Mirko Ilic on Design

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday September 12, 2012

AI–AP's International Motion Art Awards (IMAA) is a newly established annual award competition, which will pay tribute to the best motion art from the year and offer a unique opportunity to the winners and their collaborators for visibility, promotion and bragging rights within the industry. Ed. note: AI-AP is DART’s parent.

The logo is designed by Mirko Ilic, one of the most prolific art director/designer/illustrators working today. Steven Heller, a frequent collaborator, writes, “I have worked with him for over two decades and his hand, eye and mind has contributed incalculable value to the pages that I designed and art directed. Indeed there are times when I was so stymied by conceptual roadblocks that the only savior is Ilic. Like a Sherpa guide, he has led me out of a conceptual wilderness….Mirko Ilic…appears to have an endless supply of image/ideas that unlock and comment on issues of import.”

The IMAA Call for Entries is open, running through September 21. I emailed Mirko Ilic last week to find out a little more about his work and process. Here is what he wrote:

Peggy Roalf: How did you get into the business of art and design? What were your first jobs?
Mirko Ilic: Easy. I didn't know to do anything else. My first job, if one can call it a job, was when I was 17 and within 24 hours, I stenciled thousands of numbers onto soccer stadium seats.

PR: Growing up in a Communist country [the former Yugoslavia], where did you find inspiration?
MI: Everywhere–but of course living in a Communist country influenced me to do a lot of political work, especially work against the system. But we still had a lot of foreign books and magazines coming in that influenced me outside of my country. For example, Brad Holland's illustration "Junkie", which appeared in the Graphis Annual of 1972, inspired me to become an illustrator.

PR: When/why did you come to the US and what was your first assignment here?
MI: I came to the United States in March of 1986 to see how good I am in the "real world", playing with the big boys. The first week I did sketches for the cover of Time Magazine, and the second week I did an illustration for the New York Times Book Review. After that I made an illustration for the New York Times' Op-Ed page.


Above: The IMAA identity, designed by Mirko Ilic Corp.

PR: When did you discover typography and lettering?
MI: In my high school, we were taught calligraphy and lettering. Of course I didn't pay much attention back then, but over time it grew on me.

PR: What was your design process for the International Motion Art Awards identity?
MI: The process was quite unusual. We offered four different design solutions for the logo, and one was chosen. We then created the animation and design for this logo, and  then ten days later they decided to go with another one of our solutions instead–which is the current logo.


Above: Mirko Ilic's original sketches (left) for the first version of the IMAA identity (right).

PR: What is your favorite thing about being an artist and designer?
MI: Doing something meaningful and creative.

PR: How do you go about finding great clients?
MI: Usually great clients find me.

PR: What advice would you give to aspiring young artist/designers?
MI: Do things which you like and hopefully others will like them too—otherwise, there is no reason to do them.

Editor’s note: In 1993, Mirko Ilic became one of the co-founders of Oko & Mano Inc. graphic design studio, and in 1995 he founded Mirko Ilic Corp., a graphic design and 3-D computer graphics and motion picture title studio. In 1998, he created the title sequence for the romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail. He is a co-author of several books about graphic design: Stop, Think, Go, Do: How Typography and Graphic Design Influence Behavior (Rockport 2012); Genius Moves: 100 Icons of Graphic Design, Handwritten – expressive lettering in digital age, and Anatomy of design (all of them co-authored with Steven Heller) and Design of Dissent (with Milton Glaser).