CHANGE OF THE PERSPECTIVE IS GOOD – INTERVIEW WITH BILJANA BRANKOVIĆ AND VERONIKA TASIĆ VUŠUROVIĆ FOR DESIGNED.RS
First from a series of interviews in which Designed.rs will present some of our mentoring pairs of the 4thgeneration. We are grateful for the opportunity to present our programme and introduce to the wider audience, in our humble opinion, the amazing 4thgeneration of the “Creative Mentorship” programme. You can read the entire text on the portal designed.rs.
Veronika Tasić Vušurović – mentor
Veronika Tasić Vušurović is an executive director of the Digital Serbia Initiative. She is an enthusiast considering the use of digital technologies and customer relationships, an adviser for a long-term development of corporations and their better management. She collaborated with management of the largest companies and institutions in Southeast Europe on defining their strategic goals and implementing different programmes. She worked with banking, telecommunications, food processing and retailing companies, but also with numerous ministries and state-owned companies. She was engaged in UNICEF projects in the field of child protection and youth promotion.
Could you explain to us how was the Digital Serbia Initiative created, how would you define its goals, and what is your role in the Initiative?
The initiative was founded by nine companies and organizations that believe that Serbia can become one of the leading digital economies if it timely undergoes digital transformation.The main field of our work is education; regulations, laws and conditions related to business operations; ecosystem development and communication. The goal is to improve the environment in which innovations will emerge, people will materialize their entrepreneurial ideas and our country will be recognized as a great place to live and work in. My role is to connect these fields and emphasize the importance of working together and the true commitment of all us in Serbia and abroad.
Why did you accept to be a mentor in the “Creative Mentorship” programme and which expectations do you have from joining the programme?
I am very pleased that the importance of these programmes was recognized and they are implemented in a lot of organizations, as the example of good practice. The “Creative Mentorship” has a special kind of charm and value because it is focused on individuals who are active in the field of culture and arts and, I would say, are neglected and marginalized in the public discourse. We all have one creative being inside us, so it is not natural to treat creative work this way. I believe that I will, through the mentor’s role, use my knowledge and experience from the business field and direct someone’s creativity towards economic sustainability. Of course, the interaction with the participants who are very interesting and inspirational, but also agile enough to materialize their ideas, is of great significance.
Tell us about your work with Biljana Brankovic, the mentoring process and the way you reach conclusions and solutions. Did you imagine that your work with Biljana will look exactly like this?
Often during our conversations, I have a feeling that Biljana and I have known each other for a long time, or that, at least, we should have met before. Our meetings are relaxed, although Biljana is holding to the recommended structure (which helps us not to stray). We mostly discuss business situations that Biljana defines well and it helps me to learn a lot about her work. We compare her problems with the situations I have faced in entirely different fields, such as retail, pharmaceutical sector or tourism. This helps us to find some universal conclusions and inspires Biljana to look for solutions that often are not so obvious.
How would you describe your impressions of Biljana’s product archiPLAY?
archiPLAY is a unique concept that has been developed so it can transform into many versatile products for different markets. Biljana has already begun to explore new ways and she approaches them strategically and thoughtfully. I believe that some decisions will be difficult to make, the way will not always be easy, but I am sure that many sophisticated customers will always choose an archiPLAY product for their own business needs or to uncover their own creativity, due to its special aesthetics and multifunctionality.
Biljana Branković – mentee
Biljana Branković is an architect, educator and entrepreneur – founder of the archiPLAY brand. The field of her professional work is a dynamic exchange of architecture, design and education. Her perennial experience in the architectural education of children and young people, led her to launching a brand of educational toys – archiPLAY, together with her husband. She teaches Design of urban space at the Faculty of Applied Arts in Belgrade. Through practical work and doctoral studies, she explores participatory methods in solving the problems of modern urban areas.
How did you get the idea of creating a brand archiPLAY, and how did the path from the idea to the manufacture of your first products unfold?
The idea of the architectural toys manufacture evolved from our workshops – we have been working for years with children on various programmes that aimed at developing spatial logic, abstract thinking, consciousness about city and architecture. For the needs of these educational programmes, we developed a great number of tools, so we could explain more easily some architectural principles and concepts to the children. Both parents and children often asked us if they could buy those tools somewhere. After a while, we realised that those prototypes should be turned into products and that is how the archiPLAY was created.
Tell us more about the products. How does the process of product designing, of its manufacture and placement on the market looks like?
The process of manufacture begins by defining the development potential that the product needs to have. It is followed by designing, prototyping and testing the product during the workshops for children. We observe how the children use the toy, collect feedback and conclusions, and implement them in the final version of the prototype. After that, we optimize it for serial manufacture, write instructions, design packaging, and we strive to ensure that each of these aspects follows the brand identity.
Why did you apply for the “Creative mentorship” programme and what are your expectations?
I applied for the programme because I wanted to perceive a wider picture and potential of this kind of business. Both my husband and I are architects and it is natural for us to be engaged in design and development of concepts, but we are not familiar with lot of aspects of this business: sales, marketing, pricing policy, placement on the market, packaging, branding… I want to understand, through this programme, in which direction the brand should be developed.
Since at the faculty you are mostly in the role of mentor, how does your collaboration with Veronica look like, and how did you adapt to the role of the mentee, in this case?
I looked forward to the role of the mentee – mostly because I am often on the opposite side. I think that the change of perspective is good – that simultaneous experience of being both, teacher and student, makes me more modest and fresh. The relationship with Veronica is still at the beginning, but I think that the most important thing has already happen – the establishment of trust. My primary task now is to understand how “to use” her great competencies in the most optimal way.
Interview: Ivana Srdanović
Photos of Biljana and Veronika : Vladislav Cvetković Cvek