By Neal K
Victoriya Titova has been living in Malaysia for more than a dozen years now and it’s only appropriate that the award-winning designer draws inspiration from her adopted home. In fact, her latest design to win at the prestigious Kancil Awards, Malaysia’s oldest and leading creative awards, is an exemplary reflection of Malaysian heritage.
Victoriya’s success story has been in the making for quite a while. In 2017, she was chosen to be the class Valedictorian when she graduated with a Diploma in Graphic Design from IACT College PJ, an affiliate of the BAC Education group. During her convocation, she was also honoured with an award for “Best in Design” by the University of Gloucestershire in recognition of her impressive body of work.
She is currently a final year IACT student doing the University of Sunderland’s BA (Hons) Advertising and Design programme. A hardworking student who dedicates herself to her craft, Victoriya possesses a wealth of ideas and is able to easily turn her hand to many wondrous things. Her aptitude for good design has won her numerous accolades such as a Gold sCooler’s Awards for ‘Best in Art Direction’ in 2017. In that same year, her work was also chosen as one of the finalists in the best illustration category.
In 2018, Victoriya once again successfully scored another Gold award in the Kancil x sCoolers Awards in the category ‘best use of Cultural Insights’ for her campaign called ‘Kuih and Cherki’. The whole campaign takes a look at Malaysia’s unique Peranakan culture, specifically the rare practice of the Cherki card game. Victoriya rebuilt the original card game with beautiful, coloured illustrations of traditional Nyonya elements such as Nyonya kuih and kebayas to help promote the culture to the rest of the world. The gameplay was also reworked around the scenario of a traditional Nyonya tea gathering, shedding more light on the rich and intricate cultural details through a simple but engaging narrative.
“It’s quite a complex game and it took me a long time to fully understand the rules of the game but once the understanding set in my admiration for the game increased and I decided to design my own version of the game. Instead of using its original very unique almost tribal designs, I chose elements of the Nonya Baba culture that people can easily identify with,” explains the petite Russian of Uzbekistan origin who came to Malaysia at the tender age of six, accompanying her piano teacher mother who had found a teaching position in Kuching.
Even for one who is naturally drawn to cultures, Victoriya was amazed by the diverse palette of cultures, customs and practices of exotic Borneo, and Kuching in particular. “It’s impossible to live in a country like Malaysia and not be drawn to its various cultures,” says Victoriya, her speech steady and measured. Not bad for a girl who had arrived in Malaysia not knowing a word of English. “I also didn’t like the English language which I found very difficult to learn having only spoken Russian all that while. Attending a good international school here really changed that, I must say.” Despite the setback, Victoriya rose to the challenge and years later obtained an A+ for her IGCSE English language paper.
With good grades came various opportunities, including one to pursue any course in the sciences in her native country but Victoriya’s heart was set on the creative medium for which she had her mother’s support. “In fact, it was my mom who decided on IACT and I’m just very happy to have been able to explore the creative industry from the diploma stage to now in my final year of the degree programme.”
Inspiration is unexpected to Victoriya. “I can’t say it comes from specific things, it comes from a desire to understand something better.” It was the same for her ‘Kuih and Cherki’ project. For someone who has yet to step foot in Melaka, the birthplace of the Peranakan race, to have come up with such inspiring work immersed in an amalgamation of cultures foreign to her, Victoriya’s victory is indeed quite extraordinary.
Victoriya explains her choice of working on the Cherki cards. “I hadn’t had any direct contact with the Peranakan culture or contact. It began with my reading habit and as I’ve said I love to explore cultures and it’s after extensive reading and research that I decided on this project. But some things sparked my interest: tea, traditional painting techniques, nature, the whole CULTURE – can’t get enough of culture, mainly because my own has been so mixed and diluted over the years.”
With her designs yielding so much success even before she graduates, it would come as no surprise should Victoriya Titova follow in the footsteps of notable illustrators she has great admiration for such as Victo Ngai, Gaston Pacheco, Yukai Du and Lisa Larson.