In Interview with Darko Kriznik – Design Expert

In Interview with Darko Kriznik – Design Expert

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Hi Darko, today we would like you to give our community a glimpse into your work as professional graphic designer with almost 20 years of experience in the design and printing industry.

Happy to have you here.

Maybe at first, can you give us a short introduction about you?

Darko: My name is Darko and I’m a professional graphic designer with almost 20 years of experience in the design and printing industry. I specialize in logo design and visual branding but I am also well versed in a wide range of print and digital graphic design services.

What have you done before you become an expert?

Darko: I worked as a designer and print operator in a small local digital printing business for more than 15 years. I learned a lot about the printing process and how to create and apply design solutions in different environments. I worked as a designer and print operator at the same time, which gave me valuable insight into all the mechanisms that make design stand out and work in all conditions and different environments.

How did you become a design expert and what is your expertise?

Darko: I think of myself more as an experienced or seasoned designer rather than an expert, but I guess at 41 (yikes!) and a lot of experience under my belt I could pass as an “expert” 🙂 My expertise is logo design and visual branding.

Back when I was working in the local printing business I reached a level where I wasn’t really able to learn anything new or get an actual promotion so I started thinking about what I could do to learn new skills and level up in my career. Logo design and branding was a logical choice as that was something I really liked working on and it felt natural. I stumbled upon 99designs, a platform that runs design contests for clients, and I actually won the very first contest I entered! Beginner’s luck, of course, but a real eye-opener, too so I decided to give it a go.

For the next year or so I entered numerous contests (and won a few, lol) and even met clients I still work with today! One thing led to another and I soon had real clients from all over the world and started working on interesting projects that helped me really hone my skills and switch to a professional career as a full-time self employed Sole Proprietor.

To get even deeper: What makes you unique as a professional?

Darko: I come from an alternative/activist background deeply rooted in the DIY/punk rock ethic and culture. I am also a musician, I play bass and guitar and I used to play in a couple of local punk and metal bands 20-odd years ago. I also used to write songs and lyrics for my bands and projects, poetry and short Sci-Fi stories. After I stopped actively playing, I got a job in the creative industry and that was a logical step for me. So, all my life I was involved in some kind of creative work and I believe all these experiences and ethics combined make me unique. The other thing that makes me unique, is that 90% of my clients are women entrepreneurs from all over the world. I never planned this, it just happened that way and at first I didn’t actually pay a lot of attention to the fact, but the longer I worked as a freelance professional the more female clients I had. Some of these business relationships started more than 5 years ago – like the one with Lisa from Ever Better Coaching and Consulting or Samantha from OMG web development and design, which I think is amazing and am really thankful for that.

Sounds awesome. So, why do you like to work in the field of design and what inspires you?

Darko: I love the creativity. Sometimes even the simplest tasks require some kind of problem solving and finding creative solutions is what makes me tick. I find inspiration in all these small challenges that keep my brain going and test my skills every single day. It’s relatively easy to stay self-motivated when you work on something you really love. I could never work another boring 9-5 job again!

With your background, what else are you passionate about outside of work?

Darko: Music! Mountains! Star Trek!

I also run a couple of side projects whenever I have the time. I create motion graphics called cinemagraphs, which are sold as stock video clips and can be used in a variety of online marketing and business projects. The project is called Creative Cinemagraphs and you can check it out here: or shop here:

I also just started a clothing store Made To Pop! which is based on a series of quirky and funny artworks I create when I’m feeling bored or just randomly inspired. 🙂 This is currently on hold due to the pandemic but you can check it out here: or shop here:

How do you motivate yourself in weak moments? Do you have a personal mantra that helps you to become the best version of yourself?

Darko: I don’t have a particular personal mantra, it’s the actual mindset that really keeps me going. I think proactively and try to keep a positive mental attitude and clear focus. You have to embrace the weak moments and filter out the negativity without forcing yourself into working when you’re not really feeling creative or when you are stressed out. If I get depressed thinking about, say, the Corona virus crisis, I think about what I can do today to help myself tomorrow. Giving up is not an option for me and I just say to myself “Keep pushing, keep pushing” so I guess that could count as sort of a personal mantra.

Let’s learn a bit about your work. What type of projects have you worked on and what is the project you are most proud of?

Darko: I worked on diverse projects with many interesting and innovative start-ups, businesses and agencies. I created over 50 logos, worked with an innovative tattoo removal start-up, worked with digital marketing agencies, coaches, fashion designer start-up, financial sector, real estate, TV, music and media individuals and companies, technology start-ups and many, many more. 🙂

I can’t choose a particular favorite but there was a very interesting project that I worked on for more than 2 years that included building an innovative tattoo removal brand from the ground up – it was a team effort within the agency I work with and we were responsible for creating the name and the vision for this company. We created visual branding for the company, product design, web and digital design, lots of print materials and basically built the whole brand. It was a great experience with all the ups and downs one might expect and I learned a lot from that.

Another project I’m proud of is for a friend who is an actor and a musician. In December 2019 he released five (that’s right, 5!) albums simultaneously, and I was the creative director for all of them. I created original illustrations and covers for 2 albums and did graphic design for all 5 records.

What does your dream project look like?

Darko: Pink! Over the top! Carte blanche! Unlimited budget! 🙂

Did you have any step-backs in your career? How did you overcome them?

Darko: I had a couple of step-backs, of course, and that’s perfectly normal. You always have to expect the unexpected and try to prepare yourself for tough times the best you can. For instance, there will always be dry spells so I try to keep my finances balanced and always have a safety net and savings fund. Sometimes you lose a client and have to do a lot of hustling to find a new one or there can be problems with payments so always sign a contract before you do any work. There is a solution to every problem and you have to remember that it’s all about the ride, not necessarily the outcome. You learn the most from mistakes and tough times so don’t be afraid of step-backs because even though it doesn’t look that way when you’re going through them, they will help you and strengthen you in the end.

What tools do you use regularly?

Darko: I have been a Serif Affinity supporter for quite some time now and I’m totally in love with their trinity of creative products: Designer, Photo and Publisher. Amazing software which improved my workflow on so many levels!

I’m also a CorelDraw expert, I’ve been using it for over 20 years now. I don’t use it as much today as I used to, but it’s still an important piece of software in my work, especially when it comes to printing. I also use Corel’s Video Studio Pro which is great for video editing.

I like to try new software whenever I get a chance and I really like Krita and ArtRage for painting and Figma for web/UI design.

Oh, and there’s my everyday companion Toggl, which is a time-tracking and reporting app.

What are your career goals?

Darko: I have to admit I’m pretty much at a stage in my career where I wanted to be, and that’s the freedom to work on my own terms and grow personally and professionally, be independent and have a good work-life balance. I set these goals sometime in 2012. and achieved them in 2017. when I started my own business. When I set that 5-year plan in 2012. everything kind of aligned and all the doors opened and led to the moment where I am now. I didn’t set any new 5-year plans since then because that was a big change and I wanted to see how it would all work out. Maybe it’s time to set new goals? For now I think it’s just self-development and steps that would get me in the position where I would be able to maintain a steady workflow. So basically job security and sustainability are my primary goals for now. I’m also thinking about mentoring and teaching at some point in the next 5-10 years, and supporting talented young designers and especially innovators through funding and coaching.

What was the funniest / unusual moment in your career?

Darko: I created my logo when I was starting my business and it’s a unicorn-knight chess piece. The day I started working as a Sole Proprietor, I threw a small party for a couple of closest friends and they all made paper horns and put them on their heads and pretended to be unicorns. I don’t think I even need to mention how funny and actually pretty emotional that was. 🙂

Which three steps / ways do you think lead to success?

Darko: Passion. Creativity. Perseverance.

What is your favorite motto?

Darko: I could go on for hours about how less is more. 🙂

Thanks so much for your time, Darko. We wish you good luck with your upcoming design projects, but before I’ll let you be creative again:

Do you have any tips / recommendations for the next generation of remote-workers?

Darko: Have the courage to follow your passion. Be creative, resourceful and persistent in achieving your goals. Be open to new ideas. Say yes more. Stay positive. Be grateful. And always remember to enjoy the ride! It’s an amazing adventure with many ups and downs but it is also rewarding and fulfilling.

Learn more about Darko on his ExpertMap Profile

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