We were delighted to welcome Eugene Serebrennikov to speak at Shillington New York. He’s the founder and creative director of Burn & Broad, a multi-disciplinary design studio based in New York. His studio designed for Warner Music Group, Budweiser, Entrepreneur Magazine, NFL, Pepsi, and many more clients. Prior to starting his own studio, he was an art director for Nike. He also started an experimental design project with Vicente García Morillo called Made by We Are—bringing together 12 creatives to design a collection of silk scarves that can be worn or used as a framed art piece.
Eugene is always trying to be a sponge by absorbing inspiration from everywhere. Read on to hear how working at Nike paved his way to becoming a creative director, his creative approach, and favourite client project to date.
Walk us through your creative journey. At what point did you decide design was the career path for you?
Freshman year of college I had a “holy shit” moment when my dorm-room friend showed me Photoshop & Illustrator for the first time. Up until that point, I had zero clue on what my future career would be. Creativity was always a part of me but I didn’t think it was possible to make a career out of it. My parents painted a picture for me that made it seem like I only had 3 career choices in life—be a doctor, lawyer or businessman (whatever that means) … all 3 choices sounded terrible to me personally.
When I was introduced to the idea that creativity could be an actual career path, it was as though everything finally clicked.
I started learning the programs through experimentation and tutorials; slowly building up my skills. When I felt like I got the hang of the basics I started branching out and making t-shirt designs, mostly for my close friends. Everyone seemed to be responding positively to the artwork so I decided to pitch the designs to boutique shops in NYC and before long, my designs were sold all over the city and then to larger chains, including Urban Outfitters.
During college, I had another sort of serendipitous moment—my girlfriend at the time got us backstage passes to a rock concert. I handed the lead singer one of the t-shirt graphics that I designed, expecting him to trash it. To my surprise, I received a phone call from the band’s manager a few months later saying, “Hey, Al loves your shirt, wears it all the time, we have an album coming out, would you want to design it?” That was my first big break and I never looked back after that.
You’ve been a creative director at your studio for 2 years now. What led you to start your own business?
I wanted to start a design studio, simply because I’m in love with art and addicted to creativity. In our business, our projects are constantly changing and requiring a different skill set from one day to the next.
Describe a typical day at Burn & Broad and what do you love about it?
The main reason that I’m passionate about our studio and the work we create is that there’s never a typical day.
One day we’re working on a campaign for a large corporation, while the next we’re designing animated stage visuals for Coachella, or perhaps creating a brand identity for an exciting new start-up.
Change is constant, and I find that important to never become pigeonholed into a singular style or aesthetic.
What are the most challenging aspects of your work in this industry for sport, music and culture brands?
The world operates at an extremely fast pace, and the biggest challenge always comes down to that annoying ticking clock—everyone wants their projects done well and they want them fast.
What are your creative influences?
When it comes to creativity, I feel like my mind doesn’t necessarily have an off switch or a singular go-to influencer. I’m always trying to be a sponge absorbing inspiration from everything and everyone around me.
Sometimes great ideas happen 30 secs before I fall asleep—some random thought comes into my head and I force myself to write down the idea and send it to myself by email so that I don’t forget about it by the morning. Other times great ideas come from playing Creative Ping Pong with friends—I hit you with an idea, you serve it back to me but make it better, and we continue this back and forth match until we’re too excited and need to put pen to paper.
What’s your proudest career achievement to date?
Animating Cardi B’s stage visuals at Coachella in front of 125k people was a pretty proud moment, especially since we only had a one week turn around time to get it done.
There is a consistent desire to make each project better than the last.
Is there a project you would like to work on and who would be your dream client?
I absolutely have a wish-list of clients that I would love to work with, but ultimately it’s not necessarily the client with the biggest name that excites me.
Instead, I prefer a client that gives us a platform for limitless creativity and a platform to push the boundaries. In particular, I believe that the music industry has a gigantic opportunity to flip the typical creative process on its head, reinventing the concert experience, merch, packaging, etc.
You mentioned you were hired at Nike because of the way that you conceptualize ideas and the importance of being hungry for more. What was your experience working there for 6 years while living in Portland?
Nike was a transformative experience in my life, in which my personal creativity was accelerated immensely.
We had roughly 40 designers—typographers, illustrators, 3D artists, and graphic designers. All hand-picked from across the US, sitting together, learning from each other, pushing each other, competing against each other and absolutely having a blast doing it. I was responsible for Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, and Kevin Durant’s apparel business. While also working with footwear and brand designers to make sure we were telling cohesive stories through our visual narratives.
I always compared my experience working for Nike as graduate school. In fact, I don’t think I would have ever started my own design studio without that experience.
Besides client work, do you have any favourite personal projects?
My business partner, Vicente Garcia Morillo and I created an experimental, personal art project. We asked our creative crew of friends, artists, designers, dancers, photographers, makers and doers from around the world to take part in something different—a design project with no brief. No hovering Art Directors. No subjective design suggestions. Just simply creativity for the sake of creativity. We called the project Made By We Are. Our first project gave each artist a singular canvas of a scarf to do anything that they desired. While the second project is in the works using surfboards as the canvas. No two projects will ever follow the same formula.
What does it take to succeed as a designer in a city with so much competition like New York?
Be hungry … everything is there for the taking.
Any tips for design graduates hoping to land a job at an agency like Burn & Broad and things to avoid?
Let’s get coffee. Anyone and everyone can send me a note, and let’s chop it up!