potential lies in young people, and this is why we have to focus on them. And not only on the active and enthusiastic ones, but also on those who have not yet expressed much interest. It’s a pity to lose any talented person.
In my opinion, the Czech education system lacks a sustainable ecosystem. Professionals should devote themselves most of all to university students, university students to secondary school students, and secondary school students to primary school students. This is the cycle of life as a person grows up, matures and ages, and this is also a sensible system for education that a lot of work should be put into. At Mladý Ateliér, we tried this out when the older students helped the younger ones, and I’d be very glad to have the opportunity to further develop this idea in future.
At REMEMBERSHIP_, you collaborate with Konektor. How do you perceive the connection between you and the people at Konektor, who are considered the best experts in the field?
Konektor is the only agency that we’ve stuck with for an extended period of time. We’re very grateful for this, because they’re great people. Konektor’s creative director, Martin Charvát, drew our lot. He decided to give us a chance, and this has led to two years of collaboration on concepts for national brands as well as for their own projects, such as “Thanks, Coach”.
Konekor thus ranks among our most valuable assets — a group of mentors and friends who help us to be great and to learn new things. They pass on their experience to us, and they didn’t even hesitate to get involved in a project with us at our invitation. It’s crazy when you go to people who are among the best in their field in the Czech Republic and you say “Hey, let’s do this together” and they say “Sure, let’s do it.”
Thanks to Konektor, we’ve learned a lot about advertising. In future, I’d like to take what not only Konektor but all the other experts and our mentors and patrons have given us, and give it back to young people — one day to give back the same support that we’ve received. If I had to name them all, I’d exceed the allotted time for an interview several times over and would probably never get invited anywhere again, but I have to mention Martin Charvát. As one of the best mentors and friends that we have in our inner circle, he deserves to be here with us too.
You will pass on your experience through Mladý Ateliér or in some other way? How?
Mladý Ateliér is my baby, and even though I’ve now been forced to put it on the back burner — just like my studies — I’ll do everything in my power to get back to it as soon as possible. If I have another dream, then it’s to help young people and to return the help I’ve received. I’m convinced that it’s good to have some kind of tool for this, and that’s what Mladý Ateliér is. In future, I’d like to build an ecosystem of education and development that would take full advantage of young people’s untapped talent — not only that of the active ones but especially that of the less active ones — and help them out as well.