Designer profile

The First The Last

Making an Impression

A pedant might say that the agency name “The First The Last” is a little misleading. When it comes to this studio’s design process, there is no such thing as “the last”: as the designers say themselves when describing their approach, “What others take for granted, we pursue to infinity”. The agency The First The Last was founded by Мaks Stepenko in Kyiv, Ukraine, in 2018 and focuses on the digital sphere. When asked what makes for good communication design, the team draws an analogy with art: “If a picture evokes emotions and makes you think, then it is a great work. The same is true of design.” Since the outbreak of war, the creatives have been working under challenging conditions – having to work remotely from home makes team brainstorming sessions more difficult, for example. However, what spurs them on is the conviction that design can help to change society. The best example of this are their two award-winning websites focusing on the war and its consequences: “We are proud that our projects have each won an award and that they hopefully contribute to raising awareness of the war and our country.”

Closed Eyes

The jury said: “Closed Eyes sends a powerful message at this time of crisis. It is a type of digital memorial that anyone can contribute to and where everyone can come together to grieve. User guidance is intuitive, and the page is designed in a sensitive and emotionally appealing way. This project impressively demonstrates that in difficult situations such as these, design can also make a very tangible contribution”.

The First The Last in Interview with Red Dot

Red Dot: What particular challenges did you face when developing Closed Eyes?

The First The Last: The purpose of this website is to preserve the memory of the war's victims. The greatest challenge was therefore to convey the right emotions. The design should emphasise and draw attention to important things – at the same time, it should not distract from the main topic. Finding that balance really is worth the effort.

What are the key design elements of this platform?

In the visual solution, we combined sharp and blurred imag - es. The project's logo plays with meanings: the graphic base is blurred, while the tagline uses a clear and distinct font. In this way, we convey that the Ukrainian tragedy is absolutely real, despite the fact that the world closes its eyes to the cruel pictures. The blur effect is now a popular symbol used in rela - tion to war. We constantly see it on censored content on social networks or on bloody footage in the news. However, blurring is not a solution. Therefore, the fuzzy graphic elements that ap - pear on the first page gradually become sharp, similarly to how a person opens their eyes. 

The Other Side of Truth

We also spoke with designers Julia Shulgina, Ivan Mavrytiuk and Мaks Stepenko about their non-profit project “The Other Side of Truth”, which was initiated by The First The Last and juxtaposes information disseminated by Russia with that from the rest of the world.

The First The Last in Interview with Red Dot

Red Dot: How did the idea for this website come about?

The First The Last: The idea was born shortly after the morning of 24 February 2022, when the Russian Federation launched large-scale military invasions on the territory of Ukraine. Russian propaganda referred to this as a “special operation”. The aim of our website is to show the truth, give information to those who need help and direct support towards where it is required.

How did you approach this project?

The biggest challenge was to ensure the reliability of the information, which had to be verified and confirmed. In addition, we had to find a way to convey through the design the feelings that people are currently experiencing here and to contrast two alternative realities. To do so, we created a special button to switch between, and compare in detail, the two different perspectives – that of the aggressor against a red background, and that of the Ukrainian people and the rest of the world against a blue and yellow background.