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Let it be immediately clear that with this text I cannot properly convey Alen’s energy. Unfortunately, words are not enough to feel the fervor of his spirit as he talks about the things he loves and believes in.
Alen Marić is a 2nd-year student of Visual Communication Design at the Academy of Arts in Split. He is also much more than that.
I have known him for years, so I roughly knew what he was interested in. I must admit that, at first, all of Alen’s interests seemed somehow incompatible.
I finally sat down for a proper chat with him recently and heard his entire story. And while I constantly interrupted him with additional questions, Alen did not mind it at all, but enthusiastically explained everything to me instead.
So, shall we start from the beginning?
Alen admits that, as a boy, he was a “bad student“.
“The only thing I was interested in was football.”
That love has never left him. Actually, in indoor football circles, he is very well known as a great player – one who is everyone’s preferred teammate.
When it came time to enroll in high school, Alen didn’t have much choice because of the previously mentioned not-so-fabulous results.
Fortunately, the culinary department of the School of Tourism and Hospitality did not require too many points to enroll. In the end, Alen was pleased with the high school track he had to choose because cooking also sounded interesting to him!
After graduating from high school, Alen got a job in his chosen profession. This was a valuable experience because it made him realize he does not want to cook.
In the meantime, he gained some new interests – he became an amateur photographer and started to enjoy reading!
After a while, he decided to finish his fourth year of high school by attending evening school so that one day, hopefully, he would even enroll in a university program.
Since he was interested in photography, so much so that he managed to realize several solo and group exhibitions, he began to research everything related to this form of art.
His research led him to the fact that photography is taught as an elective course at the Department of Visual Communication Design which is part of the Academy of Arts at the University of Split.
Alen was perplexed: “What is visual communication design anyway?”
From this point, a whole new story started to unravel.
The more he researched, read and talked to others, the more his interest in design grew.
With all his other commitments and hobbies, Alen decided to try to achieve the seemingly impossible: to become a student of Visual Communication Design at the Academy.
He did not succeed on his first try, which did not surprise him given his lack of knowledge and skills in the field. Especially considering that every year, only a few new students are accepted to this program.
Still, Alen did not give up. He knew he would try again.
The following year, he managed to pass the Academy’s entrance exam but received negative results from the state high school exam for Croatian language and literature. Defeated again.
Not losing hope, he went on the well-known pilgrimage of the Camino de Santiago.
A year later, in his third attempt, Alen finally became one of the students of Visual Communication Design.
It is extremely interesting to note that, during that period and even before he entered the Academy, Alen proactively took steps to connect Split’s design scene.
He re-launched the dormant Design Hub Split and began to organize educational events for all interested. His “Design Talks” began to reach larger and larger audiences.
He admits that he used to receive comments from people in the profession who targeted the fact that he, as an “unprofessional person“, is interfering with design.
“I understand that attitude, but on the other hand – it’s so funny to me. Design is for everyone and matters to everyone!”
Ignoring such comments, Alen continued to learn and provided opportunities for others to learn, too.
He encouraged dialogue, continuously putting into focus the social role of design and emphasizing why design is needed and important at all.
With all these activities, Alen tried to contribute to increasing the awareness of the general public regarding the importance of design and design-related professions.
Today, two years after starting his studies, Alen is looking at design with even greater zeal. He loves design so much that he put aside once-great loves like football and photography. They are still a part of him but in a reduced capacity. The focus is on design!
Alen continues to organize educational “Design Talks” and is active in the work of the DVK Association. He enjoys studying and is thrilled with the diverse group of his university colleagues.
I could forever keep sharing with you how thrilled I was with Alen’s thoughts unrelated to design – mainly how he notices a terrible lack of focus in young people, which he tries to fight with as little cell phone usage as possible. So much so that he sometimes does not have his phone with him at all.
Still, I will slowly end our story here by recalling the words Alen wrote for Split Tech City in the report of one of the “Design Talks” he organized:
“The possibilities of design are great, and solving certain social problems with design is possible.
The work of designers must be expanded to the local community, as well as the global community, sometimes even without payment.
Giving your time and knowledge for the betterment of the community is important because that’s how the community grows, and it comes back to you tenfold at no cost.
Unfortunately, the system we live in has led us to make it our imperative to charge money and grab as much as we can. Meanwhile, acting within and for the community is something we have to be forced to do when, in fact, we should be the ones to initiate it.”
Dear Alen, happy are the university, association, family, and city that can call you their own. Good luck! 😀
The original article was written by Romana Ban for Split Tech City’s Croatian website.