Pillar of our Top Level Community, designer Konstantin Yastrebov – known here as DSKY – has been dominating contests for almost five years now. He was one of the first batch to be designated the Top Level label (way back when we came up with it!) and has continued to expand his amazing portfolio of designs ever since.
A winner of Top 9 at 99, and a winner or runner up in a whole bundle of community contests (such as the Pelican’s Logo, 99designs Habla Espanol and Brazilian World Cup), he’s also been unfailingly supportive of the larger community at 99designs — like the time he told us all about his Winning Design Process on the blog.
Learn a little bit more about his design background and how he’s gotten so far in our interview.
Name: Konstantin Yastrebov
99designs handle: DSKY
Location: Kherson city,Ukraine
Specialty: Web design & identity
Tell us a little bit about your background! When did you start getting interested in graphic design, and what is your education?
My name is Konstantin Yastrebov. I am 27 years old and I live in Kherson, a small city in southern Ukraine. I have been working for two years as a full-time freelancer.
I have a college degree as an artist and designer. I’ve always been interested in painting, photography, dance and design, and have done all these things for a long time. But I decided that it is necessary to focus on just one, so I had a better chance of getting really good at it.
Of course, I chose design. We always make choices and sometimes they’re wrong, but always give us a chance for improvement. So there’s no need to fear, just act.
You do a lot of different design – logo, identity and web. How do you diversify so much?
When I started working on 99designs, I just did logo design. Then I tried a few competitions on web design. Of course, it resulted in nothing at first. But it was a really great experience, so I continued to work on web design contests. And now it takes up most of my time! So I can offer customers a greater range of services.
You’ve developed a very consistent style in your design. What inspires your aesthetics?
When I began on 99designs, I saw a lot of original and exciting designs. It was just a shock to me, these works looked really cool! I did not think that in a couple of years, I would be able to do the same quality of work. I looked for the best work of other designers and analyzed them.
A designer should always compare their work with others, as it helps to improve design skills. I had a lot to learn to become better, and I still continue to compare and improve.
How do you choose your clients and contests?
I have developed a system for selecting contests. First, I follow all the contests that interest me. I check for new ones every day. I never look at whether a competition is guaranteed. For me, feedback is more important.
If, after a day, the customer is giving fairly high feedback, only then do I start to work. And there have been competitions that I liked, but I refused to take part in due to low feedback. I’m not saying that this rule works for everyone, but for me it has worked perfectly.
You’ve been featured a ton on the 99designs blog for community contests and Top 9. Do you have a favorite project from them – or any of your other designs?
Being in the Top 9 was a great experience. I had very strong competitors, and I did not expect a victory. It has helped me reach a new level. It made me work harder. It’s a great incentive for each participant at 99designs.
It’s hard to single out a particular design. Probably Dive Arabia (pictured above), because it was was an important victory for me (it was my first win!), which became a strong impetus for my development. But I also know that my design is not perfect. It took half a year before I was unhappy with my old job. That’s why we must continue to develop. Always analyze your past projects and try to improve your level of design.
What is it about this community that drives you to keep participating?
One day my friend Freshinnet showed me 99designs, and it changed my life. I met great people and I am honored to be a part of this community. I live in a small town, but now I have the opportunity to communicate with people from all over the world. It’s really an amazing thing.
What are your plans going from here? Do you have an end goal?
I understand that I have a lot more to learn, I want to improve. But I believe that I will achieve good results in design. My goal is to leave a significant mark in this world. To do something useful for other people. And design is a great opportunity for that.
Also, I would like to drink coffee and eat a pizza with the whole team 99. And tell them thank you 🙂 And one day I’ll do it! (Authors note — us too!)
What kind of advice do you have for other designers?
Be original. Look for your own style and try to be a specialist in a certain sphere of design, so you will achieve great results. But do not forget to try something new. Always plan for the future and define your long-term goals, but also plan every month of work.
I understand that many perceive as contests as a lottery. But you can control your earnings on 99designs. You just have to determine how much money you want to earn and do a little math to make sure you get there.
Also it’s very important to communicate with the customer. Each version of the design that you send, you have to explain. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Let’s say it so happens that the customer sends you a message at 11pm and you’re going to sleep.
Of course you can’t make a change right then, you’re not a zombie. But the best option would be to respond to the customer and say that you can make the changes in the morning. It’s the little things like that which create excellent conditions for working relationships.
Enjoy your work and life. Live every day and remember about your health. Today is the best day of your life. Live now so you are able to change their future.