Kitasavi burst onto 99designs in 2017 with a portfolio packed with brilliant color palettes, bold shapes and a hip twist ideal for brands looking to make an impact.
Originally from Russia, the husband and wife duo now base their creative studio in Georgia and offer a multi-disciplinary approach to clients around the world.
Their work focuses specifically on building brands from the ground up. Kitasavi specializes in creating full visual identities that begin with eye-catching logos and colors, and continue onto packaging, web design and other business needs that keep the brand sharp and cohesive throughout its lifecycle.
Name: Ksusha Drizhd & Nikita Savinov
99designs handle: Kitasavi
Tell us a bit about yourselves
Nikita: Hi! I am Nikita Savinov.
Ksusha: And I am Ksusha Drizhd.
Nikita: We are Kitasavi Studio and we’re a married couple. We were born on opposite sides of Russia. Ksusha is from Belogorsk, a town in Far Eastern Russia near the Chinese-Russian border, and I am from Vladikavkaz, a town located in the Southwest region of the country, in the Caucasus Mountains, near the Russian-Georgian border.
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. At the age of 7 I began studying in a children’s art school. Then my family moved to Moscow, where I continued my education at another children’s art school and later studied graphic design at university.
Ksusha: I have always been a creative person—I was singing, dancing, acting, performing on stage. Later, I moved to Vladivostok to study public relations. After that, I lived in Saint Petersburg, and then moved back to the Far East.
We met online and, after chatting for a couple months, realized that we had a lot in common. We can’t live without each other now. Nikita flew almost 8,000km to meet with me in person. He asked me to marry him only a week after our meeting. I said yes and we came to live in Moscow.
How did you both get started in graphic design?
Nikita: I decided that I want to get a degree in graphic design when I was studying in high school. During my education, I started to work on small projects for my friends, as well as personal ones.
Then I worked as an in-house designer at the biggest movie theater chain in Russia, later at a small design studio, and then at a large international advertising agency. So I’ve tried everything.
Ksusha: When we came to live in Moscow, I began to work as a curator at a school of music. I became very interested in Nikita’s work as a graphic designer after we met, and at some point I started helping him with ideas, concepts, and sketches.
Sometimes, I came to Nikita’s work and supported him even when he got to work at 4am to finish urgent work on a project in time. That’s when we figured out that we work best when we are together.
Why did you start Kitasavi Studio?
Nikita: About a year and a half ago, we realized that we didn’t want to work in an office anymore.
We’d been thinking about becoming freelancers for a long time, but we had a lot of concerns. How would we find clients to work with? Could we earn enough money to rent an apartment or to live the life that we’re used to? We didn’t know. But we decided to take our chances and pursue our dream.
You’re now living in Georgia. What brought you there?
Ksusha: We were living in Moscow and the first time we came to Tbilisi was two years ago on vacation. We fell in love with the city’s beautiful historic architecture, delicious food, nice people, its culture and nightlife. We decided that we wanted to live here—at least for a little while—and we’ve been here for 8 months already.
Nikita: Georgia is a great place for freelancers and creatives. There’s great nature, mountains, the sea, a lot of lakes and rivers. It’s really beautiful! Warm climate, wonderful wine and local cuisine to inspire us to create awesome stuff.
Tell us a little about your creative process
Ksusha: We always try to make our creative process fun. We put on some good music, start to discuss our ideas, make a lot of drafts and sketches, and then argue a lot. [laughs]
Then we go for a walk, visit a restaurant or play videogames to completely clear our brain so we can start again with a fresh mind. Afterwards, we’ll pick the best directions and finalize them. We don’t have specific roles in the design process, besides the fact that Nikita mostly works on a laptop and I work more on paper.
Nikita: Also, Ksusha is great at narrowing down the amount of ideas when we have too many options.
What type of projects do you love working on? Is there a certain style you prefer?
Nikita: There’s no specific style that we prefer to work with. We prefer to create a style for each project instead. Monochromatic, single color design or lots of vivid colors? Crazy shapes, abstract imaginery or hand-drawn illustrations? Choose what you like! Every project is different, but we always work in our own way and do our best to create something unique.
As for the type of project, we are a multi-disciplinary studio and prefer to create the full visual identity—from logo and brand colors to packaging and website design.
Are you influenced by current trends? In what way?
Nikita: We keep an eye on everything that happens in the design world and we are aware of existing and upcoming trends. Sometimes we can use them if it suits the project’s needs. But, honestly, we think that it’s more important to do your best to create great design, don’t be afraid to experiment, then your work will be special and unique and you will become a trendsetter one day.
How do you usually kick off a project with a new client?
Ksusha: Before starting any work, we ask our clients about themselves, their business, mission, goals and about things they like—not necessarily in design. For example, someone who listens to old school hip-hop, someone who’s a fan of arcade games, someone who likes Matisse’s art—we can use all of that in branding.
We also conduct a little market research and look for the competitors. Then we create a project that stands out from the rest.
Do you set any expectations before beginning a project?
Nikita: We always inform our clients about the result they are going to get. We show them some design references, choose a style direction together and discuss timing. Of course, something unexpected can always happen, so we try to be as flexible as possible and are always open to new ideas and suggestions.
What brought you to 99designs?
Nikita: I joined 99designs in 2014 just out of curiousity, but I didn’t actually participate in a contest until August 2017. We decided to give it a try when we quit our jobs and won three contests in row really quickly, which obviously was a good sign! We still work with these clients, and it’s really awesome.
What do you enjoy most about the platform so far?
Ksusha: What we enjoy most is that 99designs connects designers and customers from all around the world. You can work with people from Australia, the USA or Europe all at the same time! It’s really cool to see your projects come to life in various parts of the world.