The Journey That Makes The Destination Worth It

After years of building a career in his hometown of Belgrade, a young graphic designer decided to cross the Atlantic Ocean, following the intuition that had led him to great success. In less than three years he became ranked among top 111 designers in the USA by launching a product called Heart Plate, that might change the obesity problem all over the world. For YT magazine, he speaks about the struggles he has had to deal with and his business challenges, and gives important advice to his young future colleagues. Meet Nikola Vucicevic (35).

What was the crucial moment that made you leave Serbia and move to Chicago?

I cannot recall what was the specific moment, but I could say that my decision to leave Serbia was a result of my professional aspirations, and my hunger for new challenges and new career opportunities. Although, at that time, I could literally have chosen any country to live and work in, since I had been running my own Design Studio in Serbia for 7 years, and we already served clients from 27 countries around the world. I chose, in the end, to come to the USA. The reason was simple: everything I had ever learned in my industry came from this side of the planet. That’s why I knew that the best place to work and promote my ideas would be here where I am right now.

What does the life of a young designer and his wife look like, while struggling to try his luck on the other side of the planet? What should your young colleagues be aware of if they decide to be brave enough to do the same?

Be ready to give the best of yourself. The life of an emigrant is something that pushes all of your power, skills, knowledge, and resourcefulness to the limits. The first two years, it was tough, but we were ready for that. At some point we had not more than $30 in our pockets and no place to stay the following night. But we didn’t give up. The winter of 2013 was long and cold, and we had no connections. But we had each other. Jelena was a tremendous support for me, as I was for her. For more than two years we have been working hard every day, for more than 12 hours without knowing whether it is the weekend or a holiday. The good thing was – we never lost our focus.

You are now a successful graphic designer. What is the main difference between doing business in this field in the USA and in Serbia?

Work ethic is a primary thing in business. Everyone could be ranked, and business is transparent when it comes to B2B relationships. Any employer could write a review about those who are hired and vice versa. I believe it’s far easier to work in the USA because there is a business ethic, and rules are followed. And I like rules.

What does it take to achieve business success in America?

In the USA the competition is stiff, so you have to give your best because you are competing with the best from all around the world. I never forgotten why I came to the USA in the first place. I am a designer, and that’s what I do. That was my identity and position from the very beginning. I didn’t want to make too many compromises, therefore I started with school, ESL programme, and meanwhile I was searching for a job every day. The result was: after several months I found a company that was willing to sponsor an “elite working visa” for me, and we started to collaborate. We built more than 30 websites in 2 years for major clinics all over the USA, and some of them have centers all around the world. Some people say the USA is an entrepreneurial paradise, and I agree.

America is an enormous market, full of opportunities but full of obstacles, too. How did you manage to find clients, did people from the huge Serbian Community in Chicago help you in the beginning?

Honestly, there are not too many people in the Serbian Community who are directly involved in the design industry. I could say I was lonely, in a way. But some of those people gave me relevant contacts that were very valuable. Before I met with them, I tried to promote my work as much as I could. And when the moment of meeting was there, I was ready with my portfolio. I participated in the most relevant graphic competitions and won most of them. Social networking is very important nowadays, so I keep my business profile updated all the time to attract attention.

What was your first big business engagement in Chicago, and what did you learn from it?

Fertility is a huge issue in the USA and all around the world. According to our sources of medical research, the number of people who have reproductive problems is rising every year. The amount of healthy sperm in semen is lower every year. Human reproductive power has decreased approximately 70% over the past century. When I was asked to build a logo, branding, web site and tag line for one of the biggest fertility clinic centers in Southwest America, I knew that I had to explore and learn as much as I could about this phenomenon. I learned about donors, recipients, different fertility programs, prices, sperm banks, cell banks, etc. The new web site contained very specific and complex web forms for those who are willing to apply to be donors. It was made of 1000 online multiple – option questions. That document was supposed to provide answers about the health history and different habits of both applicant and donor. Big project, big clinic, big experience – tremendous help for those who are in need of fertility support.

Recently you got one of the most prestigious awards in your career, regarding the product design called “Heart Plate”. Tell us more about this.


The New Era of Eating Habits Starts With The Heart Plate. I designed this product last year, and ever since its first promotion I have received different awards for concept and product design like: A design Award, Health + Wellness Design Award by GDUSA, etc. This project pushed me up to the rank of #111 top designer in the United States on the World Designer Rankings list, and promotion still continues. As far for the shape and functionality, it’s a soup plate with the heart form placed in the middle which decreases the amount of food that’s put on the plate. Also, it elevates the individual’s awareness of the importance of eating habits. It is available in three categories: Basic, Smart Plate, and Bio-Plate. The Smart plate contains BMI pads for temperature measurement, and it’s connected with an app that shows your body index daily so you can follow your body’s condition. The Bio Plate is made of eco-friendly materials, which means after you use it, you can throw it on the ground and it will biodegrade naturally without any bad effect on the environment. The potential is huge, and I am in the early stage of production.

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What kind of character do you need to have, in order to be successful in this kind of industry and get to where you are now?

You have to be a little bit of a fanatic. You have to have focus. Don’t ever give up. Be ready to adapt, be ready to change, be persistant, stubborn if you want, listen to everyone but follow your heart. Be honest with yourself and with others. Set up high standards, even if you think they are impossible to reach. Put all of your effort into achieving your goals.

Any advice for young graphic designers who are about to fight the market…?

Try to improve your skills every day. Follow the trends. Adapt. Success is not about doing what you like to do, that is too easy. Success is about being able to do what you don’t like in order to succeed. Make a plan. Be aware of time. Even if you fail once or twice, keep going forward.

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