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Zajno dares to be different with unconventional digital design

Bold Creators: Special—Offer

“Our clients are brave enough to experiment. We are more than happy to bring their ideas into being.”

Meet Zajno, a full-service digital design and development studio that serves clients from around the globe. At the age of 21, Sasha Turischev, Zajno’s Founder and Design Director started his studio in 2015. What used to be a small design studio of 3, is now an in-house team of 20 located in L.A.

Zajno dares to be different, making unconventional websites and apps with engaging custom graphics, photos, videos and animations. Their mission is to spark emotion through interactive design and innovation.

We caught up with Turischev to find out how Zajno uses experimental and thought-provoking design to create meaningful experiences for their clients.

Sasha Turischev, Zajno’s Founder and Design Director
Sasha Turischev, Zajno’s Founder and Design Director

Q&A with Sasha Turischev, Zajno’s Founder and Design Director

Q: Tell us about your studio.

A: We are a cozy team of 20 that decided against growing into a big corporation because we value people over profit, and we’d like to stay the homey crew that we’ve always been.

We value openness and honesty. We believe that these qualities allow for creating beautiful and meaningful things. We have enough expertise and creativity to free our clients of micromanagement taking full care of their projects.

Q: When did you realize you wanted to be a web designer?

A: I can remember the first time I designed a website like it was yesterday. But actually it was on August 5, 2013, when I was working on a freelance platform doing all kinds of work from creating social media graphics to making logos and other elements of visual identity.

Once I had completed a task where I needed to change the color of woodworking machines from gray to yellow, I was asked if I could design websites. I’m not used to saying no to opportunities, so I put on a bold face and said that I’d give it a try. This was the starting point of my design career. Even though I obviously screwed up that project, I didn’t stop there and I’ve been designing interfaces ever since, constantly improving my skills.

“We decided against growing into a big corporation because we value people over profit, and we’d like to stay the homey crew that we’ve always been.”

Q: What motivated you to start your own agency?

A: I believe many of us have considered starting their own business, agency, studio—you name it. I prefer to call it a team of soulmates who are united by a common goal. I used to work at many companies where I felt like a tool in the hands of mediocre people. It just didn’t work for me.

I shifted between doing freelance and working for in-house teams. One day, I decided to start my own team because I felt like the companies out there making complex business solutions did not always deliver great value, and I really wanted to create meaningful and thought-out digital products. And a chance of getting out of the local market and going global also warmed my heart.

Q: What’s a customer success story you’re proud of?

A: One of our recent customer success stories is MicroAcquire, a startup acquisition marketplace we built together with Andrew Gazdecki, an experienced entrepreneur. Having sold 2 businesses, Andrew has realized how much expense and effort goes into being acquired. He would say, "the months of due diligence, reams of paperwork and endless meetings with brokers and investment bankers is a thankless job with no guarantee of success.” And yet thousands of founders embark on these laborious acquisitions every year.

So, we built a product that helps startups find buyers, cutting out the middlemen and red tape. MicroAcquire is the only platform that connects startup buyers and sellers anonymously which is a great feature that helps startups avoid being destroyed by the news that they are up for sale.

The idea didn’t only sound good but turned out to be truly successful. On the day of release, the website and web app we made became #1 on Product Hunt. Later on, a big famous company took an interest in MicroAcquire which speaks for itself.

“I felt like the companies out there making complex business solutions did not always deliver great value, and I really wanted to create meaningful and thought-out digital products.”

Q: Tell us about a failure you experienced and how you’ve grown from it.

A: One of the first things I can think of is working with people without signing any papers. I’m not only talking about clients, but also employees, and even partners. Clients have tried to disappear without paying. Employees have left stealing lots of work files necessary for the team to continue the work at that moment. Partners have resented each other because of a mismatch of expectations.

There have been many failures, and I think there are lots ahead because they are inevitable. However, I’d say that “failures” isn’t the right word—I’d call them lessons because that’s what they truly are. I’m always happy to learn and I’ll never give up.

Turischev with his teammate and dog.
Turischev with his teammate and dog

Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?

A: I try to draw inspiration from everywhere. It all depends on the context. Sometimes, it may be a game I'm playing at the moment or a walk around the Louvre with my wife. Obviously, other designers’ works are often used as references, but I prefer seeking inspiration elsewhere than the project industry. For example, to design our website I drew inspiration from magazines and book covers.

Q: What’s your daily routine?

A: I always try to wake up early to have a longer day. When you are 26 and you work a sedentary job as most of us do, a morning workout is a must so I included it into my daily routine too. If you ask me, learning something new or honing your skills is a must. That’s why I am currently doing a course on Cinema 4D, and every day I make some time either before or after work to do my homework.

After that, I would normally go to the office to work, but obviously the quarantine has brought a change to our lives. We all work from home now, all meetings are online, but fortunately, we cope quite well because we started practicing remote work about a year ago. So we had enough time to prepare and figure out what works for us.

Evenings are the weirdest part of quarantine life and yet I can’t say that I’m bored when there are so many interesting things to learn, read and watch and I can always chat with my friends and family online.

Q: Is there another profession you could have seen yourself working in?

A: If I hadn’t become a designer, I would still find myself in digital, most probably conquering the peak of video production.

Q: What book should every designer read?

A: I was greatly influenced by Carl Jung’s works. Not sure if this is something to recommend to every designer or agency owner, but I think almost everyone should benefit from such a read.

One of the concepts the author addresses most of all is individuality, something unique each of us has. It’s our core and our potential. I believe that most of all people should try to find these qualities within themselves and apply them in their work. This is the way to success and harmony.

“You have to believe in what you do. As if you know for sure. Not to be better than others, but to always be on solid ground which is made of confidence and the truth.”

Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

A: The best advice I ever got was Jordan Peterson's idea that people should make decisions standing on a rock, not in the sand. What does it mean? It means that you have to believe in what you do. As if you know for sure. Not to be better than others, but to always be on solid ground which is made of confidence and the truth. For it’s very easy to knock a person off their feet if they are based on lies and insincerity.

Q: What are your current goals for your agency?

A: Right now, when the entire globe is in quarantine and the coronavirus is threatening to severely damage the lives of millions, my primary goal is to keep my team safe and sound and survive as a business. We are so lucky that switching to remote working doesn’t affect us or the quality of our work.

All I want now is to keep paying salaries and for everyone to stay alive. On a more positive note, our current goals also include making sure that our partners’ and clients’ products will go live soon and achieve success. As for internal studio goals, we are planning to open a creative department. This allows us to always produce our own photo and video content as shown in our new website and new case studies.

Zajno’s team playing the human knot game.
Zajno’s team playing the human knot game

Q: Share your #1 piece of advice. A: Avoiding loneliness at all costs and being unable to endure it are really sad signs. Unlike the greatest minds and philosophers who found it beneficial to spend time alone, nowadays people hardly ever find and enjoy alone time.