August 29, 2023

True craftsmanship hidden in a notebook

Interviewer: Hatidža Hadžimuhamedović
Davor Bruketa is the cofounder and CCO of the marketing agency Bruketa&Žinić&Grey, one of the biggest players in the field of modern marketing in the region. We talked to Davor Bruketa about the work-effort balance, problem-solving, the role of AI in the creative future, and found out if he still carries his black notebook he is known for…..

The interview was edited for clarity and length.
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Hatidža: You are considered one of most renowned creative professionals in the region and beyond. Let’s go back to your beginnings when you were a 20-year old working student. What advice would you give to yourself today?
Davor: I started working at a young age. I was impatient and did not want to wait until I was done with my college studies. I would recommend it to everybody, because when you are 18 or 19, you are still supported by your parents. It’s the perfect opportunity to experiment and try things out, which you may not be able to later in life, once you have 2 loans, 2 kids.

I didn’t shy away from looking for a job. It’s what I do today, but maybe in a different way. I think, feeling embarrassed to knock on doors and ask for work or opportunities is deeply ingrained in us culturally, but I believe, it is key, and in the end, after as many rejections as one can get, there will be a door that will open. We need to have a little faith.
Hatidža: What do you consider a productive day? What needs to be checked off?
Davor: As most creative people, I used to be messy in every aspect. With time, I learned that order and a routine are a far better way to achieve what I want. I managed to find the strength to gradually adopt some daily routines. From getting up early and hitting the gym before work to organizing my meals as to not have them in the way of my plans. I think it helps. A routine is everything.

As much as we like to think that a routine sucks, it doesn’t. It’s genius and I can only recommend it. I have certain activities I do at a certain time of the day and it helps my brain work and be efficient.
Hatidža: Are there any unconvential methods you use to come up with solutions?
Davor: When I cannot come up with a solution for a problem, swimming is what works for me. There is no phone, no stimulus, the goggles get foggy, you can’t see anything… and all you do is paddling with your arms and listening to the sound of water. The brain first rummages through the daily tasks, I got to do this and that, but when all of that is over, the brain gets bored with the train of thoughts and shifts to the questions I wondered about before I entered the pool, and it helps 100%. When I was younger, I used to have two glasses of wine to drive my inspiration. However, it is not the best approach as two glasses of wine usually call for a third one.  
Hatidža: It’s known that you used to carry a black notebook and a pen with you to sketch and write down ideas. Is it still a thing you do today? Can good old pen & paper be replaced at least when we are talking about first drafts and ideas?
Davor: I belong to the first generation of designers that used a computer. We actually detested sketching as it seemed so old-fashioned to us. However, my brain thinks through pen and paper, and it is more natural to me than clicking a computer mouse. The pen became my best friend spontaneously and gradually. And yes, I’ve still got a notebook, but it’s not black anymore, it’s gold. I bought it in Cannes - a Cannes notebook. 
Hatidža: Given the immense advancement of technology, how hard is it to keep pace with it creative-wise? How would you describe constant research and communication with colleagues?
Davor: Having a wide range of interests and keeping an interest in people and their motivations is vital in our industry as it enables us to understand the world we are living in. I made it part of my routine to set apart some time to stay informed. For example, I have approximately three podcasts with daily news on my list while walking to the office: Financial times, The Economist and Vark. Vark is a professional podcast, while the other two are more about general topics and finances. I have a bunch of interests, but they are rather superficial as there are so many of them. It helps me navigate the world and understand where we live, what is going on and what drives people. You need to understand that kind of stuff when you are in communications.
Hatidža: Visually-wise, what does it mean to be trendy today?
Davor: Every brand has to have some modern elements. Some brands are super trendy and they care a lot about it. Others communicate in a totally different style using timeless motifs. Our homework is to understand the world around us, its visual elements and what their purpose is. As young designers, we were super trendy without understanding why. It simply felt alluring. The problem with that was that it sometimes did not correlate with the topic, nor the advertiser, and it was actually funny.  
Hatidža: In your public appearances, you quite frequently put a focus on persistence as a key to success. Can you tell us more?
Davor: I think the difference between successful and not-so-successful people is their ability to be persistent. To put it simply, successful people are such a pain in the behind that it can make you go crazy, but there’s a catch. If you persistently push in the wrong direction, you’ll probably be caught up in a disaster. Persistence is good but one needs to know when to stop. The trick is to recognize when a mistake was made and when you’re barking up the wrong tree. In general, most people are not that persistent, and they give up after the first, second or third hindrance.

What I figured out, at least in our industry, is that a lot of people are talented to a higher or lesser degree. In the end though, it’s not the talent that brings in results, but talent multiplied by effort. Even with a bit of talent, one can achieve significant results. I remember a few colleagues from university who were extremely talented, but they did not make it big later. Without hard work, persistence and the ability not to lose courage over something you seem to be failing at, you are left with a pretty much average existence.
Hatidža: Besides the past and the present, let’s discuss the future for a little bit. What are your thoughts on AI and creativity?
Davor: What we currently have is without precedence like nothing we have seen before. It’s a big deal and it will change our lives. The tricky part about AI is that, as with every new technology, we as a species are inclined to use it against each other and kill each other. I hope we matured enough by now and that this will not happen.

AI is very exciting though, because no one of us knows what they will be doing next year, let alone ten years from now. For example, Midjourney was a useless tool just 1,5 years ago and is now the most fantastic thing in the world. As for us, we are closely observing the development of generative AI tools and are still in the playing stage. We decided not to be afraid, because either way, growth and progress cannot be stopped.

I think exciting times are ahead of us, but we need to show responsibility in how we use AI. We are all privileged to live together in a time of such incredible and fast technological advancements like no one ever before us.