Max Golovastikov (Graphic Designer)

Max Golovastikov is a freelance graphic designer in the Twin Cities.

Hailing from the Russian city of Arzamas, a quaint town located on the Tyosha River, Max grew up in a part of Eastern Europe that few will ever visit, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a fantastic place to be a kid.

“I have only good memories of my childhood,” Max mentions.

Unlike his peers, as a young boy Max wasn’t interested in hockey or other winter sports.

Instead, he was captivated by visual art and the profound effect it could have on people.

“I really liked movies. When I was five years old, my dad took me to see King Kong in the movie theater, and I was blown away,” Max says.

For as much as he enjoyed grabbing a bowl of popcorn and letting whatever was playing at the cinema suspend reality, Max was less than enthused about other mediums of art, namely books.

“I didn’t like reading, even though my father pushed me to read,” Max notes.

As part of his father’s push to get him interested in literature, Max was encouraged to read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, but after 274 pages, Max was fried.

“My dad had been pushing me to read it [Tom Sawyer] for two months, and perhaps that’s partly why today I don’t enjoy reading,” he jokes.

Even though Max always had an interest in art, after high school he began studying to become a biology and chemistry teacher.  

“In my hometown, there were only two universities. The first one focused on math, and the second focused on producing teachers,” Max says.

“I didn’t really like math, so my parents told me to go to the other college and become a teacher.”

As one could imagine, despite earning a teaching degree, Max ultimately never became an educator.

“I quickly found out that teaching was not part of my nature,” Max shares, and perhaps much of that can be attributed to the fact that when he was seventeen, he and his friends started a band.

“To be honest, I never saw myself as a teacher. I always saw myself as a musician, an artist, someone who liked to create things.”

Like most young musicians, Max and his friends fantasized about earning national acclaim and touring around Russia to play their music, but they were also realistic with their ambitions.

Coincidentally, one of Max’s bandmates auspiciously decided to start a graphic design company, a move that would forever alter the trajectory of Max’s career.  

“My friend told me to come work for him, and that he would teach me everything,” Max says, and while his starting salary as a graphic designer left much to be desired, creatively Max was fulfilled.

“That job ended up being the equivalent of going to school for graphic design.”

Fast forward a few years, and not only had Max by then moved to Moscow to pursue bigger opportunities within the graphic design industry, but he was also married.

A young professional with a bright future ahead of him, Max reveled in the metropolitan lifestyle afforded by Russia’s capital city, but soon the political climate in Moscow changed when Vladimir Putin returned to power in 2011.

Along with many others, Max was disheartened by the regime change, which simultaneously spurred thoughts about what it would be like to one day leave Russia and its oppressive dictatorship.

“I had been attending a lot of the protests in Moscow because I didn’t like a lot of what was going on around me,” Max mentions, but it wasn’t long before he realized that continuing to protest The Kremlin’s induction of Putin could have severe consequences.

“Those events also made me recognize that if I wanted to be a part of change, I would probably go to jail.”

This left Max with only two options:

Remain in Moscow and actively object to the changing government, or leave.

Through a stroke of good fortune, around this time Max’s wife won the “lottery” and became eligible for a visa to the United States.

This meant that not only was Max’s wife then allowed to leave Russia and board a plane for the United States, but he was also permitted to do the same.

“When my wife won the lottery, it was one of the happiest moments of my life,” Max says.

At present, it’s been five years since Max first arrived in the United States.

Even though he doesn’t possess a degree in graphic design from an accredited American university, Max’s talents have still netted him several lucrative projects.

Still, Max reveals that some companies have passed on hiring him full-time because they are wary of his perceived lack of education.

This confounds Max because, as a man who has worked in both Russia and the United States, he says that the difference in graphic design practices among the countries is negligible.

“There are almost no differences, in terms of process,” Max emphasizes.

“I used to work at one of the biggest agencies in Moscow, and while I haven’t worked at a big agency here in the United States, I have interviewed with several big companies, and when I ask them about process, it’s always the same.”

Now, as he continues to navigate the competitive and unpredictable freelance and full-time job markets, Max is confident that he will be able to pick up more temporary work, but he admits that in an ideal situation he would secure a full-time position with a company, whether that’s in-person in the Twin Cities, or remotely somewhere else.

“At the moment, I’m leaning towards working with an established company because I miss working on big projects and growing as an artist during those projects,” he says.

Max has entertained the idea of launching his own graphic design company, but with family being a key ingredient to his overall happiness, he would rather focus on working for another company than devoting the next few years of his life to laying the framework for his own organization.

“If I tried to launch a business, I probably wouldn’t have much time for the next two or three years,” Max explains.

As a seasoned graphic design professional, Max knows what works well for him and his lifestyle, but that’s not to say that every graphic designer will mimic his path, which is why, no matter if someone is new to the industry or proactively looking for another gig, the important thing is to always ensure that one is continually refining their skills.

Explains Max:

“I constantly am telling people to keep practicing because I know people who spend a lot of time on [graphic design] theory, and that includes people who are going to college or watching YouTube videos on how to create designs.”

“For context, I wasn’t watching YouTube videos when I started. I didn’t learn graphic design in college. The skills I have today came as a result of practice.” QS


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