Interview with designer Alexander Burt about work and life in Brussels

    In anticipation of the DUMP conference, we traditionally do a series of interviews with speakers about their work and life.

    The first interview was given by the designer, UX-designer, developer, graduate of the Academy of Arts in San Francisco, ex-chief designer of UX in Parallels Alexander Burt. In an interview, he told what the Academy of Fine Arts in San Francisco taught him, whether a designer should go to work in Belgium and how expensive it would be to start a business.

    You graduated from the Academy of Arts in San Francisco. Tell me, please, how did you get there? What did you learn? What are your learning experiences?

    After school I went to work almost immediately, got a job as a “Photoshop specialist” at Imaginifand a year and a half fotoachka with a typical task like "there will be a bank branch in this building, we want to show them how it will look, but the truck closes half a wall, you need to clean it, and then insert photorealistic 3D into it." It seemed to work out, but it became boring. Once a graduate of came to us and very vividly described her studies. She showed a brochure. I fired up, but my parents refused at first. I clearly remember the phrase: “So what, will you draw the 46th paw in the cartoon of the 29th monkey?” Take, say, something serious. But I don’t give up so easily, and after six months of eating their brains, they agreed. And by that time I chose www.academyart.edubecause she was physically close to the animation studios and they advertised that they were taught by working professionals. (So, by the way, it turned out.)

    I studied for special effects at the faculty of computer graphics. Most of all in my education, I appreciate the fact that for the first two years we were not allowed to enter the computer at all. We had drawing, painting, modeling, anatomy, photography, lighting (with real lamps that heat up, like in hell, and the room is closed, that’s all wet) and so on. That is, by the time I opened “Maya” and clicked “Create Camera”, I clearly understood all the settings of the virtual camera, and what physical effects they simulate. Well and so on. I acted in order to learn how to do something cool in 3D, and graduated as a person who knows how to correctly tell visual stories.

    Typical drawing lesson at the Academy

    In your opinion, what is the main difference between design education in the USA and Russia?

    In 2018, I do not see much difference, and it is not only in Russia, but in the whole world. The merit of the United States is that they were the first to learn to dream productively. Not only Oborongazmyas, but also a little magic. Why launch a car into orbit? For the lulz. Absolutely worthy reason.

    With the spread of the Internet, especially over the past 10 years, everyone else has learned this from them, and now everyone knows how. Maybe not exactly the same, maybe not in the same amount, but wherever you go now, everywhere the same hipster neon.

    In terms of education, everything is the same. After all, people who care are not silent anywhere. What pedagogical kick in the ass did we all get from Tyoma Lebedev? But he is not the only one. Whatever you think about the aliens in Chertanovo, the graphics are cool! And such guys probably teach. So on average everywhere is fine with that now.

    By the way, after all, in America, too, they learned from nowhere what they can do. There, too, people who were not indifferent were not silent. The book “The Illusion Of Life” describes how Walt Disney traveled around the country and asked bankers for money for Snow White, and they clapped their eyes, not sticking at all, like dummies could be cut down on some moving pictures. But Walt was able to convince, and it turned out what happened.

    Now you live in Brussels. Why Belgium? Did you consciously choose the country where you want to work in advance, or did you receive an offer that you can’t refuse?

    The Union collapsed, parents moved. I was 16 then, I was just a unit of luggage :)

    And why did you still move there after studying, why didn’t you choose Moscow or any city in America? What do you like about this city and country?

    During my studies, I have gained enough reputation and personal connections to find work in the States. But it so happened that I was finishing my studies on an expired visa and was obliged to leave the country. I returned to Belgium terribly upset, but life somehow spun, and America faded into the background. I left for a couple of years to work in Spain in Ilion, then for 7 years to Moscow. And then it so happened that my wife was transferred to Brussels for work, and now I'm here again.

    I like the location of Belgium - you can go abroad by accident. 3.5 hours by car to Paris, 3 hours to Amsterdam, 2 hours to Cologne. There are a lot of foreigners in Brussels (European Commission), it’s a fact of life to know several languages ​​for a large chunk of the population, and after the third language, you simply absorb the fourth and forth without any difficulty, the brain is already adapting.

    Here, in principle, the weather is normal. They say that the country is rainy, but it just seems so, because it is often overcast. I grew up in Riga before the age of 12, and compared with those lead clouds, Belgian clouds shine with gold, so I'm fine here :)


    If not a secret, please tell us about salaries and expenses? How much does a designer get in Brussels, how much is spent on housing, travel, food?

    A good designer on hand will receive 1650-1800 €. An apartment / communal apartment / bills will cost around 1000-1100 €. Then we take away 30 € for the phone, 40 € for the home Internet, 200-300 € for the food. 50 € will go for transport, if on public. Car and gasoline are a separate issue, a liter of 95th gasoline costs 1.20 €. Accordingly, refuel the tank of a small car 45 €. Enough for a week. As a result, a little remains.

    What is the difference between the life and work of a designer in Russia and in Belgium? Did you encounter something unexpected / unusual in terms of organizing work, life, mentality? How long did you get used to the local life?

    I did not notice big differences, especially in a professional environment. When people are busy with work, everything else somehow disappears. One thing confused me when I moved to Moscow in 2007: it turns out that it is acceptable at work to yell at one another. Uh ... no. But there were exceptions. He also noted that in Russia there is much more hunger for knowledge, for a new one. The Belgians in this regard are a little bit frostbitten.


    Is it possible for a Russian designer to get a job in a Belgian company? Can you give some advice? What specialists are in demand now?

    Unlikely. Firstly, the population of the whole of Belgium is smaller than the population of Moscow, and companies associated with design can be counted on the fingers.

    And secondly, here and so madhouse with unemployment benefits, it drags a lot of money from the budget, and they are trying to arrange their parasites as much as possible. I faced the same thing in Russia. Many countries have quotas for foreign labor, and there is nothing to be done.

    The exception would be if a person is a very talented and well-known, and it is the office for some reason, need, and not vice versa.

    You need to understand the monetary side of the issue. In Belgium, in order to officially hire someone for 1000 €, you need to pay the state 2,000 € in social contributions. That is, if I take you for 1000 €, you cost me 3000 € per month. Therefore, everyone is trying to hire exclusively private entrepreneurs, to negotiate with them for the amount, and everyone understands his own taxes. The income tax in Belgium is 35-50%, in proportion to the profit.

    Another point. Europe has many countries with different income levels. The Belgians are not idiots - they place orders for those who are cheaper, but cheaper where taxes are lower, for example, in Eastern Europe. If you exaggerate, then guys, well, what Belgian design companies? For a long time all the Poles draw :)

    I know that you have your own project now. Tell me more about him, please? How difficult is it to start a business in Belgium?

    Opening a company costs € 6,000 of registered capital and € 900 to a notary, and starting a business is like everywhere else - plowing like a horse and hoping for the best.

    I am making a graphics editor. I’m silent for now :)

    Tell me a little about the Belgians. What kind of colleagues / friends are they? Is it comfortable to work with them? How did you solve the language issue?

    I would describe the cultural difference as follows: if in Belgium there is a place for 4 cars, and it is designed for 4 cars, then 4 cars will get in there, according to the rules. But if places are not marked, then there will get 3, or even 2 cars. “Well, I got up, the place was. And then I’m not interested in anything. ” In Russia, if the space for 4 cars is laid out, then 3 cars will get in there. But if there are no stripes, then 5 cars will carefully fit in there, and still carefully close the mirrors to each other.

    There were no problems with the language, because when I moved I already had English, and over time I learned French.

    What tools do you use to organize work (including time planning, workspace organization, etc.)?

    For organization and planning I use GitHub. I am very pleased with him, especially since projects with columns of cards appeared. I draw and write thoughts in a regular notebook - from my hand I think better somehow. Elbow brains, I guess.

    I also have a board hanging, sometimes I think on it. True, the space on the board has to be won back from the daughter: if I erase the little man, this is a tragedy, but she is only 3, and it is not always clear that this is a little man. All the notebooks were also stolen, but I sniffed one notebook and wrote in it :)

    Do you read any professional blog? What information resources could I recommend to colleagues for the development of skills?

    Google, reddit and YouTube, and then what comes across.

    April 13, Alexander will hold a large workshop “Color Philosophy” at the DUMP conference in Yekaterinburg. Alexander will analyze the connection between colors and the semantic diversity of life, talk about the role of color in perception, about the structure of subjective perception, the principles of construction and organization of meanings, about analogies and symbols, gradients and rainbows, noise and the search for meanings. In addition, Alexander will give a talk about color speakers. Detailed description of the master class and report .

    Thanks to our sponsors who make the conference possible: to the general partner - Sberbank-Technology Company , to the conference partners: SKB Kontur , Naumen , , ProSoft Sistems, Very interesting , Skb_Lab .

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