Profile – Graphic Designer Martina Calajová

We talk good internships, inspiration and ambition with Czech graphic designer Martina Calajová…

We first meet Martina Calajová in the offices of Smiling Wolf when she makes us a (great) cup of coffee, but we’d already heard about her. “We have a great new intern,” we’re told by John Wai, lead developer at the city centre based design agency.

Sidestepping obvious jokes about interns making the cuppas, it’s hard not to be impressed by Calajová (working alongside her quite closely on a shared project, especially given the tight turnarounds we were dealing with). In a rare break, encouraged by Wai, but more by what we’ve seen, we get chatting.

From the Czech Republic, where she is in the final year of her Graphic Design Masters in the Ústí nad Labem region of the country – “I always say Prague because nobody knows anywhere else!” – Calajová is in the UK by virtue of the Erasmus scheme (European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students).

“It’s my last opportunity to go somewhere for free”

“It’s my last opportunity to go somewhere for free,” she explains. “I was thinking about England … and liked Liverpool, Manchester, London and Glasgow, so I sent a few emails. Well, it was like 100 emails,” she says, laughing. “Smiling Wolf said yes; I was really happy because I think it was the best [option] of all of them.”

As internships go, Erasmus is quite lengthy (five months); at least it is when you’re used to the bits and pieces passing for them in the UK. But for Martina, it makes much more sense: “In the Czech Republic, it’s common to have longer – you can’t really learn anything in two weeks … maybe learn how to make coffee for everyone.”

It’s important at this juncture to point out that, although here as a student and to learn, Calajová is an accomplished graphic designer in her own right, and ambitious too. She tells us about the collective; called Mančaft (which roughly translates to English as ‘team’) she’s part of back in the Czech Republic, which started as a hobby but is evolving.

For her, the internship was more about practicalities. “I have my own studio … with my friends and we’re starting to make a business from it. It’s fun but it’s getting more serious now.” The collective – which includes (as well as graphic designers) illustrators, web developers and a product designer – have won multiple commissions and lead their own lecture series.

“It’s really important to talk to people; for feedback, to hear new stories,go different places”

Her own work is as distinctive as it is clean and polished. What inspires her? “It’s people quite a lot… talking to people is quite important and I think if someone works alone – which happens quite a lot for freelance graphic design – sometimes you can struggle for lack of inspiration. It’s really important to go to places and talk to people; for feedback, to hear some new stories, to go different places, to go abroad.”

Has the experience abroad and at Smiling Wolf benefited her then, we ask: “I wanted to see how a graphic design studio works. I really liked working at Smiling Wolf – they’re a nice team, nice people and really good projects. British design is [usually] really traditional… [but] Smiling Wolf makes loads of contemporary stuff.”

With that extra level of experience under her belt and the internship now over, what does Calajová have up her sleeve next? A return to the UK – maybe Liverpool – on completion of her Masters? “I’m the kind of person who would like to run a business. It’s a bit of a hassle, especially without contacts in England.” With a number of agencies established here, she fears there isn’t the work to go around: “I can’t imagine being based in Liverpool and wanting to run my own graphic design business here.”

Never say never, we say, but wherever Calajová pitches up next, we suspect one thing is for certain, it will be with big ideas and work worthy of them.

Check out more of Martina’s portfolio here

Posted on 12/03/2013 by thedoublenegative