8 Questions with Ales Nesetril

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Ales Nesetril is a 25-year-old digital product designer and creative director from Prague. Having started at 16, he is now co-leader of the design team at the international digital product agency STRV and an active Readymag user. We discussed his skyrocketing career, his new book on Instagram self-promotion for creatives and the challenges and changes he sees in the field of design.

How did you get started as a designer?

I studied IT and programming in high-school, and this gave me a good base of general computer knowledge. But, at the end of the first year, I began to focus more on web design in connection with my first part-time job in an agency. After graduation (and four years of outside work), I moved to Prague to start working full-time. Everything happened so quickly then: a few freelance jobs here and there, a switch of jobs to a social media agency and, a year and a half later (August 2014), I joined STRV while continuing my freelance business. Since joining STRV, I have moved up from being a junior designer to creative director in just two years. I’m currently continuing my journey there with a main focus on the internal design process, marketing, and sales.

You seem to be very conscious about self-promotion. Aside from the traditional Dribble and Behance accounts and web portfolio, you publish articles for Medium and regularly send out a newsletter to your followers. How effective are these efforts?

Presenting myself well is something that is deeply connected to how I want to position myself as a designer for the long-term — creating as many projects as possible and documenting the process by sharing it everywhere I can. I do promote my projects for a while, but it’s not a massive push for likes or followers on various platforms. It’s more about using the possibilities to achieve certain goals that I’ve set for myself, like attracting new business opportunities or meeting people I want to connect with.

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I believe the best way to do this is to constantly put my work out there, talk about my process, show how I make stuff and share my know-how with other designers. I prefer great work that shares itself to promoting something really hard, to force people to pay attention.

Last year you published a digital book called The Perfect Grid: A Creative’s Guide to Instagram — what were you aiming for and how is it different from the many other publications on the subject?

I’m a big fan and power user of Instagram. I use it mostly to capture and document my work or creative lifestyle, and over the past six months, as it happened, more and more people were following me, not only because they like my content but also to ask advice how to build their own profiles. They were interested in my process, motivation or camera setup, and I planned to write a short article to describe all of that. The article somehow turned into a 100-page e-book called The Perfect Grid, six chapters of tips on various topics related to how to use Instagram as a designer or creative. I would say it’s a straightforward guide based on my personal story. The plan is to help other designers who want to build a profile like mine and use it in a similar way — create great work and share it.

Your most recent creative project encapsulates a dozen of beautiful 3D wallpapers for desktop and mobile screens. What tools did you use to create them?

Oh yes, we have launched “Wallpapers by STRV” last December. I have collaborated on this project with my colleague Michelle Condenar, who was creating these 3D wallpapers using Cinema4D over the past few months in free time. We initially used these just internally in our agency, but over time we realized it could be published for everyone else. We decided to create a custom site (using Readymag for sure) to showcase all of them in a simple form. So far it spreads like cra and we’re excited about people sending us pictures back with our wallpapers on their desktops and phones.

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Which versions got more downloads? The desktop or the mobile ones?

I’d say the desktop vs. mobile is almost equal. The TOP 5 downloaded wallpapers so far are Napkin, Blanket, Geometry, Unicorn and Darth Vader.

Most companies prefer to publish their brand guidelines in a PDF file and send it privately to in-house designers and contractor firms, but you gave up on this scheme and put online the guidelines of STRV. What reasons stand behind this decision?

With a major rebranding of our company, we felt a need to have at least some kind of a brand guideline to make the transition from the old branding smoother. Also, it was necessary to communicate assets and rules across all departments and externists working with us to assure the brand stays consistent in the future. Honestly, PDF file seemed too old-fashioned to us, and we were exploring other options to distribute the content we needed. An online website that could be easily editable by anyone in our design team and accessible anywhere with a possibility for future extensions looked interesting. I’ve kind of transformed our older unused intranet design concept into the STRV Brand Guidelines site and after internal test shared it with the public. It brought us a lot of unexpected attention and in the end turned out to be a good PR project as well.

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How do you choose the fonts for your work? Do you have favorites?

I’m pretty conservative with fonts, but I have a few favorites, like Roboto, Circular, and Rubik. We have also used Maison Neue in the most recent rebranding of our agency, and it looks amazing. Every time I choose fonts, I focus on usability, instead of trying something fancy that would look great but would make it hard to get information from the device.

I usually prefer free fonts — I’m still at the beginning of my career, and I can’t spend a lot of money on expensive fonts on my own. But I also have had a few clients with reasonable budgets willing to invest for this. By the way, over the past year I have noticed a rise in the use of monotype. The funny thing is that, since I began to use it on my website for personal branding in the past year, other designers have started doing it as well. There’s been a little local hype around the idea.

Your outlook for the future of web, media. How will human interaction with the web change?

As I see web and mobile, there is not much of a difference in providing the information, but mobile is focused more on controlling stuff around us in real-time on the go — I don’t think there will be a big shift in this in the near future.

In terms of the new technology, I’m personally interested a lot in augmented reality, which looks really exciting. Connecting the digital world with the real world and making user interfaces around this is something I’d love to work on. On the other hand, I’m not a big fan of VR, which in my opinion still needs some time to get more affordable and to be adopted by the mainstream.

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Text by Tsvetelina Miteva

Photos by Thomas Habr

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