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‘Czech design is more out there’

Viktoriia Soloveva

19 July 2023



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Ksenia Borokhova, previous graduate of one of the GoStudy programs, current student of the Digital design Studio, Faculty of Multimedia Communications in Zlín, shared some practical advice on admission, Czech design and competitive portfolio.

Ksenia Borokhova, graduate of St. Petersburg College of Arts, graphic designer, interface designer, graduate of GoStudy course “Admission to creative universities”, current student of the Digital design Studio at Tomas Bata University in Zlín

Ksenia, could you please tell us about your experience of studying in the Czech Republic. And why did you choose the Czech Republic in the first place?

I graduated from the department of Graphic Design at Nikolay Roerich Art College in St. Petersburg. I worked as a graphic designer for four years. I had good work experience for an applicant here. I decided to continue my education in the Czech Republic because I wanted to discover new opportunities. I wanted to earn a solid professional background.

What did you know about Czech design? In your opinion, are there any differences in applying for design specialisation in the Czech Republic?

It is evident that Czech design is more experimental. Admission board expects something new from us as applicants! Applicants are expected to come up with work to surprise with various techniques, graphic images, contrasts of shapes and colours, singular presentation and personal style. Your own style is of great importance!

How did you choose the Studio and the University in the Czech Republic?

I applied to universities in Prague, Plzen, Zlin and Usti and Labem. I believe that prospective students should submit as many applications as possible, as this increases their chances of getting in.

There are open days in autumn. These are definitely worth attending. First of all, the student gets acquainted with the faculty, figures out which Studio is more suitable, and, second of all, the tutors tend to remember their prospective students! It is very important to be proactive.

You managed to get a place at two strong design faculties – Design Faculty at the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen and Faculty of Multimedia Communications at Tomas Bata University in Zlin. Why did you choose Zlin?

In my opinion, the Department of Digital Design at the University of Zlin is more prestigious, than the Faculty of Design in Pilsen. I came to this conclusion based on several factors:

  • I liked the tutors;

  • portfolio of students with ther separate dedicated websites;

  • entrance exams in Zlin were much more serious than in Pilsen, for me this is also an indicator of better quality of education.

It was also important for me personally to switch to a new specialisation, to move away from graphic design to digital one. Zlin promises to teach not only how to make great modern websites, but also mobile apps, which is a very hot topic today.

It is hard to get into a university here in your opinion?

As you know, to get to the exams at creative universities in the Czech Republic, you need to prepare a strong portfolio in advance, consisting of 20-25 samples of work/projects, plus sketches.

I started preparing my work samples about six months in advance, working in the Studio at our school and at home. It is important not to feel sorry for yourself, make as many good work samples as possible and select only the best ones.

Was the Studio of help for me? Definitely, it was! After all, it gave me:

  • an opportunity to communicate with a Czech tutor-designer;

  • a clear view of what the Examination Board will expect from me;

  • an access to any materials;

  • a specific task and deadlines for the portfolio.

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You already had background in design. What is the probability for an applicant without previous design education to get into a university like this?

It’s hard to get in straight after school, but it’s possible! There were some students at our course who managed to do it mostly through their hard work, patience and self belief!

It is difficult to get in not only because there are few openings at universities, but also because Czech applicants are a real competition.

I advise that you follow the news and attend various exhibitions, they are very popular in Prague. Attend masterclasses by famous people in the field of design, it is possible to attend online webinars nowadays. Get acquainted with different styles of creative work, find what you like.

It is very important to see a good range of options! The more you see with your own eyes, the more interesting ideas of your own you will have.

What was your portfolio like?

A portfolio can be completed either on a computer or manually. It is better to submit your works in a single format, usually in A3 format. It is important to show yourself from different perspectives and tell as much as possible about your capabilities and potential through your portfolio.

My portfolio included:

  • 5 digital design projects (website design development – 4 projects and 1 mobile app)

  • more than 10 work samples in graphic design (logo and corporate identity development, book cover, typographic posters, theatre posters, typographic brochure with the original font designed)

  • 5 works on drawing and painting (portraits, gypsum figures)

  • sketches of people and a couple of sketch books.

I tried to find new graphic images, think outside the box, and wasn’t afraid to play with printed content.

Is it important to consult with Studio Managers about work samples before applying?

I had a chat at one of the open days and then went to see one of the tutors for a personal consultation later on. As far as I remember, the personal consultation took 90 minutes and it was very informative for me. I improved the quality of my work samples after that one conversation. I believe that a personal consultation is a unique opportunity to increase your chances of admission.

There is also a test in the History of Art and Design among other entrance tests. Was it challenging?

I didn’t take a long time to prepare for the test. I looked at 2017 test on the University website and googled similar questions. The test of the Faculty of Digital Design included 20 questions about history of digital design. I remember that there was a question regarding the fonts, the architecture of the Czech Republic and professional terminology.

What creative tasks were in the exams? Was there something unexpected?

There were the following tasks at the University in Pilsen:

  • draw a pictogram of a playground (4 hours);

  • draw your own item from memory that you like (4 hours);

  • design a sign for a craft store with its own name (4 hours);

  • design a poster for the 100th anniversary of Czechoslovakia (8 hours);

  • an interview where I spoke a little about myself, my motivation to study at this University, my work samples, my favourite Czech designers and my future career plans.

There were the following tasks at the University in Zlin:

  • make a typographic poster for your own exhibition on your computer (4 hours);

  • create a perspective drawing of the University building (4 hours);

  • draw the concept of an information campaign on the topic of “Yellow press” on paper (4 hours);

  • draw the concept of a mobile app devoted to “Recreation” on paper (4 hours);

  • have an interview;

  • take a test on the history of art and design.

The exams in Zlin were very difficult. I think that the result is not half of these exams. In my opinion, the Board observes what you are capable of doing in a very short space of time. Probably, developing a strong idea is the most important thing.

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How does this compare with St. Petersburg?

I can’t say, because the exams differ a lot. It is hard everywhere.

What advice could you give to young people, planning to go to the Czech Republic to get creative arts education?

Well, guys, don’t be afraid that things may not work out. Do it, try it and do it again! Pick topics you enjoy for your work samples.

Borokhova’s portfolio on Behance:

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