With the onset of war in Ukraine, many artists and designers haven’t stayed on the sidelines. Instead, they’ve tried their best to reflect upon the crisis. Artem Militonian, a Yerevan-born and Helsinki-based designer, also brought his vision to the table with a powerful website, unfolding the terrors of the war through a timeline with animated photos. In 2022, the War in Ukraine project won the Readymag Websites of the Year in the Impact category and was also featured by dozens of international media. We’ve talked with Artem about his shift from graphic design to the web, the importance of recognition, international contests and the making of the “War in Ukraine”.
In search of the calling
From a young age, I developed a passion for visual storytelling, particularly cinema art and photography. This interest ultimately led me to design, a versatile tool for conveying anything one wants—whether concepts, thoughts or a global vision.
Web design allows you to create a unique online identity, a piece of oneself on the global net. And if to speak in terms of art, for me, web design appeared to be an effective tool for storytelling and self-expression.—Artem Militonian
Web design is a complex notion. It plays a deeply significant role in modern communication, with the internet often replacing traditional forms of interaction. Social media has taken a backseat as it becomes saturated with information, making it challenging to focus on the desired content. This shift from social networks to the wider web has led to an increased need for personal websites. Not just for those selling products or services but for anyone seeking a digital presence. Web design allows you to create a unique online identity, a piece of oneself on the global net. And if to speak in terms of art, for me, web design appeared to be an effective tool for storytelling and self-expression.
Recognition is crucial for an artist
I can abstractly call any person engaged with art an artist. So if we proceed from this understanding, an artist simply can’t simply do work for themselves and never show it to the public. An artist does art to resonate with the world and be acknowledged, let me say, for a good painting or a decent movie. So receiving feedback in any form is crucial: as awards, recognition, or mere applause.
Only when you express yourself, and do so proficiently, will the world come forward.—Artem Militonian
When applying to design competitions, I always strive to win—not just participate. There’s a controversial dialogue in the famous movie “Never Look Away” (2018, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck), which echoes a belief instilled in me from childhood that anything worth doing should be done to the best of one's ability. It is not enough to be good or stay among the best; one must strive to be the absolute master. This approach does not mean avoiding competitions if there’s no chance to score first, but rather constantly aspiring to be the best in their field. When you design professionally, you work for your own reputation and future, so try to win or, at the very least, learn how to nail it in future. However, I advise creating projects not just for the sake of winning but to communicate ideas. Only when you express yourself, and do so proficiently will the world come forward. Here I can draw parallels to Ayn Rand's book “Atlas Shrugged”, which emphasizes the idea of egoists being the driving force behind global progress.
Choosing the right tool to drive ideas
A few years ago, I discovered popular web design contests like the FWA Awards, and back then, they appeared to be a tremendous challenge to me. To earn such prestigious recognition, one must create not just a poster but an entire website—and make it aesthetically pleasing, innovative and technologically advanced. Any graphic designer is significantly limited in this situation, as they can’t code unless web development is their side hustle.
Readymag has shown me that my main obstacle can be overcome, and I can design impressive websites without knowledge of the technology stack.—Artem Militonian
Readymag has shown me that my main obstacle can be overcome, and I can design impressive websites without knowledge of the technology stack. Although no-code tools have more limited capabilities than coding, I can still compete with web projects developed by large and tech-savvy teams. Now, all it takes is just me and the tool, and here we go: veni, vidi, vici.
Designing with Readymag over the years, I've developed unique skills and recently created a course on how to use the tool if you want to put abstract ideas into practical websites with ease.
The making of the War in Ukraine
Usually, my creative process has its own flow: in a particular moment, I understand that I’ve accumulated enough energy, and I want to spill it out, tell something that really matters, something that is not well known or much spoken about in my informational bubble.—Artem Militonian
When I’ve been working on the War in Ukraine project, all I wanted is to outspeak what resonates with me. Just like with the Armenian Genocide website, I chose storytelling as the main tool. Usually, my creative process has its own flow: in a particular moment, I understand that I’ve accumulated enough energy, and I want to spill it out, tell something that really matters, something less known or less spoken about in my informational bubble.
For this project, I aimed to design an editorial that would be, on the one hand, engaging enough for every visitor to read it to the bottom. That means there should be interesting animated solutions. On the other hand, the project must remain chronological. I also wanted to make sure the website didn’t just repeat existing pages dedicated to the war.
I pulled the War in Ukraine website together quickly—it took me a week. As an experienced Readymag designer, I simply open the editor and begin creating without a single part planned out. If you really have a story to tell, Readymag will help you bring it to life. Also, for this project, I used animation and storytelling tricks completely new to me.
Adding a new dimension to the website
A director always wants people to come to the cinema, sit back in the complete darkness and lose themselves in the atmosphere with no distraction and intent to leave. The same is true for longreads.—Artem Militonian
Designers are a little like film directors, with viewers following their plot from the very beginning to the very end. A director always wants people to come to the cinema, sit back in the complete darkness and lose themselves in the atmosphere with no distraction and intent to leave. The same is true for longreads. When you browse websites, you may listen to random music, you may chat with someone or just sit by yourself in a crowded cafe. I believe the right music matters for visual storytelling, as it adds more significance to the idea.
Readymag allows for adding music to websites with the help of a code. I’m not that into programming yet; that’s why I found a track that thoroughly reflected my emotions while designing the War in Ukraine. Just pure melody without words. I made a screencast and laid the sound over it—now it’s a sort of music video that you can really live through.
Insights from the Readymag Websites of the Year 2022
In a certain sense, the sadly urgent character of the topic may have helped me to win my nomination in the Impact category at Readymag Websites of the Year 2022. But the animation tricks I used also played in my favor. I managed to add something that is capable of enhancing and continuing the narrative to such a hard-hitting topic, where only photos and texts seem to be appropriate. That’s how the War in Ukraine website got its distinctive voice. I was really impressed by the Feed the 3oo project, which scored second in the same Impact category. That’s a simple and nice website lined with animal illustrations and links to donations. Those donations will go to Ukrainian zoos affected by the war. Feed the 3oo project and my wife inspired me to give my prize for the Readymag Websites of the Year 2022 to help animals in Ukraine.
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