Slovak Designer Nina Gajdosikova: From Branding Billion Dollar Organizations to Advocacy Design

Embarking career as graphic designer includes numerous different options. There are creative and advertising agencies, digital marketing firms, small local agencies, in-house studios as well as freelancing. That’s where the beauty of the creative industry lies; designers are never necessarily tied to one type of work environment, they can experiment and try out as many different places as needed to find the right fit.

Meet Nina Gajdosikova, the designer that had the chance to dip her toes in all of the above around the world.

Getting her first experience with a large advertising agency at 23, Gajdosikova worked for some of the largest companies in the world including Heineken, IBM, Peugeot, Philips, Ross and Nespresso. After moving to San Francisco a few years later, she collaborated with global brands to execute nationwide campaigns. She learned how to use the power of storytelling, design, and critical thinking to create impactful and meaningful messaging that helped grow numerous audiences. According to Elaine Lopez, Design Lead at Greater Good Studio, “Graphic design actually has an incredible role to play in creating solutions for social impact.” Gajdosikova agrees and believes that design has a significant role in society. “It helps translate the world’s biggest issues into powerful visuals that create impact in the most compelling ways.” It is this belief that motivated her to start exploring ways to use her design skills to create for social impact, especially in the field of education.

Here are three main things Gajdosikova learned from her years in the design field:

Create an emotional response

Design is not only about making things look visually appealing, it’s about creating a relationship with the audience. Throughout her time in SocioFabrica; an award-winning digital marketing agency in San Francisco, Gajdosikova was intensely involved in digital campaigns for world’s biggest brands like Ross and Nespresso. “Approaching customers through their computer screen is something very personal. You’re trying to get them to click where you want them to click, subscribe for mailing lists, purchase products and build engagement. There has to be a certain level of trust and credibility for them to be comfortable with that.” Working with Nespresso, the European coffee giant, Gajdosikova helped re-build its luxury image to suit the American market. The ability to turn products personality into something the American market can relate to was one of the most important factors here. Creating a story and brands image that people enjoy helps build an emotional connection with your audience.

Deeply understand your audience

At Istropolitana Ogilvy, one of the largest marketing communications companies in the world, Nina worked on an extensive campaign for Piano. Once the campaign launched, it was only a matter of months before the platform successfully started expanding outside of Slovakia and Slovenia into larger European countries and eventually became the largest provider of metered paywalls worldwide. Currently, more than 1200 news and media providers use their platform, globally.

This successful campaign was based on a simple message – that people should read more to better understand the world they live in. The main reason for the great success of this campaign was that the messaging directly targeted current and local events, and situations that people could relate to. The messaging of the campaign was provocative because it directly addressed some of the main issues going on in the country and presented them in a smart way. “The best executions are the subtle ones, where you don’t have to be literal and straightforward, but people still get what you’re trying to say. For designers to be able to do that, they have to understand their audience first,” says Gajdosikova.In 2013, Nina and her team were awarded the “Golden Nail”, first place in the most prestige competition in Slovakia in advertising and design.

Storytelling is essential and so is empathy.

Graphic designer and 2010 AIGA Medalist, Jennifer Morla says: “I look for the soul of the brand and let that determine the look and feel.”Designer should not only focus on what the final product is but the main goal should be to design a narrative that gets the audience engaged. Working with a number of global brands as well as smaller local businesses, Gajdosikova came to find out that no matter who you’re designing for, a good story is an essential part of the final outcome. “Sometimes a company approaches you to help them re-define themselves. That’s when you really have to go in there with an open mind and look at their story from a different perspective” Gajdosikova says. Often times it’s about bringing an outdated brand up to date. Times changes and so do people and their expectations. A designer must be flexible and prompt to react efficiently to these changes and use them to their advantage. Gajdosikova is currently involved in advocacy design with focus on education. This gives her the opportunity to use her storytelling and design skills to fight for a nationwide cause.

Gajdosikova believes that understanding these principles was essential for her ability to create a powerful story. “It’s so important to take risks and go for new opportunites because only this way, you’ll find out what interests you as a designer.” From building global brands, to joining a national movement to rethink the American education, Gajdosikova has shown that your career can peak into different paths, but that as a designer, you have the power to create movements.

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