Freelance Digital Designer


AlexTkachev (Freelance Digital Designer)

Alex Tkachev is a Kazakhstan-born digital designer, who began his journey in web development. He's a big fan of 404 pages and a nature lover.

He/Him/His • Almaty, Kazakhstan • June 4, 2024

What led you into design?

I was born and raised in a small town in Kazakhstan called Kyzylorda. Initially, I thought my career would be in the railway industry since my father worked as a train driver his entire life and wanted me to follow in his footsteps. Before diving into the world of web development and design, I also worked as a waiter and a ride operator at the local amusement park.

When I started college for a railway profession, I realized that this was not what I wanted to do for a living. At that time (it was 2014), web development and web design were actively evolving, as was the Codepen platform, which helped me learn web development.

My very first designs (2015)

Since 2015, I started taking on local freelance projects as a web developer, mainly creating simple one-page websites consisting of text and a few images. As soon as I started earning my first money from this, I got very inspired and worked as an independent web developer for a year.

Then I realized that I enjoyed the creative part of my work more, so I decided to fully transition into design. Since then, I have been working as a freelancer and have collaborated with companies and clients from all over the world.

What does a typical day look like?

I might disappoint the design community here haha, but I don't start my morning with coffee 0_0 I don't drink coffee at all. My mornings usually start quite early: I wake up between 5 and 7 AM. Since I suffer from panic attacks, I have a strict medication schedule, and my day often revolves around it.

I have breakfast before 8 AM, then I check my email, social media, and Slack chats. During the day, I work on conceptual projects to improve my skills, learn new design techniques and improve my UI animation, or work on client projects. My biggest drawback is that I'm a workaholic, so I can work up to 13 hours a day, however, I try to manage my daily schedule.

Sometimes I also enjoy taking short walks before lunch, just walking through the park in silence, surrounded by nature, to gather inspiration and recharge. My main passion is cooking. I am a home chef, and I absolutely love to cook. In the evenings, I might also spend some time playing video games (recently, I completed "Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order").

What's your workstation setup?

Where do you go to get inspired?

Once you start your journey as a designer, you become a person who automatically analyzes every sign on the street, every logo, ad banner. I try to find inspiration everywhere. I am often inspired by interesting facts, historical figures, mythology, especially Greek and Norse (was I a Viking in a past life? haha), nature, magazines, books, and online platforms (Awwwards, Savee, Instagram).

And sometimes, I also find inspiration in video games. For example, when I became curious about what it would be like to be a UI designer in a game studio, I decided to create a conceptual project using AI (I used it to create the visuals) - Final Frontier: Resilience of Ruin

Gameplay Screen

What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?

I think I would highlight Suno AI, is a generative artificial intelligence music creation program designed to generate realistic songs that combine vocals and instrumentation, or are purely instrumental. I also tested this AI, and in combination with ChatGPT, we created a song — it's just mind-blowing.

I absolutely understand that many people are discussing the impact of AI on the world and various professional fields, but personally, I believe that we should perceive AI as a partner, not a competitor, and use it to further enhance our projects.

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

I love every project I worked on, whether it's real or conceptual. I have great respect and love for the people I've had the chance to work with. If I work on a project, it means I'm genuinely interested and I will give it my all. I would highlight our collaborative work with my friends from the Netherlands — Creative Mules, when we redesigned their studio's website.

This team is composed of incredibly friendly and fun creatives from different parts of the world, and we enjoyed experimenting during the Art Direction phase and discussing ideas. In the end, we achieved a great result—a website that truly represents the team as they are in real life, without masks or stereotypes. Here's a little secret: try checking out the 404 page of their studio :)

What design challenges do you face at your company?

I am very happy and proud that I have come a long way to where I am now. I recently started encountering this BIGGEST PROBLEM, and personally, I believe it is one that needs to be highlighted and shamed.

This problem concerns some clients from EU countries or the US who treat us, designers/developers/creatives from Asia, as second-class people. They significantly undervalue our work and do not consider our portfolios, the projects we have worked on, or our achievements, focusing only on our location. Such clients think, “Hey, let's save our budget and hire a designer from Asia.

I will give you a real example that happened to me:
in 2023, a client told me that because I am from Central Asia and our economy is not as strong, I do not deserve the payment I requested for designing a multi-page website. This client only paid me 50% of the amount we discussed at the beginning. It makes me very upset when this happens to me or when I hear about similar situations from other creatives from Asia, because we are also people with monthly expenses, purchases, rent, and a desire to travel.

I have a more detailed post on Instagram about this, where I provide examples of such clients, and for me, they are divided into three categories. Feel free to share your stories as a comment below this post if you've had similar situations.

What music do you listen to while designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

Believe in yourself, don't be afraid to experiment and make mistakes, without mistakes, there's no progress. Try to find yourself on this amazing journey, discover your style and direction, and develop it. And if, over time, you cringe at your old designs - you're on the right track. Also, don't limit yourself to just one direction. Yes, you don't have to know everything, but any skill is a big plus for you and for the clients/teams you'll work with.

Don't hesitate to meet and communicate with other creatives, as we are all in the same boat. Ask questions, be curious about what interests you.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

You can follow me on social media or just say hi: Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, Dribbble

If you have an idea for a collaboration or a new project, feel free to reach out through my contact form on my personal website!