Looking Behind the Scenes of Animation Studio: Interview with Stepan Barkholenko, Creative Director

Author: Bob Oct 21, 2021 9 min read

Short Intro


Hello and welcome to our new rubric, where we interview talented and amazing specialists working at Wow-How Studio. Each member of our team has a story to tell, and they will share with us their insights into animation production, creativity, and more. 

Today we are interviewing one of the talented minds behind the creative potential of the Wow How Studio, Stepan Barkholenko. Stepan is the Creative Director responsible for overseeing the projects from start to finish being actively engaged in concept development and cooperation with clients. 

Know more about Creative director of Wow-How Studio

Without further ado, let’s welcome Stepan! 

Hi Bob, nice to see you again! 


Past Experience


Tell a bit more about yourself and your experience. How did you start your career path? And how did you become a part of the Wow-How Studio?

At first, I pursued archeology during my college years, but I got inspired by advertising and marketing rather early on. At the same time, I also discovered a passion for copywriting and the creative process. 

Then, at one point, I came across the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity and got inspired by the creative storytelling displayed in many contesting ads. Thus, I became increasingly interested in the advertisement industry and factors that contributed to a great ad video, such as understanding psychology, human brains, and so forth. 

So, I set up my mind to join a marketing agency to understand the industry better. I was ok at trying my skill as an intern if need be.


Was it easy to find a marketing agency willing to take in someone without experience?

It took some time and considerable effort as I was sending tons of letters to potential employers on some days. Once, during an interview, I was told that without any experience, I could as well just go working at coal mines. 


Did such a harsh reply demotivate you?

On the contrary, it only invigorated me to try even harder, and finally, my attempts paid off, and I was offered a position at Grape Ukraine. I joined their team as a junior creative copywriter. I had an opportunity to work with talented people on various projects revolving around digital advertising — a rapidly growing market at the time. 

During my time working there, we went through many creative and challenging projects. And with each completed project, my expertise and experience grew significantly. 

After that, I worked at one of the biggest telecommunication holdings as a digital team head responsible for PR projects, website development, SMM strategies, and creating promotional videos. It was a new experience working in a large media company. 


Becoming a Creative Director


Is it safe to say that your longing for knowledge was driving you to try your skills at something new?

Yes, rightfully so, I suppose. After obtaining such invaluable experience working at a Telemedia company, I decided to try something entirely different and joined a Navi cybersport team as a creative copywriter. 

I enjoy competitive gaming myself, especially when it comes to working as a team to achieve meaningful results. 

Afterward, I was approached by Wow-How Studio and was glad to accept their offer and become a creative director in this talented team. 


That is quite a career journey!  But who is the creative director exactly? 

To put it simply, a creative director is responsible for the development of business projects. The main goal is to find the best, most appealing way of representing our clients, their products, and services. 

Thus, it is up to a creative director to convey a story our clients want to bring across to their target audience. To that end, finding the correct narration and style is crucial. As usual, we use the client’s brief as a starting point; then, we brainstorm all the ideas that can help us convey the message clearly and in an appealing way. 

It is also a part of the creative director’s job to communicate with the client as the project progresses. For instance, I have to go back and forth between our creative team of scriptwriters and the client until we are all happy with the outcome. After we agree on the idea, we can proceed with storyboarding and animation.



If I understand correctly, as a creative director, you are responsible for the whole vision of the project? 

Yes, I oversee the whole project from start to finish, beginning with scriptwriting and storyboarding and to the point of having finished and polished 2D or 3D videos. 

It is my responsibility to find out with the client what they would like to see in the end. Typically, we create several concepts and go through them until we find the one that will most effectively convey the client’s message. 

Additionally, I consult the clients on available animation formats and styles that are most suitable for their specific cases. Sometimes, I may convince the client to change their initial idea a bit if we think we have a better, more effective solution at hand. 


Skills & Abilities


And what skills and abilities should the creative director have at his disposal to be effective?

One of the most important things for each creative specialist is an extensive awareness of visual arts and innovative ad campaigns. It is also essential to be curious about all things related to video creation so that a competent, creative director will have almost an intuitive understanding of it, so to say. 

The second important trait is flexibility. Here at Wow-How Studio, we work with a large team of talented artists and animation specialists. Each of our creators has a unique set of skills, and since we often have to switch between projects rapidly, being able to do so quickly saves a great deal of time. 

Finally, time management skills are, unsurprisingly, also benefit greatly. 


Speaking of working at Wow How Studios, what inspires you the most? What aspects of your work, or maybe projects?

Working at Wow-How Studios is a great experience since I always enjoy seeing how projects evolve from an idea to a script and later to a concept and a final product at the end. Being able to help our clients achieve their goals is satisfying indeed. 

Also, I highly value our collective pursuit of perfection. Each month the whole team gets together, and we go through the animations and illustrations we’ve done recently. By doing so, we are looking for ways to improve and grow constantly. Understandably, neither our clients nor we at Wow-How Studio will settle for mediocre results, so the ongoing cycle of improvement is our driving force. 

As a result of such practice, we see our high satisfaction rate among clients as they return to work with us again. This is the best evidence that the whole team and I have committed ourselves to help our clients achieve their goals. 


Can you tell me a bit more about the team you are working with?

I am working closely with two excellent scriptwriters to undertake the initial conceptualization of the client’s request. During this stage, we often have numerous concepts that we ponder over and see what works and what doesn’t. 

It is also up to me to evaluate each concept, discard less innovative ideas and focus on something with a kick to it, something that will have a lingering effect on the market. 


And what helps you to understand which ideas are worth pursuing and which ones are trivial?

This is a bit tricky as it comes down to one’s gut feeling, so to say, to experience and deep understanding of the market trends. As we are going through the concepts, I have to rely on my knowledge and the insights from the team to have the best shot at what would work. 

So, you can say that a lot depends on my own sense of style and desire to connect with the audience on behalf of the client. At the end of the day, no two creative specialists are the same, and each one brings their unique touch to a project. 


What comes next after you have a working concept?

Once we have a shortlist of concepts, we meet with the client again to pitch these ideas and listen to their feedback. As it sometimes happens, we can come up with a better idea during such discussion sessions. 

Then, having the approved concept, the scriptwriters and I develop it further. We decide on the visuals, going frame by frame if need be, which voice-over we will use, and how the video must look at the end. 

The client once again approves the final script, and we proceed to the storyboard; our illustrators or animators later use that as a reference. Finally, we create the video, edit it, polish and present it to the client for approval. 


That is a lot of work to be done! Don’t you get burned out eventually? What helps you to stay motivated? 

Doing what you are passionate about, and what inspires you helps a lot in staying motivated. Sure, I have to deal with challenging tasks and complex projects, but it has always been my source of personal joy. Moreover, working with all the talented people at Wow-How Studio helps me stay sharp, energetic, and proactive. 


Wrapping up


Thank you, Stepan, for sharing with us your experience and many valuable insights! I am sure this information will come in handy for all aspiring artists and creative people who want to pursue a career in animation and advertising. If you wholeheartedly commit to your goal and always strive to learn and innovate, there is little out there to stop you.



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