interview with poster designer peter bankov
All photo credits to Peter Bankov
ico-D interviewed Peter Bankov, our long-time collaborator and creator of our World Design Day posters from 2016-2020 on the occasion of WDD:2020: Be professional! We love Peter's strong graphic collages, his out-of-the-box style—poster designs that defy categorisation.
Translated from Russian by ico-D Visual Communication Officer Alexey Lazarev, we hear the voice behind the designer, getting a snapshot of Russian-born Czech-based designer Peter Bankov's playful attitude towards his work and his design experiments, who his role model is, and why he stands by a "go with the flow" way of designing:
ico-D: You have been involved in Icograda/ico-D (through WDD but also previously) for many years, what was your original connection to the International Council fo Design? Why do you think it is important to have an international body? What have your personal experiences been?
Peter: I've known about Icograda/ico-D for over 20 years. Initially I became inspired by seeing how proud people involved in this organisation were and decided to take part in their projects as well. Icograda, and now, ico-D, is like a symbol of quality, a measure similar to one applied to precious metals. Also, it feels great to know that you're not alone out there «exploring the space».
Peter Bankov's World Design Day 2020: Be Professional! poster design
Peter Bankov's studio in the Czech Republic
ico-D: You are based in both Russia and the Czech Republic; what would you say are the challenges that designers face in each of these environments? Are designers taken seriously in your estimate?
Peter: I’ve been living in the Czech Republic for 10 years. It’s hard to talk about the difficulties designers face because I don’t think I have that many. Maybe because I’m always busy working? To me, design is like meditation. If I’m getting commercial projects—I’m happy to work on these projects. When I don’t work on commercial projects—I conduct my own design experiments. I work on paper, which is a very forgiving surface, it can take anything. I think that my brushes have respect for my India ink… Kids may think that I’m the city’s crazy person. Everyone is having fun.
Peter was generous enough to provide ico-D with several options for the poster design of WDD2020, including these iterations:
ico-D: You have a very particular style that makes your work quite recognisable, how did you develop this way of working? Can you tell us something of your professional background and the things that have influenced you?
Peter: My father, a Belorussian painter, had the most influence on me. He used to design heavy machinery. For example, he was part of team developing a ‘Belorussia’ brand of tractors which are currently very popular in Africa. Then suddenly, he stopped working on commercial design projects and became a painter. My father is my role model when it comes to courage, creativity and how to not be afraid to live in poverty. I can’t say anything about my style, I guess I don’t know much about it? I’m just trying to do everything “lazily”, but also fast.
ico-D: Can you tell us a little bit about the process for developing the World Design Day 2020: “Be Professional” poster and identity?
Peter: Oh, this a fun project for me. When I’m working on it, I kind of imagine seeing people’s faces and their reactions… Like imagining Alexey (Alexey Lazarev, ico-D’s Visual Communications Officer) or Iva (Iva Babaja, ico-D’s Former President from Croatia) looking me in the eye and saying: “Hey, what the **** is this?” When the image gets to this point, I then try to fix things, to make them look more “human”. Nevertheless, I see myself as a “slop cat” of graphic design (note: a slop cat is a homeless cat that feeds on garbage).
Another poster option for WDD202. It was so hard to choose!
ico-D: Can you describe a typical work day?
Peter: I wake up, and the first thing I do is brew coffee. I like Turkish coffee and I drink two cups of it before starting my day. Then for about an hour I do some warm-up exercises. My approach is to explore a new name or concept in art, design, music or science. For the whole week I will be studying this “personality”: reading, listening, and researching, trying to understand who they are and where their creativity is coming from. After this warm-up, I take time setting up, positioning brushes and paper. I doubt a lot. Then I start working. In the daytime, I take about a one-hour social media break and then I return to my project. Usually in the evening some friends come over with wine and cheese. We chat. I come up with lots of beautiful lies and funny stories.
ico-D: Can you send us a picture of something on your desk that you are working on now? (Notes, sketches, inspirational texts, books,…)
ico-D: What does it meant to you, as a designer, to be professional? How do you deal with horrible clients? Other designers who do not behave professionally?
Peter: About professionalism, my opinion is that everything has changed. There is now "Professional Professionalism" and "Unprofessional Professionalism"—when you have to pick up memes, tags, and rework them to make actual art and design.
“Being professional” is like a being a mountaineer who managed to climb Mount Everest. They got up there, and are now sitting there, shocked, wondering—How did this happen? But going down to a lower peak—is out of question. So the designer is sitting there trying to look sharp meanwhile trying not to freeze to death. My strategy to deal with horrible clients is to pretend I’m a dead fish and just go with the flow. Clients then get scared and stop pocking me with a stick, leave me alone, then I finish the project according the ethical standards of design all good designers have. In terms of working with other designers… again, I’m sure that a good designer is always a good person.
In what ways has your job changed over the last year, 5 years, if at all?
Not much has changed… The biggest change is that I learned how to catch thick carps in Czech Republic.
What do you wish you had more time for in your work?
Oh, it’s a great topic for dreaming about. If I had more time, I think, I’d start making cartoons.
What is one thing you would say to designers starting their careers now?
The path of design is a hard one, but a happy one. You don’t do it because of the desire to become famous or rich, but because you’re excited about life, and you want to explore… With design, your life will never be boring. The rest will depend on the chance!
Translated from Russian to English by Alexey Lazarev.
Peter Bankov was born in 1969 in Minsk. He graduated from the Minsk Art College in 1988 and the Moscow State Polygraph Institute in 1993. He is the creator and editor-in-chief of [kAk) magazine, one of the key points of reference for Russian graphic design.