«Batenka, You’re a Transformer»: JetStyle’s magnum opus
We have worked hard to design a new website for a super-cool self-publishing service: “Batenka, You’re a Transformer”. We did so just because this project is very special. And it is special in many respects.
We’ve talked about some things along the way. Still, those revelations could not convey the real impressions of real people who were working on the project. And we believe that this is important! And so today we are going to freely talk about our experiences in an interview.
Alexei Kulakov, JetStyle CEO and batenka.ru project art director
— Why did we take up this project?
— When Yegor Mostovshchikov came to us, I had to admit I had never read “Batenka”. But let’s put it straight, I’m a freak, totally screwed up in the head. And I believe that folks who are totally deprived of sense of humor are the shadiest and spookiest sort. The sort that I ultimately fear and dislike. That is why for me, Batenka is an outstanding opportunity to go wild in public.
Normally, if you’re doing a project for yourself or a client, you’d be always facing the problem that businesses are very reluctant to speak about themselves genuinely. You’d take the floor on a conference feeling like “Yo, dudes! We are up to some crazy shit, you won’t believe.” Instead, you find yourself uttering trendy IT business buzzwords, embarking on a marketing pitch and starting the “guidelines and compliance” talk and all the rest of it. Trendy hipster-style jocularities are maybe the best you can do here.
And when you work on something you are into as a reader, or viewer, or listener, then you seriously miss the opportunity to talk straight. Of course, there are some businesses that communicate pretending to be genuine, and that’s a step in the right direction. But let’s face it: when you do business you can't allow yourself a lot of things. Idiots, misfits and proles have nothing to lose so they can be real honest. While the rest of the stiffs have loads of stuff they want to hold on to. So they just can’t talk straight. You can’t deliver a project as it should be. You can’t be doing it on a creative spurt. You have to limit yourself. You always have to make allowances, find a compromise for fear that “someone might get it wrong”. Plus you're not supposed to say “crap”.
What I’m getting at is. Batenka is a gorgeous client ‘cause you can do it all! It's the project where not only can you do it, but you are supposed to do it! That is why we were able to put our best and unfettered professional skills into it. We’ve been having outstanding communication with the client’s gang (“team” is too weak a term to refer to them) as we are essentially in the same boat. The dudes have an awesome creative manifesto. They are stark raving mad. And that’s a proper creative stance, and it’s pure art — as I see it.
Besides the commercial design project, we’ve dished out a font! That’s the thing we’ve always wanted to do. A custom font tailored to a client’s project. And that’s 5 damned person-months of work!. You’d be lucky to find a fool who’d order that much, and pay for that just to have a font they can call their own. And we have to admit, Yegor didn’t have that much money. So, we just did it for free. Because it was fun. And because sometimes you have to do something like this. And I’m a firm believer that both the font and the design totally kick ass.
— Was there something else?
— Sure. But I won’t dwell into the mischief and overwhelming rambunctiousness that were an integral part of the workflow. Read Batenka and you’ll get the idea. I’ll add that I very much like how scrupulous the guys are about the visual part. I have to say that Mostovshchikov is a real bloodsucker. Because he got his claws into everything so he got way more service than we initially wanted to deliver. By the way, if you have an outsourcer, then do as Mostovshchikov did. So, firstly, when he likes something, he sends a clear message that you are a freaking awesome dude. Then, if he asks for more, it’s very difficult to say nay :) But normally we’d sometimes have to because he can't stop asking :)
— I won’t say because I would immediately start crying.
— Can you now call yourself a Batenka regular reader?
— I look at it. Because it’s pure eye candy. I look at how font and the long reads look. I’m really pleased with the result. We think it’s cool. We’ll be finding ways to continue working together, and there are some ideas to that end. Basically, I do know how we can improve it. But let’s first bring this thing to life!
Darya Prokuda, project designer and art director
— How was this project special and memorable?
— You know, it’s cool to work where people love their job. I get high on interesting projects; the ones you grab by the lapels and can't sleep at night until you've made them into a perfect idea. What I mean is. Crazy projects like Batenka are God sent. Batenka was sent to me on my birthday when Yegor came to our office. That seemed to be the perfect gift on the day! Harry Potter as the client, plus, magic content and the Order of Postapocalypse. What more could you want?
— So, how did you feel throughout all that time?
— Well… at first I thought my pink fringe was way too encouraging for the team :)) I thought I’d have to eat shrooms to generate that much madness, but I managed to tune into the beat and was completely immersed in the project, and it started to grow and to fall into place. The main goal for me was to make the GUI speak with the tone of an aristocrat on such.. hmm… hot topics as power lifting… you know it was that article that I blushed over for the first time while reading.
But then the routine work started. The grid and layout rules, strictly calculated proportions, the spirit of last century’s newspapers and a book by Monty Python were my best companions throughout the workflow.
And as for something special… The font is surely special. None of the currently existing fonts sounded right, none spoke the voice tone of the aristocratic narrator. So we embarked upon a mission of creating a bespoke font, the Theodore Glagolev Display. My colleague, Grigory Koposov, has developed it. At first, it was just for fun, and then we got completely sucked into it. Not surprising, because it’s a small world of its own! So, for me, that’s how Batenka got his voice. And that’s how I hear it now. And see it. I’ve talked about working on this project at Behance Portfolio Review No. 9:
about the font specifically developed for Batenka (it was featured among the best Typography works on Behance).
Vitaly Semyachkin, project developer
— What was the most memorable thing on this project?
— There’s one thing that’s super important: the guys promised right at the very start to they were totally committed to content. Yeah, sure, you tell me that. Every developer hears the clients say they are; but none really cares. But not Batenka! They really are obsessed with it, for real; and that’s just totally exceptional and ridiculous!
If we are to speak about the project proper then… Let’s take ETV, the Yekaterinburg TV company. They came to us at JetStyle and said they need some cool long reads, so they wanted a system that would help them make those. We spent a ton of time and resources on that project making the concept and designing the set of content blocks and the CMS. So that the client could create some “wow” content. And then there was Batenka. They approached us with a similar brief. We Googled and Googled again, we searched everywhere and we finally found a solution that made Batenka what it is now. CMS Wagtail. It provides the editor with a block-based layout for content creation; the blocks are customizable so they can be presented in an arbitrary manner both in the editor application and on the frontend. That means you can insert various grids, meshes, galleries and snippets. To put it bluntly, that’s a hell of a system! I’ve really never seen anything like that. Besides being easy to use by the editor, it gives outstanding content layout design capabilities and it's developer-friendly.
So, we built the website based on that system. And the content that gets published on the website is really classy. Batenka does a great job at putting together essentially diverse content in one page, and that’s a major achievement!
On top of that, we have gained experience in developing such projects. I must say this solution can compete with those by Look at me Media. That’s because ours is not inferior in any of the functions. Basically, if we hadn't found Wagtail, there would be no Batenka with its surreal requirements for content and high aspirations for its display on the web. But it’s there! And it’s so cool.
We also published a book compiled from our project communications over Telegram via Ridero.ru. And the guys brought us a bust of Theodore.
That’s what I’d call living at JetStyle.