Tell us about your field.

I work in graphic design, motion design, broadcast design, branding, and interactive design. I went to Ryerson for New Media, which is a fine arts program.

‘New media’ is a mildly problematic term. From a fine arts context, I think it means new forms or ways of making art, which could actually be old ways that are just re-contextualized or reimagined. Whereas in the industry context, it has generally meant digital technologies. Through that program, I was exposed to more traditional aspects like art history, but also new ways of art-making which involved digital technology and robotics.

How is commercial design changing?

Budgets have gotten smaller. I’ve always been interested in interactive, experiential projects, which have taken a long time to become commonplace—especially in Canada. We’ve been trying to do these projects for a long time, and they’re only now starting to be bought by agencies or clients, who tend to prefer concepts that have proven to pay off. But by the time something’s proven to work, you don’t want to make it again. It’s a challenge when you’re trying to be as creative as you want to be, or when you want to make something that you’ve never seen before. 

I’ve been interested in the merging of traditionally animated or broadcast film—like commercials—with experiential and performance installation projects. Everyone wants something that’s ‘viral’, in hopes that people pass it around. You need to stand out somehow, so you have people expanding beyond traditional mediums like television and magazines to digital realms, and within that sphere onto even weirder things.

How do you see progressing technology impacting the creative process? 

From a production perspective, 3D printing is going to become more popular. Any creative industry can benefit from it—we can make things to shoot, to help us shoot things, mechanical things that traditionally would’ve been impossible to make. 20 years ago, the inkjet printer came out and people made prints. Now people are making all sorts of mechanical things, and you have NASA experimenting with 3D printed rockets.

Do you feel that people’s tastes are changing as technology and culture progress? Is the progression of taste cyclical or unpredictable?

I think it’s definitely unpredictable. If you remove pop culture from the equation, there are an infinite amount of subcultures happening vibrantly at all times. We’re just not aware of it, or we’re not interested, or it’s not happening in our part of the world. And then pop culture kind of sweeps in and declares itself. For me, it’s almost easier to ignore pop culture. I find things I like, and very easily focus on them. 

One thing that has changed a lot is music. It’s a conscious thing now to listen to music, actively. If we want to listen to music we play a record, because you have to play the record: pick it up, put it on, flip it, pay for it, store it. It’s an activity, an experience. Whereas if you listen to music online or MP3s, there’s no value. It’s meaningless, in a certain respect.

What do you want people to feel when they experience your work?

I like work that takes a concept and turns it on its head; when something’s broken but beautiful. I’m a big fan of imperfections. In digital art, we’re moving numbers around in a box and making light—which is a crazy concept you’re not fully aware of until the computer monitor dims, or if something happens to an image. It knocks you out of this path that you’re going down. I love [accidents]—when things will never happen again.

What advice would you give to students interested in art or design?

University is the only time you’ll have four years to make something for yourself and no one else. You can just make it and talk about it to your teachers and classmates. Any advice would be just to honestly try and take advantage of that time.

Don’t go to school right after high school. Take a break. Travel. Get some ideas. It sounds cheesy to say, but come back to it with a perspective, with a voice.

When you’re in the creative field, you have these waves of people coming through; you move through them and they become your colleagues and contemporaries. You can help each other and push each other. Find those people, and stay with them. 

About the author

Alex Kurina

Alex Kurina (OK!AK) is an award-winning designer and new media artist from Toronto, with a strong body of commercial and personal work in graphic design, video and animation. He has worked for a number of international commercial clients in various creative capacities. His artwork has been exhibited at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, InterAcess in Toronto and the Guggenheim and Eyebeam in New York.