Hrista Georgieva, art director at Wunderman Thompson Sofia, spent her childhood afternoons painting outdoors with her grandfather, so one could say she had a creative streak from an early age. Her granddad was, in fact, the one who tried to teach her a lot more about perspective, colour theory and some other more technical sides of art, that at the time didn’t interest her too much. “I didn’t quite understand much of what he was saying, but I really admired him. Those experiences had a lot to do with my career path,” says Hrista. Not only that, but her hobbies also involved some moderate exercise of her artistic muscles - like reading, consuming a lot of Disney media and using her mom’s Photoshop.
With very supportive parents that always knew they had to let Hrista unfold her talent wherever she saw fit, she recognises that she might have grown up in a bit of a bubble. When it comes to the world outside of her family home, she recognises that the environment in Bulgaria during those years wasn’t the most forgiving to creatives. “The real cultural environment in Bulgaria can be shocking. And it probably had an impact on me on a subconscious level,” she admits.
No matter the outside world, Hrista remembers always being a perfectionist – often weighed down by considering what “good enough” really is. Thoughts like that, she says, led her to a lot of overtime in her job and countless YouTube tutorials, which is something that many creatives can relate to. “I strive for constant improvement,” says Hrista, “so I would definitely say I’m ambitious.”
Besides her parents pushing her and always supporting her inclinations, Hrista drew inspiration from her teacher in graphic design, who she later met in the National Academy of Arts of Bulgaria, where she did her Bachelor’s degree in Design for Children’s Environments. Her graphic design lecturer was the one who eventually ended up pushing her into specialising in the field. “That being said, I think working on actual projects in an agency is without comparison much more formative than formal education,” Hrista admits.
The first ever steps in the field, Hrista took with her first ever job four years ago, when she was a web designer and front-end developer. “While I was doing that I got a call from a friend, saying they were looking for a junior designer at the ad agency where they were working as a junior copywriter.” Coincidentally, that same friend is the person with whom she won the Young Lions Bulgaria competition in the Digital category last month, and the agency is Wunderman Thompson.
As she had earlier said, Hrista firmly holds the opinion that one hones their career on the field. As a very hands-on person, she believes that Wunderman Thompson is exactly the place where she has learned the most about design and advertising. “I had the pleasure of working with many professionals in the field, who shaped my creative thinking and helped me develop my design skills. I still feel like I have a lot more to learn and that is one of the best aspects of the job - there is always room for improvement, and you never feel stuck doing the same thing.” Besides the versatility of the job, she loves the networking aspect, and when asked to give one piece of advice to people starting off now, she is categorical: “Befriend the account execs. Thank me later."
When it comes to the work itself, Hrista realises that she is still at the dawn of her career and a lot of the projects that she finds groundbreaking now will seem like pebbles on the way to the top once she has done everything she wants. “As a junior designer I did some pretty basic stuff, which then felt like awesome projects. I would see a Facebook ad which I designed and think ‘wow, I did that, so much exposure’.”
The one project, however, that she knows was a pivotal moment in her career, is the first piece of work where she took the position of an art director, which truly changed her outlook and work process. She can immediately remember the biggest challenge on that particular job: “It was a challenge to leave the hands-on work to somebody else and not be an absolute control freak.” Since then, Hrista has come to realise the importance of trust in a team and especially has realised that she should lean on the potential she sees in the people around her.
Something else that Hrista finds truly challenging in the industry, is not claiming patents over “original ideas” and getting stubborn with them. “Not clinging to an idea and accepting that it could change and transform in the process is quite hard,” she says, “In other words, your ideas sometimes suck, but that’s OK because they will only get better.” All plays into the trust one needs to place into their teams’ hands in order to be able to alter those ideas and elevate them from mediocre to truly being able to spark change.
Hrista feels inspired by the idea that those talented people are precisely those who are helping develop the industry in Bulgaria at a very fast pace. “The field is improving on a daily basis and it feels rewarding to be part of that change,” she says. The one thing that she wishes to see improve, however, is more inclusivity and less ‘limited access’. “As people in a creative field we can sometimes be a little bit snobby. The industry sometimes seems like a VIP club." Inclusivity and diversity are the two things that Hrista hopes to see in the near future for the Bulgarian advertising industry and as a whole, overseas. Beyond that, what really inspires her and motivates her work is constantly seeing her own improvement and knowing her “best work is yet to come.”