13 November 2014

Three questions for:
Misha Simakov

Text: Marie-Kathrin Zettl

With the beginning of the digital age and the latest software technology it is possible by now to archive vast amounts of data. The dates are collected by measurements, barcodes or by informations that we reveal every day on the net. To structure the stored data and to bring them into a visual form that is the task of infographic designers like Misha Simakov, who was responsible for the infographics at The Moscow News. We give an insight into the work of the Russian infographic designer in the article “Erst Info…Graphics Second” in form 255. We asked him three questions about his profession:


1.Where did you get your skills since there are no specialised institutions for infographic design in Russia?


During my education I had two specialisations. The first part consisted of mathematic engineering and the second of graphic design. Mathematics gave me my logical skills, whereas design fostered my artistic skills.

I was a graphic designer on a famous Russian TV channel. My wife found a job offer where they were looking for an infographic designer. Before, I didn't know what infographic was in the first place. I just really loved design instructions like the ones Ikea makes and for me these were infographics. My future boss sent me some references like the work and portfolio of Francesco Franchi. It was an amazing collection of spreads of the IL – Intelligence in Lifestyle magazine. I delivered some test pieces and finally got the job. After that I absorbed everything I could find about infographics. During a regular workday I made three to five diagrams or graphics – I tried to make them quickly, but beautiful and understandable at the same time. 

My sources to develop my skills further were books, Flickr, conferences and my colleagues. In Russia we have two conferences about infographics every year. I submitted my work and also made a presentation. My art director organised a trip for me to Pamplona to the Malofeij infographic conference in 2012 and 2013. There, I was able to meet and observe a lot of infographic designers and visual journalists and their work. I'm still in love with the projects of my favourite colleagues Francesco Franchi and Nicolas Felton. They have become my offline teachers. 


2. How long did you work for The Moscow News? How did you manage to open up the infographic department?


Two years. We wanted a high-quality result. My bosses showed me projects of The New York Times before and we were striving for something similar. I told my art director which persons we need in order to achieve this and after that we went on the quest for a specialist. When we were finished my team consisted of five people: myself (in the role of the main designer), a researcher, two designers, and an illustrator. 



3. What are you currently working on?


My new job is concerned with creating the new Infographic department at Ria Novosti (which belongs since 2013 to the media company Rossia Segodnya). Before, I was an infographic designer – now I am a designer of systems and people. I find new solutions on how to manage teams. We have five teams in our infographic department. One is responsible for operative tasks and covers daily news however not breaking news. The other four teams are arranged according to projects like the research for our interactive stories. Additionally, we found an expert of maps, a 3D designer, an animation specialist, and a team of front-end programmers to complete the team.

In March 2014 we were only five people and now the team consists of more than 30 people. The most important thing is to create a structure and system and with that the opportunity for good projects. My personal aim is to form a team with people that share the same opinion – infographics must stay infographics, and not become picturesque illustrations with digits or without a beautiful design. Infographics are a union of data, logic and design. I always have to explain this, not only to my team but also towards our clients. Infograhics are very present at the moment, but only a few people really understand how it works. 


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