We talked to Pavel Fuksa three years ago when he was in Busan, South Korea judging at Ad Stars. Since that time, he’s been working with clients globally on everything from packaging designs, beer labels, a project for Porsche, and an anatomically inspired longboard, with proceeds donated to the Czech Red Cross.
Visually, his style mixes bright colors, geometric shapes, and minimalism with splashes of Czech dark humor. It has attracted clients like Microsoft, Google, Twitter, Facebook, Mercedes, and Nike, while Fuksa has thrice been named among the 200 World’s Best Illustrators by Lürzer’s Archive.
Before embarking on life as a freelance creative director and illustrator in 2015, Fuksa was an Art Director at Saatchi & Saatchi Prague, and a Creative Director at UNCLE and Lab Store / Y&R Prague.
It’s been a couple of years since our last interview. What have you been working on lately?
I’m still enjoying sitting in two chairs, working as a creative director for agencies and brands as well as designer/illustrator on handpicked projects.
Each project that comes to our two-person little studio is treated from scratch – our creative direction offers you to come up with the most suitable design language, be it 3D, 2D illustration, minimalism or over-the-top extravaganza. However, if a client approaches me with my trademark style in mind, I happily use my illustrator hat, while playing with shapes and the typical 50-70s visual style.
Do you consult on any brands or projects overseas? What are the advantages of working with a design studio based in Prague?
My clients come usually from Europe, mainly the UK, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Russia, France or Scandinavia, with overseas clients mainly from the US and the Middle East.
“The advertising market has shifted from solid ideas and clever solutions towards gif-ism and constant recycling of the TikTok/Instagram trends focused on people with the attention span of a fruit fly.”
I believe that it always works that speaks for studios, regardless of their location. We are always aiming for the best possible outcome, for clients large and small. Being based in Prague, the heart of Central Europe, enables us to bring the best levels of creative outputs for a significantly lower price.
What makes graphic design and art direction in Prague unique to other parts of the world?
Prague offers a wonderful melting pot of German and Slavic historical context with a bit of trademark Czech cynicism. After 30 years since the Velvet Revolution, Czech design and art direction still wiggles between your parents’ retro collections and hypermodern “fuck the rules” spoilt brats.
How has the advertising market changed there over the past few years?
As with everywhere in the globalized world, Prague is now a solid member of the international creative community. That means that even here, the advertising market has shifted from solid ideas and clever solutions towards gif-ism and constant recycling of the TikTok/Instagram trends focused on people with the attention span of a fruit fly.
It seems that the only target group there is are the coveted Millennials. The ads here are either shallow and superficial or so deep and intentionally over-the-top “thoughtful”, making them indecipherable to anyone, including the client.
You’ve always worked with lots of bands. What are you listening to right now?
Bands and musicians are my favorite kinds of client – gig posters, CD/LP covers or music video art direction. It’s often a great challenge trying to pair or juxtapose the visuals with the music.
As I was writing these replies, I was listening to Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game, New Order’s Blue Monday, and David Bowie’s Little Wonder.
Were you always drawing as a kid, and when did you realize this could be your career?
As a kid, all of my drawings were messy, dirty, and uneven. My first and second-grade teacher wasn’t particularly happy and often graded me with a D or F.
I enjoyed designing my own flags, team shirts and the ads around the ground, every time I drew a soccer game. A bit later, I realized that this is a field for me, sometime around 16 or 17 years of age. Since then, up to this day, I am still over the moon with my choice.
Who were your biggest creative influences growing up?
I grew up in the final years of the Eastern Bloc and was exposed every day to the beauty of ephemeral products, book covers, posters and packaging. I soon discovered that drawing and realistic depictions weren’t my strongest asset and used this disadvantage to my benefit. Minimalism, simplification and black humor became my best friends.
Do you have a process – how much of what you do is hard? What comes more easily?
I must say the inspiration usually comes pretty easy. If I hit an art director’s writer’s block, I start working on a different project, have a nap or work out. I am usually struck with inspiration at night, before I fall asleep or, like many of my colleagues, in the shower.
“I am not a big fan of constant redoing and giving ideas more time to develop. The idea should work and be clear or smart from the very beginning.”
I am not a big fan of constant redoing and giving ideas more time to develop. The idea should work and be clear or smart from the very beginning. If the idea hits me, I try to milk it, and if it doesn’t work, I go back to inspiration folders, books, magazines or my notes.
Are you working on anything interesting right now, or mastering any new skills?
I have about 12 of my personal projects that I am trying to finish in between paid projects. They are smart, funny, witty and the moment I finish them, I will feel accomplished, for like eight seconds. I am working on new cookies packaging, a wonderful project for Porsche, socks design, beer labels.
Also, a longboard I designed is out, with its broken bones, pills and anatomical atlas illustrations, so the rider can check which bones are still yet to be broken. All the profit from this board will be donated to the Czech Red Cross.
Three years on, what’s your favorite memory of attending Ad Stars 2017 in Busan?
Great ideas and talks concentrated into only a few days, people, great country, the hospitality of the organizers, and meeting friends. Oh, and the food. The food.
Pavel Fuksa judged the Design and Print categories at AD STARS 2017. This year’s AD STARS 2020 Awards are now open, free-of-charge. Enter your work before 15th May via adstars.org