Art director

Interview with a designer and art director who pursued his dream in America

Let’s start with the short introduction about yourself.

My name is Vitali Zahharov. I’m a senior visual designer with over 10 years of experience. My main goal is to build large scale web projects, design systems and tools that many people will use for a very long time. I have also worked for major clients such as UFC, Royal Caribbean, Toshiba, TaxAct, Huawei, Oracle, Sun and Universal. Right now, I’m living my best life in sunny Los Angeles. I run a design agency called Modden Creative, where I help clients improve their products by contributing my experience and value.

What brought you to design?

I originally worked as ruby ​​on rails for about 2 years since I completely transitioned into the design realm and honestly I have never regretted that decision since then.

My first steps in design date back to 2011. I started with simple photo retouching for my friends. Then I started making small websites and business cards. I became more and more experienced, and just after several months of practice, I already worked as a designer for a local design agency located in my home country, Estonia. Then my area of ​​expertise started to expand to other countries. I started working with international teams for interesting projects in Europe and Asia. In 2017, I moved to Singapore for a year where I worked as a creative director at design agency Wishbone. We did some innovative and really inspiring projects for Toshiba, Naumi and JLL and it was an inspiring journey for me. The whole experience was so incredibly touching for me. Singapore is a modern and innovative city with different cultures, vibes and people from all over the world. The skills I learned help me grow as an independent artist.

That’s great. Tell us what your typical day looks like these days?

In fact now it’s totally different from what I had before. I work and live in Los Angeles, and it’s totally different from my hometown – it’s ten times bigger, there’s also heavy traffic and better weather :). Sometimes you can spend the whole day in a few meetings, from office to office, from client to client. Personally, for me every day is different, very busy and unpredictable! There’s always something great happening here and I love it! I always like to explore the city with my wife. But honestly, I try to stick to the schedule I have:

  1. Wake up at 7:00 a.m.
  2. Morning gym
  3. Breakfast
  4. Check my inbox and all day tasks
  5. Morning meetings with clients and team departments
  6. Focus on work (sometimes it may only take 30 minutes a day)

Where are you inspired by?

When it comes to inspiration, I use community sites like Dribbble and Behance, sometimes Pinterest. I really care about my design collections that I have created, so I always try to keep them up to date. Over the past few years, I have had a great source of inspiration – Awwwards and CSS Design Awards, where I am also a member of the jury. This unique experience that really helps me to be on the right track and keep up with all the design trends.

What is the project you are most proud of?

I really like the work we’ve done with Thrive Market, Royal Caribbean, Dosist. There are also a few projects that received CSS awards in the “site of the day” category. When I moved to the United States, I started my own design studio Modden Creative. It’s design only, but we have good partners who help us with back-end and front-end development as well.

What is your reason for moving to the United States?

First of all, those are my design ambitions, that’s for sure. Secondarily, all the great minds from around the world are here, literally, all the amazing and talented people are here, all the biggest and most amazing agencies based here as well. It was a bit difficult for me to come here and start my journey here. You must be very passionate about what you do and believe in yourself, and of course you must have heavy projects in your pocket. People working in the United States love to hear that you’ve worked for big brands.

Is it difficult to get a work visa?

Not that difficult, to be honest, but it just takes a bit of time to prepare everything, collect the information and all the documents you will need during this process. I was less lucky as my file was stopped during the pandemic as all departments were closed at that time.

What is your game plan for the next 1 to 2 years?

I plan to promote my design agency by creating new cool things.

Any advice for ambitious designers?

You should practice a lot and be crazy about the details. Keep learning new things and progressing, and don’t stop no matter what! Look at me now, I’m the guy from a small country chasing his dreams in LA under his own brand. How crazy is that?

You can follow Vitali’s journey on his company’s website, modden.co