Elma Karabegovic throws it back to the 90s
By Alixandra Rutnik on Jun 03, 2021
Last year's winner designs the rebrand for Next Creative Leaders 2021
Summer is here, but most importantly Next Creative Leaders is back! Created in partnership with The 3% Movement, Next Creative Leaders is a free-to-enter competition that seeks to highlight and elevate female and non-binary creative professionals for both the work that they do and the difference they are making.
This year, we are stoked to have Toronto-based art director, ACD and 2020 Next Creative Leaders winner Elma Karabegovic behind this year’s branding. Elma’s pixelated art theme is an ode to the 1990s and a fun expression of her younger self. We talked to Elma about her branding, as well as about her career and how being a Next Creative Leader has affected it.
In what ways do you think winning Next Creative Leaders last year helped you to further your career?
It’s not always easy for creatives from Canada to get noticed internationally. Winning Next Creative Leaders has increased my visibility worldwide and created several opportunities for me. This year, I have been teaching at Miami Ad School, I judged on creative panels and award show juries, and I wrote thought leadership pieces for several publications. In such a fickle industry, it’s great to feel more secure in my reputation at this point in my career. The recruiters’ emails don’t hurt either. It’s been a wonderful whirlwind and I feel very fortunate.
Was the pandemic a time of inspiration for you or a lull in your creativity?
The pandemic has been a rollercoaster of emotions and inspiration. The beginning was great for my creativity as I had a lot of time alone to think and work. As we move deeper into the second year, I must admit I am burnt out. I believe in the fear of the unknown, and agencies are taking on more work with tighter timelines. It’s not sustainable.
In a time where everyone’s cups are running on empty, I’ve gotten through by surrounding myself with people who fill up my cup and support me, unconditionally. I recently learned not to wait until the summer to take a vacation. It might look good on paper, but it’s hard to work six solid months without a break. To whoever is reading this: TAKE A VACATION.
"It might look good on paper, but it’s hard to work six solid months without a break. To whoever is reading this: TAKE A VACATION."
What is the biggest lesson you have learned between winning Next Creative Leaders last year and designing the rebrand for Next Creative Leaders 2021?
When I first started working on the design for Next Creative Leaders 2021 I was juggling a lot and it wasn’t conducive to my original thought and creativity. It was only when I took a break that my mind relaxed and I was able to have fun and visualize what I wanted to make. I now remind myself to take more breaks, by purposely and mindfully making room for my inspiration and creativity to grow. That is a much better recipe for creating better and more original work.
How do you continue to incorporate inclusivity and human rights into your work?
I believe every product and service has the opportunity to be more inclusive. My team and I are currently working on the next phase of a campaign that has promised to create a greater impact. There is a tremendous opportunity to see more women represented in this category and that is what we are working towards.
What did you want the 2021 Next Creative Leaders branding to represent and reflect?
This year has seen the rise of crypto-art and the debate over what creative is valid. For everyone who grew up in the 90s, playing 2D video games (Zelda, Pokemon Blue/Red, etc.), making pixel avatars, and submitting work to DeviantArt, is a very funny and nostalgic time to remember.
"Who would’ve thought that the silly things us nerdy kids made on photoshop could now go for big bucks? It’s hilarious."
Who would’ve thought that the silly things us nerdy kids made on photoshop could now go for big bucks? It’s hilarious. To that end, the design is something very personal to who I was and all the elements that created the foundation of who I am today. I went full nerd with the 90’s Memphis design as the backdrop to the rudimentary 2D pixelated games I still love. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the food I ate (pizza, shrimp rings, and watermelon candy), dancing banana gifs, and ripped CDs are all featured.
"I went full nerd with the 90’s Memphis design as the backdrop to the rudimentary 2D pixelated games I still love. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the food I ate (pizza, shrimp rings, and watermelon candy), dancing banana gifs, and ripped CDs are all featured."
There is, of course, a nod to women with the clock women’s symbol. After feeling the burnout from the last sixteen months, making pixel art has felt very cathartic. I ran my design by friends from my generation and they all had a good laugh.
If you could go back in time twelve years ago to when you began your career at FCB, what pivotal advice would you give yourself before your first day as a professional?
"The advice I would give myself is to stay the course and stay true to my beliefs and principles."
The advice I would give myself is to stay the course and stay true to my beliefs and principles. When times get tough, the foundation of lifelong hard work and good judgment will always lead to the right answer. That usually means taking the harder route, but it’s a more rewarding route.
In what ways do you feel this new working environment is going to benefit women in the workplace?
Working virtually is creating a sense of disassociation with people, especially for those who have started a new job during the pandemic and have yet to meet their co-workers, but there is something interesting happening as well. If no one can meet, it puts us all on an even playing field. We’ve all been reduced to a small square on zoom and an email address. It can be an opportunity for people to show their quality and not be judged on their gender, sex, or race. I hope we can bring that sense of equality to the office.
As the world is opening up again, (YAY!) what values will you bring with you into this new and changed era?
What I’ve seen from my coworkers in these last couple of years is their strength and ability to rise to the creative challenges put before us. We have proven we can succeed as a team and create business-building campaigns for our clients during a pandemic. What I would like to see more of is everyone putting that kind of effort into their self-care and mental health. I would like to see employers do more of that for their employees as well.
"We have proven we can succeed as a team and create business-building campaigns for our clients during a pandemic. What I would like to see more of is everyone putting that kind of effort into their self-care and mental health. I would like to see employers do more of that for their employees as well."
NEXT CREATIVE LEADERS 2021 IS HERE!