Artemy Lebedev decided he didn’t need to finish his higher education to be successful in life. So he quit the journalism faculty at Moscow State University after studying there for just two years. “At the very beginning of my studies at the university, I realized I already had as much chance of getting a professional position as my teachers. So I chose a way [in life] without intermediaries. And I haven’t regretted my choice since.”
Russia may have lost a journalist. But it acquired a designer. Specifically, a website designer that has risen to the top of his field.
Lebedev went into web design because the internet in Russia was catching up with the West. “It is just that a line [of design work] opened up to the world,” Lebedev said, “and it was added to my computer and my design.” Indeed, Lebedev’s web design studio was one of the first in Russia (thus, its acquisition of the domain design.ru) and has since become arguably its most prestigious. “We started it all here,” Lebedev said. And it is true. Today it has become comme il faut in Russia to order a website chez Artemy Lebedev.
In 2001, Lebedev’s studio became the first Russian company to win an award for web design at the International Advertising Festival in Cannes, France. There, Lebedev’s studio won the Bronze Lion for Internet advertising for a series of animated web banners. (design.ru/preview/flashbanners). In the ads Lebedev’s team showed how computer design can “save the world”: a ballistic missile is kept from destroying a city when a designer steps in and alters its trajectory; a bullet is kept from piercing a beating heart when the bullet is made transparent, etc.
“We are amazed that Russia was awarded the Cyber Lion,” said Jeff Thomson, creative director with the advertising network FCB-Worldwide, in an interview with Vedomosti. “After all, Internet advertising is much more developed in the US.”
Lebedev, 27, has designed more than 100 sites, including such famous ones as bochkarev.ru (a leading Russian brewery) or izh-auto.com (an Izhevsk automaker). He also designed a popular website for the en vogue Russian detective writer Boris Akunin (akunin.ru). “As soon as I bought one of his novels, I knew immediately that I wanted to do a site,” Lebedev said. He tracked Akunin down; the writer liked his idea and work was under way.
In the past, Lebedev created most client websites himself. Now he said he can afford the luxury of focusing on just three-to-four projects a year, offering his designers/collaborators a chance to prove themselves. And even they, Lebedev said, “have enough work for years to come.”
When asked about current criticism of internet usage as addictive, Lebedev responds vociferously: “Why get rid of it? It is approximately the same kind of addiction as avid reading. One can try to keep someone away from books, but why? It is the same with the internet.” In fact, Lebedev said that most all of the people he communicates with or socializes with he found through the internet. He got to know Akunin by e-mail. And he says there will come a time when all Russians will write “internet” without a capital letter—just like they now write the word “telephone.” [The Russian press commonly writes “Internet.”]
That time is already on the horizon. And if one is allowed to fantasize even further, it would be great if Lebedev’s vision for design came to pass. Imagine if design could save the world, if the click of a mouse could make a bomb or bullet disappear, or keep a tanker from spilling its oil in the sea?
Sounds too fantastic to be true? Well, who on earth, in the early 1990s, would have predicted that a Russian designer would win the world’s top award for advertising via the Internet ... oh, that’s right, “internet.”
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