‘I can say that I had a beautiful childhood. For parents, raising kids in Serbia during the 90s wasn’t easy at all but they did their best, so we could grow up in a normal and functional family, full of love and dedication.’ Explains, Graphic Designer, Marija Markovic. ‘Like every other kid my age in that period, I was aware of war and the bombings in 1999, and despite that, life was going on, in a more or less normal way. Serbia is my homeland and I love it. And back in 1999, a few months before the bombings, my dad took me to my first painting class at the Russian cultural centre “Ruski dom” in Belgrade and that’s when I fell in love with art.’
It is a love that continues until this day and it’s what helped lead her on the path to a career in Graphic Design. ‘Thanks to the ‘Ruski Dom’ art became an inseparable part of my life.’ Marija says. ‘My love for graphic design came when I was older and knew I wanted to study something related to art but I wasn’t quite sure which department to choose. So, at the University of Arts, I spent 2 years at the Department for Restoration and Conservation of Art pieces and it was beautiful. But, I felt that graphic design was much closer to my interests and so I transferred to the department for Graphic design and that’s how everything started.’
The rest as they say is history. Marija’s work as a Graphic designer is truly an explosion of sporting and cultural nostalgia. Each carefully crafted image, tells a story, that feels like a love letter to days gone by and days to come. She uses her passion for art, photography, typography, collages, and different textures to create something mind-blowingly unique.
Her designs which often focus on football, take inspiration from iconic eras, legendary teams, cult heroes, as well as moments in time never to be forgotten, modern greats and giants of the beautiful game. And it is all done with a glorious vintage and retro twist which is quite simply a feast for the eyes. There has been this phenomenal rise and renaissance in the desire and demand for football culture which harks back to the halcyon days of Italia 90, Cruyff, Maradona’s Napoli and cult teams such as Boca Juniors. Marija’s work has brought together a community of people who are utterly captivated and engrossed by her designs that capture different eras of football which for so many of us evoke strong and fond memories.
Now, unfortunately, when it comes to art or design, I have no talent at all. In fact, I distinctly remember an art lesson at High School, where my teacher picked up a piece of work that I had concocted, looked at it, raised a concerned eyebrow in a way that would have made Carlo Ancelotti proud and simply said, ‘What way is this supposed to go?’ It was at that moment I knew I would never be an artist. The reason I mention this is that if I had any artistic talent at all to speak of, then the designs that Marija produces are exactly, the kind of work I would dream of doing. it’s as if she has looked inside my head and taken all of my thoughts and created something incredible with them.
Her works of art have graced the pages of some of the biggest publications in the world and it should also be said that football isn’t her only focus and love. She produces remarkable designs inspired by a number of Sporting Greats, Cinematic masterpieces, Politics, and Social and Cultural Events, which have this remarkable ability to illustrate and bring any story to life.
It was an absolute pleasure for The Atlantic Dispatch to sit down with Marija, as she took us on a journey throughout her career, looking at what inspires her, why Red Star Belgrade is her love and what the rest of the year has in store.
I get inspired by some random things in life
Let’s say that collage is the basis of my work style. Photos that I use are what direct the further flow of work. Then I can think about the colours, typography, shapes and all those details that I like to put on my work. I can find inspiration anywhere, it happens that I get inspired by some random things in life, some street ads, songs, classic art, books, package design details, interesting patterns, and people around me. Of course, lately, the internet is the best idea provider and where you can inspire yourself quickly. I like to follow pages related to typography and posters that have that mid-century modern vibe, movie posters, old football programs, retro book covers design. To be honest, there is a period when I need a few days off so I can refresh my ideas and creativity. I think that’s the normal process in design or art in general when you notice that you struggle with ideas. And then I also use all the sources for inspiration above mentioned to get back on track.
IT’S PART OF MY CHILDHOOD MEMORIES
I know it’s such a cliched phrase, but all of the projects that I’ve worked on are equally important and I’m proud of each of them. What I must say is that I’m very attached to my work related to teams of Yugoslavia – World Cup 1998 and Euro 2000. These collages dedicated to these two Yugo teams are something that I personally love the most. It’s part of my childhood memories, such legendary players. The aesthetic of both Cups were amazing, teams like Yugoslavia, France, Italy, Netherlands, Argentina, Brazil… mind-blowing. I only regret not having the years I have now to watch World Cup 1998 again as an adult, such a spectacle. And also I have to mention the incredible Yugoslavia team in Italy 90 as well as the unforgettable Ciao mascot, one of the best in my opinion.
THE 1991 GENERATION was and still is one of the main symbols of Red Star BELGRade
The 90s and early 2000s football eras are my favourite and the most inspiring. I’m glad that this mostly matches other’s people tastes and interests and who order my work. From my very early childhood, Red Star became my favourite club. I don’t know how that love began since all of my family members are Partizan fans. But in Belgrade, you choose between Red Star and Partizan and that’s for life. I guess that was spontaneous and since then Red Star it is. Later, as I was growing up I became more aware of the greatness of the club and their achievements in 1991 and finals in Bari against Olympique Marseille. Along with that, some of the players from that generation became my favourites like Vladimir Jugović, Dejan Savićević, Siniša Mihajlović and not to forget Piksi who left Red Star and went to Olympique Marseille. The 1991 Generation was and still is one of the main symbols of Red Star and that victory has a status of a legend.
Red Star became my favourite club. I don’t know how that love began since all of my family members are Partizan fans. But in Belgrade, you choose between Red Star and Partizan and that’s for life.— Marija Markovic
There are clubs that have that “something” specific that I LIKE
Modern football has given us a lot of great players and great performances on the pitch but somehow football from the 90s and early 2000s is still my preferred one. I can say, I’m a fan of many players of today like N’Golo Kante, Lukaku, Aleksandar Mitrović, and Dušan Tadić. Living in the era of Messi and witnessing many big and eye-pleasing moments in the modern-day, has been incredible, but if I have to choose I go with football of before. There are clubs that still have that “something” specific that I like not only regarding the style of play but their total identity such as Atletico Madrid, Napoli, West Ham, and Boca Juniors and I enjoy following them. I have to mention that aesthetic of Italian clubs amazes me each season more and more. I love how clubs and fans like Venezia, Verona and Bari lately work on their visual identity. That’s a great thing that modern football brought to us, a big space to play with football and design. And this other beautiful side of football is being taken seriously more and more and I’m very happy about it.
I’M JUST ENJOYING THE CREATIVE JOURNEY
Being a graphic designer is a super creative profession. It’s the way to realise your ideas, and express yourself and the way of doing it and creating your own style is something that defines you as a designer. I enjoy creating each piece, from the raw idea in my head to the final result. Maybe the biggest challenge is to start something without knowing if it will work but you’ll give it a try anyway.
Everyone has a period of doubt, wondering if this is good if this is something I still want to do, or what is the point. But that’s good to ask yourself occasionally to see if you are still in this 100% or if it’s time to move on. I still didn’t achieve “that something” after you can say “ok, that’s it I did it, I’m done here” I don’t have that final achievement that I’m aiming for, I’m just enjoying this creative journey, working on something that I love and trying to be better than I was in a professional way. I hope the rest of this year will bring some new interesting and creative projects, related to sport or other fields of interest. Football is my thing and my main focus but I like to step out from the “football design field” into something totally different so let’s see what will the second half of 2023 will bring.
Thank you very much to the obscenely talented Marija Markovic.