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Uprising: Why Demyan Mikhnyuk Always Sensed He Would Be a Creative
Advertising Agency
Düsseldorf, Germany
Havas Düsseldorf’s junior art director on finding a space to get his creative freedom back and how variety keeps him from going into autopilot, writes LBB’s Nisna Mahtani

“Riding around on a skateboard, playing video games and building crazy stuff with LEGOs,” is what Demyan Mikhnyuk spent his childhood doing and continues to pursue now. Havas Düsseldorf’s junior art director explains the only difference between then and now is that now, he’s turned the LEGO pieces into 2D and 3D “Design tools”. 

Moving to Germany when he was nine years old, Demyan has “many childhood memories from another country with a different culture.” Adjusting to his new surroundings wasn’t easy as he also moved around within Germany: “I think having grown up with calling many places my home helped me a lot in terms of perspective.”  Being able to encounter not only his home country but also various other locations meant Demyan had the ability to reflect on being part of a wider community. “I was able to zoom out and view things from angles beyond my geographical residence,” he says.

Demyan knew he wanted to be in the creative industries, starting with a graphic design apprenticeship right after high school: “I always sensed that this was the direction I wanted to head into. After graduating, I worked for a few years to get an idea of what an industry job would feel like aside from the theoretical, academic experience. When I finally decided on the path to go down, I enrolled at Hochschule Düsseldorf to study Communication Design which I graduated from in 2022.” It was this experience that made Demyan feel like he was ready to begin his career. “The graphic design apprenticeship as well as the Communication Design study complemented one another very well and prepared me for most of the things that I’m now dealing with day to day working in a creative agency.”

With an apprenticeship and degree now under his belt, Demyan wanted to make sure he gave himself the time to figure out exactly the right aspect of the industry to go into. He says: “Before settling for the world of advertising, I tried out different jobs in different areas to get a sense of what I could imagine doing for many, many years –  like writing for newspapers or selling sneakers. Graphic design and advertisement felt the most interesting and fun to me.” Beginning to apply for jobs, he found his lucky break at Havas Düsseldorf: “I consider it a place of work that inspires me. That’s why I returned after graduating.”

Starting out, Demyan began by looking to his friends for inspiration, creating funny photo and video edits that helped him hone his skills and begin thinking creatively. He says: “It took me quite some time to realise that I was actually gathering useful skills for the future just by fooling around. Once I decided to take a more serious approach to it, I tried my best to study and recreate art and designs that I found interesting.” Demyan believes that authentic environments are most conducive to his process, as well as keeping the right people around, who inspire and introduce him to new things. “You can capitalise on almost everything to hone your craft – that’s the power of creativity. It works with everything available.”

With an active mind and the drive to problem solve, it’s no surprise that Demyan thrives when given a brief. “Working on a creative project feels like working on a puzzle sometimes (in a good way). Solving these puzzles can be very satisfying and exciting as eventually, all those small bits turn out as a big homogenous picture,” he says. Because of his curious attitude, what others would see as a challenge, Demyan sees as an element of fun within the day-to-day tasks of his job. This energy perhaps comes from the childhood idea he had of working in a “cubicle office while staring at a computer screen all day,” but finding an altogether different reality in his job. “Days at Havas look quite different from that, as it’s packed with varying tasks of all kinds that challenge, enjoy or inspire me. The variety keeps things fresh and prevents you from going into autopilot.”

“Great teams are crucial for a great working culture,” says Demyan. This is particularly true when aspects of work become stressful, especially when the puzzles he loves to solve become tricky to figure out. “When a ‘puzzle’ can be borderline unsolvable due to elements out of your control – that is when the fun can turn into frustration. Then it’s helpful to have the right people around you to help you get back on track again.” Part of having a good team also means that creativity is always accessible. “I don’t think it’s hard to keep oneself fresh in this field. Design bleeds into pretty much every aspect of the day up to a point where you are practically surrounded by it.”

Creativity means looking for ways to continually develop, which is often seen within the technological innovations of the industry. “Technology is progressing at a very fast pace which creates many new layers for the creative field,” Demyan says. “There will be even more ways to visualise things and it directly results in more ways to pursue creative ambitions. 3D, VR/AR, AI- and generative design tools.” He looks forward to what’s to come in the future: “I could keep naming more cool-sounding combinations of letters and numbers but to put it briefly, there are very interesting times ahead of us.”

As much as technology continues to evolve, Demyan believes more could be done to evolve internally within the structure of how things are done in the industry. “From what I’ve seen during my years of working in advertising, I noticed a certain ‘why change it up as long as it works’ mentality in processes, idea creation and visual approaches. Sometimes curiosity and the genuine will to experiment feel like foolish ambitions that should be put to rest.” This and a tendency to exploit trends rather than genuinely side with them, was part of the reasons why Demyan left previous posts and went back to university. The process of embarking on a degree gave him his “creative freedom” back, and he joined Havas. 

Aside from being a passionate creative, Demyan finds solace in being outside as much as he can. Whether it be the local park or venturing to a forest, he says: “I could go on about how it’s super inspiring and such –  but in reality, I just need a lot of fresh air.” But when he isn’t tapping into nature, music tends to be where Demyan finds solace. “There are too many to name any favourites. Some honourable mentions are hip-hop producers The Alchemist and J Dilla. It’s very inspiring to listen to their creations, especially considering the limitations they had to work with. It shows the number of possibilities as long as someone has the vision and the will.”

With motivation being what his career boils down to, Demyan shares: “Being able to create is vital to me. That’s not exclusive to advertising. Outside of work I experiment and pursue creative goals in any shape or form. I’m grateful to be in a position to do both equally.”