Momir Blazek has conceived hundreds of ads, websites and book covers in his graphic design career spanning the last three decades in Zagreb, Croatia. Previously he served as CEO of Figulus Christian publishing house and as national director of the IFES student movement. He and his wife Iva serve in the Baptist Church of Zagreb, the country’s largest Baptist congregation, where he is an elder. We asked Momir to describe his journey in publishing and the Church today in this former republic of Yugoslavia.
What was the greatest influence in your decision to become a designer?
I did not have a great role model or childhood dream to become a graphic designer. During my last year at high school I was not sure what to study so I started to pray. I was considering Theology, Economics and Graphic Arts. Only few months before beginning the academic year I strongly felt that God was calling me in this direction. So I withdrew my application from the much more prestigious Economics department and entered the Graphic Arts department. Many years later I see that I have been involved in a lot of Theology and Economics as well. I am very happy to be a graphic designer because I see publishing as a great way to work for the Kingdom of God.
How has the world of graphic design changed since you began your career?
When I studied almost 30 years ago it was a completely different world. There were next to no books in the Croatian language about graphic design and English books were hard to get and very expensive. The Internet was at its beginnings, I did not have a computer able to run software for graphic design, and software was very primitive. There were no digital cameras and color printers were expensive to own. Technology has really changed, but if you do bad design with faster computers you just do bad design faster. But you can also learn a lot more easily today. Now designers must make content attractive in different forms and understand how reading habits have changed.
How important today is the visual in publishing in Croatia, and more broadly in Europe?
I think that the visual component is very important in every time and culture. Today in Europe it’s even more so because standards are higher, so nobody can afford to make a magazine, book or website unattractive. You can have great content but if it is not visually well done, a lot of people will never read it.
What is the publishing scene in Croatia like now?
Croatia has only 4 million people and in the last few years 10 percent of our population, mainly young and educated, has left for Western Europe, seeking a better life. Our economy is depressed and publishing in general is at a very low level—two big secular publishers and booksellers went bankrupt in 2017 and 2018.
Publishers in my country need to think and work in a wider context than just publishing. It is not enough to publish great material and wait for bookstores to sell your books. You need to be part of a system that will enable you to reach people and then disciple.
At Figulus we have a magazine, books and big evangelistic events that promote each other. Without many people getting excited about Jesus at these evangelistic gatherings, I doubt that we would sell many books even if we had the best design, content and format.
If publishing is struggling so much now, how do you manage to stay in business financially?
I work for Christian publishers but also for secular publishers and companies. I design books, magazines, logos, ads, websites….My goal is to earn enough so that I can work one or two days a week for free for my church and other organizations. I am not quite there yet but I manage to edit and do graphic design for our small church magazine, website and a few other church-related projects. I believe we have a great message and my passion is that we also present it in the best way. It is very sad when you see well-produced trashy magazines and then ugly church newsletters printed on cheap paper, only in black.
How have you seen the Lord reaching young people for Christ in your nation?
I see a lot of young people really excited about faith and Jesus these days. Several months ago there was a huge worship concert with 18,000 young people worshiping together. A few years ago that was unimaginable. Most of them were Catholic, singing songs by heart translated from Hillsong, Jesus Culture, Matt Redman, as well as Croatian artists. Croatia is 97 percent Catholic, at least culturally.
In recent times, many different movements in the Catholic Church here have emphasized prayer, Bible reading, worship and a personal relationship with Jesus. God is doing some great things in different denominations and churches. I hope that a time is coming when all who know Christ will live their faith and make His Kingdom visible here, free from historical events and divisions that took place centuries ago.
You attended our LittWorld publishing conference in Singapore last year. What were your impressions?
I have attended two LittWorlds so far and both were a great experience. It is an opportunity to meet high level professionals and the world’s best publishers but also some very small and who share a similar context as me. It is great to be in the same place with people who share the same passion for spreading the Gospel and influence of God’s kingdom through publishing. We do not have anything like that on a national level, so it is great to get new encouragement at LittWorld.
How can we pray for you and believers in Croatia?
Our economy and political situation is depressed at the moment, so pray for us who know Christ—that we find ways to share the hope we have in Christ with those who have no hope.