Alexander Tregub and Mike Rybachuk bring design conference OFFF to Kyiv.
InterviewBy Thomas Dahm,
Designers Alexander Tregub and Mike Rybachuk, work both for Ukrainian biggest Creative & Tech School Projector. Which Alexander also co-founded. Projector is based in the historical centre of Kyiv, were they have a coworking space for creative teams and host their 60+ creative courses, hosts lectures, meetups, workshops and conferences like Krupa and now OFFF Kyiv.
How is the design and developer scene in Kyiv, Ukraine?
Mike: It is a huge and super talented crowd. There are many news around the world where Ukraine always appears in some weird or negative light. Which is not completely true — at the same time there are so many young people who are studying and showing amazing results. Just because they believe that the only way to change the country is to start with themselves. And now we got an army of talented designers and developers. We’re getting to see more and more news about some world award or huge contract with unicorn company. I’m glad and proud of each achievement.
Alexander: For the last few years we can see a huge growth of Ukrainian Creative & Tech community. New generation of designers is studying, teaching, and launching world-class projects. There is now new schools, big conferences (Krupa for example), and some brilliant new agencies and companies.
What led up to organizing OFFF Kyiv?
Alexander: OFFF is a fantastic event for designers and creatives. And Kyiv is a fantastic city. We decided it would be awesome to combine them both at the same time and in the same place.
Mike: We believe that there are too many awesome Ukrainian designers who were raised in a restricted, “closed” media world. We feel that our mission is to finally give everyone a chance to approach their teachers (who were always an inspiration for them) in real life and ask questions. OFFF Festival is one of the best examples of gatherings where people can talk, have fun, get new contacts, ideas and so on. And it really resonates with our goals.
Which other events inspired you to organize your own?
Alexander: We’re building a big creative community in Kyiv for 4 years already. We offer courses, host lectures and organize international design campuses. This is very important as these events develop the industry. And when we’ve met with OFFF Tel Aviv organizers, we instantly knew we want to host OFFF in Kyiv. Impossible is possible :)
Have you always been an organizer?
Mike: I have quite wide experience in events organizing including art direction of the first Ukrainian coworking and Ukrainian President congress meetings. But now I get so much pleasure in making educational programs and events.
How big is the team? Who are in it, and what are they roles?
Alexander: Projector’s team is 32 people. But only few of them are involved in OFFF Kyiv:
- Art Director
- Project Coordinator
- Location Manager
- Manager of the speakers and volunteers team.
One of the OFFF core ideas — a collaboration between creative people. To organize OFFF Kyiv we’ve gathered with our friends — Depositphotos. This is a completely new experience, to make this thing together.
How do you curate the program?
Mike: Before organizing our own OFFF Kyiv I went to OFFF Barcelona this year to see how they manage all of this stuff and what is the content. Shame on me, it was my first time at OFFF, but not the last one for sure. So, I came back home with a huge happy smile on my face and intention to curate the program according to the best practice I’ve got there.
What is the setup of the program?
Mike: Once we realized that we are ready to sign a contract we started to think about the program. What should it be, how should it happen and so on.
The price for Ukrainian attendees is quite high. It’s not because we wanted to make it like that — it was necessary because of a lot of expenses. And we decided to give more value instead — we’re gonna have one day of meetups where top motion and animation studios designers will conduct some crazy talks and show their cases. The main conference line up will be the next day. And yet we are still deciding on the third day of workshops, looking for some cool options.
It’s our first OFFF, that’s why we have only one stage and 300 attendees. But it’s our style to push forward quite fast — everything will completely change next year, believe me.
Walk us through the speaker lineup, who can we expect to see?
Mike: As I mentioned before after OFFF Barcelona I’ve made a wish list of speakers, shared it with OFFF organizers and got a confirmation. All the speakers have different background and we can promise only top content.
One more talk was added from our side — the showcase of OFFF Kyiv film. It’s amazing and I can’t wait to see it. Even we as organizers will see the full version together with attendees.
What are you most excited about if you look at the complete program?
Mike: I don’t think that it works like that. Each part of the event is unique and takes a lot of time and energy. It’s like having a child. I don’t have children, but I can’t imagine that parents are dividing their kids on better and worse. We really try to think about all the details of the future conference as a whole to make it better for a visitor. All of them have a piece of our soul. Networking zone is gonna be comfortable and interactive which allows people to meet their friends and laugh, all activities which will be available all day long will be really not only exciting but useful. And so on.
What do you want your audience to take home?
Mike: It’s quite common answer, but still — awesome emotions. I guess it’s our main goal. We want people to come back home and go to sleep a bit later. Because first of all they would have a strong desire to create something, to share ideas, to contact with new people. You know what I mean.
What are you aiming to achieve through organizing the conference?
Mike: We want to share world experience with Ukrainian designers, let them talk to the speakers in between the lectures, got the new ideas for their work and so on.
How does organizing a design conference influence your daily work?
Mike: I’m a designer. Even more — design is not a job for me. Literally it is but I mean that I really love all the stuff I do. Exploring the market, talking to people about their needs, making something where was nothing before I started. To do all of this I need to have more examples, ideas and approaches in my brain. What I am trying to say is that I am the first who visit and validate all our conferences. I could have wait for someone to create some event and invite all of this great people, but it’s not my way of thinking. I just do it on my own.
What's your ambition for OFFF Kyiv in the next five years?
Mike: Haha. I was thinking about that but then decided to wait for the first OFFF Kyiv outcome. I think that everything will be fine and than just better, stronger, faster.
Alexander: We’re planning to organize OFFF Kyiv every year, gathering more people and improving the quality of the event of course.
What has been your highlights since you started as an organizer?
Mike: Event should be useful. A lot of organisers used to do events just to get money. But they forget that it’s a huge responsibility because education couldn’t be just a business. Education change lives. You should think twice about each step.
event should be fun. The times when conferences were just a bunch of talks and that’s it has gone. Now people visit conferences for networking, fun, inspiration and… education.
What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way?
- Nothing is impossible
- Together we can do more than alone
- Beauty is valuable for its own sake
- Community is more important than information
- education is not the same as it was in the past
- events should be really fun and comfortable and this topic is veeeery complex
- good conference is an art
- for a good conference you should meet at least 110% of attendee’s expectations
- be the first user of your product to make it good
Where do you think design-driven events are heading in the next five years and how will you adapt?
Alexander: I think that now in “social network” age we all are lacking a real human connections. There are more than enough lectures on youtube, so future design events will be more about creating these warm connections between people. At the same time lectures and talks will be no less important, but they would be more subjective, expressing speaker’s opinion and personal experience more than well-known facts.
Mike: I think that events will become more interactive. However it could take some time. People need more than just lectures and they’re already asking for more. Organizers won’t have other options except compete or die.
Lastly, what is the signature drink of OFFF Kyiv?
Mike: I really love beer. I guess it was one of the reasons I relocated to Prague. Now I have this idea of making our own beer for one of our conferences. We didn’t do it yet just because of the lack of time. But I can promise we’ll do that. This time at OFFF Kyiv will be a lot of some cool beer and soft drinks just to let people easily feel the vibe.