Ksenia Golovina gives her mother credit for setting her on a path that’s led to her art directing career. Growing up in Yekaterinburg, Russia, she reflects fondly on time spent enjoying the beauty of flowers or paintings in museums together, describing her mum as an embodiment of “creativity, perseverance and love for the surrounding world.”
On border between Europe and Asia, Yekaterinburg is a city with an industrial past (known as the capital of constructivism
), but she was always well aware that “it’s also full of places of incredible beauty — we have many mountains and lakes around.”
Studying industrial design at university allowed Ksenia to consider a variety of topics for each new project, from packaging to interiors, lamps to machinery. “The main thing my studies taught me was patience,” she says. “If the first design of the packaging breaks under the weight of a cupcake, the tenth won’t.”
Art direction wasn’t her entry into the creative industry. Following on from her degree she spent time as a designer at digital agencies for six years before starting at Serviceplan Group’s House of Communication Moscow, where she works now. Ksenia counts herself lucky enough to have met talented colleagues along the way whose approach to work inspires her to this day. “The longer I worked in digital, the more I realised that coming up with a good idea makes creating the visual part much easier. I had creative tasks back there too, but I wanted more — to make it my career.”
After a few years, while working as the head of a design team, Ksenia decided to make drastic changes, quitting her job and moving to Moscow to study more and find a full-time creative job. And (spoiler alert) “everything worked out,” she says.
The foundation she gained in design had taught Ksenia what she considers the most important lesson: “You have to accept the fact that initially you do not know anything and constantly learn. The best designers and art directors, from my point of view, have a great curiosity and patience in learning new things.”
Ksenia’s first project in advertising is her favourite to date: launching a record label, Laundry Records
, to demonstrate how quiet Miele washing machines are by building a recording studio in a real working laundry.
“It was amazing to see how our idea is implemented, how the design and scripts are created, how the set is built and the shooting takes place,” she says. “This project showed the strength of our team: it turned out exactly like it should have, because everyone put in a huge amount of effort. And it was worth it!”
This has set the bar for Ksenia’s creative ambition. Her focus is on continuing to work on projects that make her proud because she believes in the idea. “And because they can make the world a slightly better place,” she adds. “Putting it simply, I want to make projects that I can proudly send to my mother.”
The subject of inclusivity and diversity in Russia is something Ksenia’s keen to help the industry make progress on. “Gender, weight, age, region of residence and world view can be different, and all are worthy of respect,” she says. “I really like it when the heroes of the campaigns are people who are not the typical ‘ideal’, glossy characters. I am sure that by creating communication we will gradually be able to change people's beliefs for the better. Especially in Russia.”
Looking at the industry more broadly, she’s encouraged by events that change laws or make people's lives better. “That's what I want to come to one day,” she says.
Ksenia’s realistic about other challenges in Russian advertising that are widespread. One frustration is “the inability to break stereotypes and the unwillingness to be sincere with consumers. Greenwashing, ideal families, stereotypical gender roles — I am convinced that there should be less of all this in advertising.”
One thing that she’s grateful for is that being part of the Serviceplan Group there are opportunities to learn from professionals from other countries. She describes communication across borders as “one of the most powerful incentives for me”. Jason Romeyko, Alexander Schill, Maximilian Schöngen are all House of Communication colleagues that give her great feedback and she values this, especially from those with so much creative experience (not to mention shelves groaning with awards for their campaigns).
Of course it’s also important to find inspiration outside of advertising and Ksenia puts particular emphasis on “people whose thinking is unusual from the start”. One of the most striking examples from the past couple of years is the story of the creation of the soundtrack to the ‘Chernobyl’ series, she notes. “Composer Hildur Guðnadóttir used sounds recorded at a real nuclear power plant! This is such an unusual approach and such a non-trivial solution!”
A diverse creative appetite keeps Ksenia in good "creative shape". “Our heads are cool: you look at what inspires you, and it unfolds on the shelves on its own and shoots out in the form of an idea at the right moment.” For creativity, she watches online conferences, courses, and design-intensive classes. She reads all sorts of books: about how to write scripts, about popular science, about typography, all the while keeping an eye on professional channels on social networks and on Muzli (‘designers’ secret source’
She carries on listing the topics she takes an interest in: “interviews, channels about technology, psychology, cars, and much more. It seems like a waste of time, but in my opinion, it helps to shape my outlook.”
All of this is backed by Ksenia’s character, which she calls “polite but very persistent”. She’s certain that it’s not shouting that makes people listen, but staying calm. She never stops asking herself: “is this really the best thing I can do right now? I do not hesitate to write comments two, three or five times if I’m sure that it will improve the result.”
Listening to Ksenia, she speaks as if there are no limits to what’s possible. “I am inspired by the idea that everyone can be wherever they want. I am sure that everyone has something that they are talented at and that makes them happy. We need to find it and not be afraid of change. Doing what you love is the coolest thing that can happen in your career.”