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Sanja Čežek

Designer and Art Director

Sanja Čežek is a multi-disciplinary designer and art director, covering various fields of the art industry. Currently, she is focused on mastering the art of brand building and positioning. She spends a lot of time focused on the studio she co-founded Fuchs+Dachs. The studio's most recent project is a hand-made interior figure collection. She has won several awards in the Print and Branding category and had her work exhibited and published by some of the world's most known branches. She currently lives and works in Prague, Czech Republic.

Tell me about what you do?

I’m into way too many things at the moment! Currently, I’m focused on the studio called Fuchs+Dachs that Dušan - my husband and I are running, we are co-owners in it. We started the studio in Austria, the whole idea was born because we wanted to do stuff that we didn’t usually get to do in advertising. Advertising is all about making clients satisfied and that’s business and a way to earn money but it’s not as creative as we would like to be sometimes. We started it as a character design studio - we are both very much into characters - character designs for apps and games. Now we cover almost anything within graphic design, illustration, and web design.

Recently I’ve also gotten into fashion, from the point of designer and art director. I’m coordinating a few projects where I can help fashion brands determine how they should communicate visually and strategically. This is a new field for me that I want to explore more.

I like to write as well. I run a fashion blog, it’s kind of different. It’s not me dressing up and shooting myself like most fashion bloggers do. Instead, I find editorials that I like and I point out what I like and why I like it and what I would do with it. It’s called Snobby Amish and it’s kind of fun because I didn’t find anything similar to it.

In addition to your studio and side-projects, you also work full-time. What type of work are you doing there?

I’m an art director at a creative agency called Kitchen, and there we do mostly web design and development. It’s very fun, I’m really enjoying it because I’ve never done web design before and it’s a challenge. There we work for bigger clients which can be fun but also sometimes draining.

You seem quite multi-disciplinary when it comes to design. I’m curious to know where you got started and how you ended up working in so many different areas?

Sincerely I have no idea. Most of my jobs came from Behance. I have a lot of different work that I do on the side that I don’t put on my Behance because it’s not something I want to do again. It’s not that I don’t think it’s good or that I don’t like it but if it’s not something I want to do again I don’t put it in my portfolio.

If there is a field that I’m interested in getting into, I come up with a project on my own that will let me experiment in that field. That was the case with my project Chromosome, it’s a fashion book. I really wanted to get into doing the art direction of an entire project to see how much I could do, and I just did it. That’s been the key, when I want to get jobs in a certain area of design I do something for myself and add it to my portfolio. That’s really how I got started.

So you started your studio with your husband?

Yes. Dušan has been in advertising for a really long time, over 10 years. I approach art and design with emotions and he approaches with logic, so we fused really well. I go by heart, I’ll design a character because I’m excited about it and he’ll say “yes okay, but this character has to have something that will sell it and something that people would want to buy and use.” He’s very much the business side of it.

We decided to create a studio together just a few months after we met and we came up with the name . Dušan is the Creative Director and maintains the tone that we communicate with and we both focus a lot on the character designs.

Then Nikola Marković joined our team as our sculptor, he’s a really great guy. He receives all the drawings from us and he starts creating the figures.

We’ve been running the studio for the last 2 years but doing these figurines has been our first big project. It’s been a project fueled by love for the last year or so, it’s really nice to see people reacting to it so well. Behance showcased us on their main page and we had a lot of pre-orders so we’re really excited.

What do you find the most rewarding about the work that you do?

The most rewarding thing about it is just this feeling that I can live from what I love. I was very lucky that during University I was able to get a few jobs, I started getting some awards and I wasn’t really expecting that. I’ve always worked on fun things. I mean I had good jobs and bad jobs, but working with some bad clients that’s where I learned the best lessons.

I can sit on my bed and draw all day - something that makes me very happy - and being able to make money doing that makes me twice as happy.

What do you find the most challenging?

The most challenging thing is when I take on a new project sometimes I get nervous that I’m entering someone else’s domain. Where they are a professional and I’m not. So at the beginning of a project I have this goal to achieve something that is higher than mediocre.

For me I can’t stand working on something that I can’t understand, so I spend nights and days researching to get to know new topics better. It’s challenging for me to know at that point in time though, that I’m not the professional, as I am in some fields already.

What's the structure of a typical day like for you?

Currently it’s very bad. We just moved to a new country and there was this adaptation moment.

I love mornings, I think that’s the most productive time for me. I have some coffee and I send emails and files that I prepared the night before. I don’t like writing email at night because either I’m rude or very sleepy so I leave that until the morning. Then I go to work at Kitchen and after that I head home and walk my dog.

After that I look at what is on the table at the moment out of all the projects I have going. It’s either design or focusing on art direction and which way a project should be going.

The structure I’m going by right now is that if I did design all day then I spend that evening focusing on strategizing a project’s direction or writing. I try to maintain this balance of not designing all day or not writing all day. It helps me to not burn out on one thing.

What are some of your favourite tools you work with on a regular basis?

Notebook - This takes the first spot. I forget stuff and so I have to write everything down. Every night I write down everything that I need to do the next day.

Photoshop - I don’t even call this a tool, this is like my everyday friend.

Pages - I use this for all my writing.

Pencil and Sketchbook - For drawing and sketching ideas out.

How do you stay up to date with trends in your industry?

It’s normal that eventually as you get older and more experienced as a designer you’ll sort of stop doing trendy things but it’s still important to follow trends.

It’s very important at any stage of design or art directing to stay on top of the trends. I usually do this as soon as I come into work. I have this ritual for the first hour I will look at all the regular awards sites to see the Site of the Day. Usually I do this with my colleagues and we can discuss it together and give our opinions.

What is the greatest piece of career advice you've ever received?

A lot of the best advice I’ve received is from my father. He always said: “When you come to work, close the door. We all have problems but when you come to work close that private door and open the business door.”

Another one is that you can always express your emotions in a nice manner. Whatever the emotions are. I find that really crucial in every job - it’s really important to stay calm and not be judgemental.

When I was a kid I was always so anxious and always wanting to get things done so fast. That would get me into trouble with people because I would be very pushy and no body wants to work with a pushy person. I had to learn to calm down and say what I need to say in a calm way.

Why do you do what you do? What makes everything worth it for you?

It’s going to sound very corny but I compare it very much to love. You know, why do you need to love someone? I’m not a person that is chasing money, I assume people can see that from my portfolio. If I was I’d do a lot more commercial work that really sells.

Is it stupid to say that I have this mini-orgasm every time I finish a project? Please don’t write that… [laughs], but I do, I have this mini professional orgasm every time it’s done the way I wanted it to be done. It’s corny but why do we love? We love because we need love. I need to express myself.

Who would you want to see on Ways We Work?

Ana Rajčević