Bringing back the Ascenders competition for its third edition, we caught up with Hrvoje Živčić, one of the winners of the inaugural Ascenders competition in 2018.

A TypeMedia graduate and frequent collaborator with Commercial Type, Production Type, and Typotheque, we reached out to Hrvoje to provide wisdom and inspiration for the upcoming class of Ascenders.

We sent out a questionnaire out to some of our judges and past Ascenders as a light-hearted Proustian exercise. This interview was lightly edited for clarity.

What was your very first job?

Working in a warehouse, putting promo stickers on food packaging and similar random tasks.

First design job?

In high school I designed a poster for a school concert.

Did you go to school for design? If so, where and what was your major/concentration?

I got my BA and MA for visual communication at School of Design in Zagreb, Croatia. Later on I went to KABK in the Netherlands.

Name one of your favorite projects from early in your career.

While in college, a friend and I worked on a lot of projects for the local Student Center. That was fun!

Are you embarrassed by your old work?

Not really. Even when it’s not the best, it’s a nice screenshot of past time.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t take things so seriously. Choose more wisely where you put your efforts.

If you could change one thing about your career trajectory, what would you change?

I think I would stay in the Netherlands for a while after Type and Media, instead of immediately going back to Croatia. Though I don’t think it would change my career significantly.

What is a barrier to entry facing today’s designers that you might not have?

Maybe the fact that the design scene and its trends are moving very fast.

What is something that today’s young designers have that you wish you had?

I think information about typography is much more accessible than 10–15 years ago. The software is also getting better and better very fast. That being said, I don’t feel I missed something just because things were different.

Are there any up-and-coming young designers you admire?

The internet is full of them! It’s hard to keep track anymore. I guess I’m more informed about my peers than the younger generation.

What top 3 traits are you looking for when looking at young designers’ work?

A solid idea and good execution. Attention to detail.

What are 3 things that you hate seeing in young designers’ work?

I’d say it’s blindly copying trendy styles, even when it’s not suitable.

Name one way in which you continue your education.

Through working on new projects.

If you could change careers, what would you do?

Probably something that doesn’t include so much sitting in front of a screen. Maybe some sort of handiwork, crafts, something like that.

What is your favorite job you’ve ever had?

I’m self-employed since I left school, so I guess I have my favourite job. Not sure if I have an all-time favourite project.

What is the worst job you’ve ever had?

A 1,000 page book about a region in Croatia. Skype calls on Saturday mornings… but I was young and naive. I don’t think it could happen today.

Which of your peers do you most admire?

There are so much! But I have to mention Marko Hrastovec of Hot Type and Marko Cvijetić. Then there is super productive Philipp Neumeyer! Contrast Foundry, my friend Miguel Reyes, Daria Petrova, and Jan Horčik of Heavyweight type foundry. Outside the work of type, I love the illustration work of Marin Remić and Cristina Daura.

What do you wish you were better at?

Staying focused 🙂

What in your career are you really good at?

Drawing letters and being responsible hahaha. I don’t think I have some crazy career or entrepreneurship skillz.

How do you define a successful career?

Doing what you love while managing to make a living from it.

What tools do you need to have a successful career?

Curiosity, dedication, and equanimity.

Who do you credit most for your career rise?

My typography teacher Nikola Djurek put me well on my way! And then there was Christian Schwartz of Commercial Type who was always very generous with his time and knowledge. Collaborations with Production Type and Jean-Baptiste Levée also helped 🙂

Who do you consider your teachers?

Beside Nikola and Christian, there was Damir Bralić and my teachers from the Hague: Erik van Blokland, Peter Biľak, and Peter Verheul.

If you could collaborate with anyone (that you haven’t worked with yet) who would it be?

I still love designing books, so working with a publisher like Sternberg Press would be a dream. Or a company like Korg!

Any books, films, or albums that have defined or changed the way you think?

I love Alan Watts books, Awakening from the Daydream by David Nichtern, and Wisdom of No Escape by Pema Chödrön. Also Robert Anton Wilson. Concerning music, it was bands like Sonic Youth, Fugazi, Mars Volta…though I rarely listen to it these days. I’m more into Thundercat, Flying Lotus, Mac Miller, Kendrick, and such. That being said, though I often think of parallels between music and design, I don’t think the aforementioned books or albums really influenced my design work.

What hobbies keep your sanity intact?

Climbing <3, hiking and playing music.

What kind of music do you play? Do you play an instrument?

I play the guitar and bass + dabble a bit with a synth and make some beats on my laptop. I actually put out a song recently, you can check it out here! (It’s in Croatian though.)

How much sleep do you get?

I stick to the eight hour sleep regiment.

How necessary do you find “routine”?

I like routine. It can help you be consistent with the things that are important to you.

Would you like to retire

Yes, but I’d keep myself busy with non-client work, music, and craft projects.

What excites you about the future of design?

I am just curious to see what it will be like in say, 20 years. Will it still be the same profession?