Never retiring!

Graphic designer Helmiriitta Honkanen.

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Healthy Advertising

Thoughts on the effect of wellbeing in a graphic designer's life.

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Slice of the Apple

The influential graphic designer Lotta Nieminen reflects on the issue of change.

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In through the eye, out from the hand

Artist of many techniques, Mr. Hyrske, shares his experiences on illustrating.

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To thesis or not to thesis

Making your master's thesis is coloured by a variety of emotions.

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Role Playing Adventure to the Game Industry

Game designer's study path in the graphic design degree program.

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"Who are you?"

Graphic design teachers talk about the importance of drawing skills.

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Change the world, Graphic designer

How can a graphic designer make the design greener?

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    Too bad that it is not enough, dearest graphic designer. Not at all. You have a chance to do so much more. You are in the fortunate position where you design, shape, and produce products, advertising, services, and information. In other words, you can have an influence on how, what, and when your peers consume and what kind of advertisements they see. Through our actions, we too can change the world into a more ecological place to live in. So, what can you do to change the world?

    The climate change


    The climate change causes for example extreme weather phenomena that can make farming more difficult. The warming of arctic areas melts the ice and snow and therefore the polar bears drown. The rising sea levels caused by the melting flood  the low-lying coastal areas. The greenhouse gas emissions poured into the atmosphere by the human race at least in part create the phenomenon.


    Make a change: Reduce and rationalize the use of energy. Think of the electricity needed for the designing process and the production of the product. How much energy is used in the printing process, on the website server, and in the transportation to the end consumer? Is the energy in use renewable? Is the physical product necessary at all or can the same information be transmitted to the target group electronically?


    Which is more ecological, a printed or an electronic product?



    The billions of people on the Earth use the Earth’s resources faster than they can renew. The effects of overconsumption are not directly visible in Finland, because the production of the products is concentrated on the poorest areas of the world. The use of fossil fuels accelerates the climate change, rainforests are cut down, fish populations thin out, and the native people’s rights are trampled on.


    Make a change: When designing a product, consider its whole life cycle: sustainable production methods are used, the life cycle of the product is extended, and the product is recyclable at the end of its life cycle. Avoid waste material or put that to good use. A green product which is a lot more tempting than the competitor’s nature wrecker is more likely to end up in the consumers’ shopping baskets. Educate the customer on how the ecological aspect is also an advantage to the company.



    Tropical forests are cut down to make room for human activities. The climate change is accelerating when there are no more plants to absorb carbon dioxide, and species of animals and plants are disappearing due to the vanishing of their habitats. Natives are losing their livelihoods and places of residence.


    Make a change: Also on this fewer the previously mentioned medicine works: follow the teachings of sustainable development and reduce consumption. Different kinds of labels and certificates help you find for example a sustainably produced paper for your poster.

    Read more on saving the Earth

    Green Office - Reduce your office’s greenhouse gas emissions with the help of WWF.

    Re-Nourish -  The website gives instructions on how to start a green design project.

    Information and instruction package for designers. Get acquainted with the DesignCanChange-vow and sign!

    Practical advice for an environmentally caring graphic designer.



    "The warming of arctic areas melts the ice and snow and therefore the polar bears drown.."


TEXT Laura Torvinen / ILLUSTRATIONS Ada helenius

The Earth is in a bad shape. The climate is rapidly warming into a furnace, rainforests are mercilessly cut down every moment, innocent species of animals and plants are swept into oblivion, and a raft of plastic marine debris suffocating dolphin cubs is floating in the Pacific Ocean. But wait a minute, you do recycle your papers and you do ride your bike to the store instead of driving there with a car. You have done your share.



TEXT Pia keränen / ILLUSTRATIONS Kaisa-Maria Peltokorpi

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    Drawing – Who are you?


    Leena: I’m here as some kind of a disguised character. Maybe at least some people will know who I am when I draw it like this. This is the kind of creature that I’m quite passionately interested in.

    Silja: I’m sketching my own appearance, it will also contain inner sensations. So I always ponder about questions. This hand turned the wrong way around now but it can also be thought about metaphorically: I always try to find new viewpoints and be careful not to fall into routine with the old. I’ve begun to have birds in my illustrations - and fish especially. I try to put symbolic thoughts into them.

    Mirja: I’m a fast illustrator of ideas and that’s why others might not understand my sketches. Designing a layout represents my drawing most. Messy drawings are a stream of the subconsciousness. I’ll start drawing. I listen and focus better when I draw at the same time.

    Does a graphic designer need
    to know how to draw?


    Leena: I think so. The students here are selected based on pictorial assignments, even though not all of them are purely drawing assignments. But a graphic designer needs to be a visual person. That I can say.

    Silja: It is an advantage at least. It’s profitable to be able to express your ideas visually, because some things are hard to put into words: moods, feelings. If you are talking with a client, for example, and you both have a vision of something, you might verbally describe it in the same way, but understand it in a different way. Then it’s good to make sketches.

    Mirja: Drawing is a way to generate ideas, sketch and create compositions. It is said that in graphic design there has to be a rhythm. By drawing, I test how the rhythm of text and picture works in for example a magazine layout.

    What is your own relationship with drawing?


    Leena: From the first meters of my life, drawing has been a kind of a way of relaxation, my way of viewing the world and enjoying life. In a teaching job, you don’t have much time to draw. I have time to look at other people’s drawings and that is also enjoyable. But when I have a vacation and time to do pictures, it is like finding a missing piece of myself again.

    Silja: For me drawing is a conversation with the thoughts, the paper and the hand. You turn different thoughts around. When I see lines on this paper, it makes me think of a question, could it be like this or not. And then I cross it over, not that one at least. That has already been seen.

    Mirja: In designing work, I use drawings for sketching logo, a layout, and a website layout. For me a pen and a paper is the fastest way to test how different elements and divisions work in designs. I don’t always restrict my drawings on one paper. I glue on top of it and start again. It can end up as anything.

    Is a drawing ever ready?


    Leena: Sometimes it’s ready. Actually, I’m thinking even now, whether I should continue this quick drawing or leave it here. A drawing is usually at its most beautiful when it is a little bit unfinished. A drawing and a picture have to be something that the viewer completes. Maybe a picture is too ready when everything has already been given to the viewer predigested.

    Silja: I hope it’s not, but that it’s fruitfully unfinished and that the viewer can finish it in their mind. So that it’s given a nice ambiguity. Or at least the drawing has to be stopped in time, so that it stays fresh. I don’t like to work on details too meticulously. It can divert the attention from some important message that would be more visible in a simplified drawing. Of course, I understand that polished pictures are needed for many applications. Maybe drawing is moving around in an environment of opportunities.

    Mirja: These kinds of messy sketches are never ready. I can’t remember when was the last time I actually drew or painted something for real. Usually I do final products with the computer.


Graphic design teachers express their views on the meaning of drawing skills based both on the personal and on the professional side, while sketching illustrations on the topic “Who are you?”


Becoming a Graphic Designer from Lapland, Role Playing Adventure to the Game Industry

TEXT Pia Keränen AND Henri Suhonen / ILLUSTRATIONS Laura Torvinen

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    The chances of a student


    There are potential future game makers in the Rovaniemi area, but currently no actual degree programme in gaming. University of Lapland, Lapland University of Applied Sciences and Lapland Vocational College have mapped out a course palette that entails games and gamification. Gamification utilises game-like features not only in games, but also in other connections, like health-care services. We ask what the university has to give for game research and development.

    The situation in the field of games
    in Rovaniemi


    “Applying Gamification” -project, ordered by Rovaniemi’s three educational institutions was completed at the beginning of the year 2015. We asked the designer of the project, Heikki Tikkanen, about the situation in the game field in Rovaniemi. “At the moment, there are no full-time game companies, and only a few part-time ones. The purpose of the project is to create education and research in the field of games and gamification, which helps developing related services and industries in the area.”


    There is grassroots level activity here in Rovaniemi. Gamelab, which works under the schools’ jurisdiction, is run by hobbyists. Gamelab offers a chance for students to experiment. The challenge is to raise the game industry to become a new industry in the Rovaniemi business scene. The aim of Gamelab is to lower the threshold to professional business and offer employment possibilities to the students in the cooperative society. In the future, the schooling offered by institutions brings skilled employees and entrepreneurs to the industry.

    Getting into the Field – Skill


    Getting a job in the Gaming Business is a vicious circle: employers want experienced workers, but without experience you won't get hired. “The employers aren’t willing to take the risk, that they’d hire novices. The supply just doesn’t match the demand”, tells the Art Director of Ministry of Games, Sami Marsch. However, you can also get into the field through internships and customized training. During an internship, you can show your skills and know-how, even if you can’t get the job you really wanted right away. “Many have ended up in the business through side-roads”, says Sami Marsch and adds, “The companies value that you are into gaming and gather experience through hobbies on your own.”

    Realities of the Business


    “Many have a pre-conception that in the game industry a graphic designer only draws nice pictures and designs characters and environments”, states Marsch. When you work in a company, you can’t just do what you want. The job is for the most part making assets, files for the actual game. In gaming business, you’re a part of the team and you have to be able to take feedback and ask for it. In the job interview, it’s checked that you are a good guy, that fits in the team. Also, language skills are required at the workplace. “English is a must. I think in all the firms English is the official language", tells Marsch.

    Education of the Future


    In Rovaniemi, the future prospect of game making is renewing the field thoroughly. That means that not only entertaining games would be made, but also familiar operation modes and experiences from games would be included in the usability of products and services, i.e. gamification. Sketches of ideas, concepts, would be created in groups and tested and assessed. The works approved by professionals and mentors would be developed into products to be published. The group’s effort would be supported with studies on marketing and entrepreneurship, so that experience on commercializing products could be gained. Creating a fitting and whole curriculum would be mostly on the shoulders of the individual, but teachers responsible would help with it.

    Drawing skills and Portfolio


    Both Tikkanen and Marsch highlight, that an eye for art and drawing skills are basic demands for a graphic designer in the field. Their job is to make the game look beautiful. Especially one needs skills in digital painting or 3D-modeling. March throws in more qualifications: “A designer needs to have control of many styles, the outcome can’t just accord to one. Thinking about the production of graphics, it’s drawing, anatomy, composition and colour theory.”


    A graphic designer is chosen for a job interview based on their portfolio. Course works aren’t enough on their own, more samples have to be worked on during free time. A portfolio has to contain high quality work, that could be portrayed in games. The works have to prove that the applier is familiar with the business. By presenting projects from game jams and mod projects, you show that you're active. Both Tikkanen and Marsch recommend taking part in jams at least.



    Learning how to make games takes a lot of time, so you need to have a genuine interest in gaming that you are ready to use free time in projects in addition to studies. “The graphic designer needs to be their own life’s RPG-hero, who chooses their career path”, says Tikkanen. In short, his statement signifies that the student should reflect their commitment to game design. In the gaming field, it’s important to study independently and develop your own know-how continuously. The game enthusiast who wants to become a professional needs to have a realistic picture of their skills and has to raise their knowledge to the required level. You have to be able to withstand critique, so that you can develop. You need to have zeal for gaming if you want to enter the industry, summarises Marsch.




    Helsingin Sanomat 5.12. ”Valtio voi auttaa myös

    Helsingin Sanomat 13.12. ”Supercell kasvoi
    maailman ykköseksi”

    Rovaniemi Gamelab

    "Rise of Gamification in Lapland"  - a piece of news from the University of Lapland  PESO-project (In Finnish)

    The Neogames report on Finnish game industry

    University of Helsinki course of lectures on game industry 2011.


    Videos from the workshop organised by Lapland University of Applied Sciences, University of Lapland and Lapland Vocational College.


    Includes also recreational gaming and applications and museum pedagogical programs. Gamification is applied for serious jams, schooling purposes in museums and is also otherwise in the air in the world because of successful companies.


    University of Lapland "Pelillisyyden soveltaminen" -project
    results  v. 2014


    Serious game

    Game, or a simulation of real life, which has a purpose different from being entertaining


    Follow these Facebook-groups

    Pelilabra Rovaniemi


    IGDA Finland

    Serious Gaming Cluster

    Oppimispelit ja virtuaaliset ympäristöt

Do the realities of the gaming industry and the impressions of the people wanting to work in the business meet? We uncovered how to get into the industry from Rovaniemi. Game-making is not limited by geographical location, but for now most of the professional businesses of the field are located in  southern Finland. In the north of Finland there are some active groups both professionals and amateurs, but fresh know-how is much needed. What do the prospects of game-making look like now and in the near future from the point of view of a graphic design student from the University of Lapland? How can the know-how in the northern areas and the gaming industry meet?


TEXT Annika Jaakkola  / ILLUSTRATIONS Cami Vilpas

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    Where to find a topic for the thesis?


    In graphic design, the spectrum of research topics is a lot larger than in other fields of study. Graphic design can be found anywhere in both everyday and more unconventional situations and therefore, the subject for research can also be found almost anywhere. You can write a thesis on the changes visible in the crispbread packages over a certain period of time or on how to take visually impaired people in mind in graphic design. Only your own imagination and the approval of your supervisor are the limits.


    The topic you choose for a thesis should be something that you are willing to go into detail with. If you choose a subject too close to you, there is a risk of getting fed up with it. Then the topic might turn into a nightmare, because the research forces you to go deeper into it. A good topic is interesting for the researcher, but not too familiar.

    Why does it scare you?


    A master’s thesis is a broad entity that requires lots of profound research, writing, and pondering. Researching might sound like it is a  terrifying and distant activity, but to be honest, other written assignments and design tasks include research too. A thesis requires just a bit more and it has to be transparent in a scientific way and faultless with its sources. These criteria are however quite common in other similar tasks.


    In graphic design, the words 'research' and 'researcher' do not imply the same as the childhood hero, who explored the jungle in an attempt to investigate the microbes found in the rainforest base vegetation while risking their life. The research in graphic design is a lot safer, even though it does give other opportunities based on your own choices, too. Taken as a whole, a master’s thesis is just a bigger than regular coursework, that is possible to finish with good planning without added stress – or at least without the risk of being eaten by jungle wildlife.


    A researcher is also never alone while making their thesis. The supervisor is always there to help with any problematic parts of research with the best possible result in mind. While the research process progresses, the supervisor becomes a quite close and important supporter.

    To love or to hate?


    Writing a master’s thesis and doing research offers opportunities for self-improvement and at its best, writing a thesis encourages continuing as a researcher. To end up as a researcher is however not the primary objective of writing a thesis. The master’s thesis is supposed to be a proof of a student’s professional skills in their own field of study and a proof of their linguistic abilities. After graduating with master's, you might even miss writing the thesis. When writing a master’s thesis, you are given an opportunity to dig deeper into an interesting topic and to get the feeling of doing something useful for your own field of study.


    It is possible to make the master’s thesis seem like a horrifying, distressing, suspicious, and tangled skein that you would not want to think about or even less write about. The most important thing to do in preventing these situations is the planning. Even in research, well-planned is half done. A well-planned structure makes the actual writing of the thesis easier and makes it more ordinary and easier to approach. Fear rises from the obscurity of the challenges and that is easy to surpass by getting to know the challenges. In the end, a master’s thesis is only a project among other projects, and the researchers themselves are the only ones who can choose the meaningfulness it holds and their attitude towards it.


    What is a master's thesis?

    A master’s thesis is a comprehensive study or a project included in master’s programs in university studies. This is a way for students to demonstrate their competence in their own field of study. The student can freely choose the topic of the thesis and in graphic design, there is a broad selection of possible subjects.

Master's thesis is the nightmare, lurking in the shadows of every single master's degree student ever. Is a master’s thesis really the insurmountable obstacle that makes the motivation to study plummet and leave the studies halfway? Or can it really be the brightest moment in your studies, the moment that you are going to long after forever?


TEXT Henri Suhonen / ILLUSTRATIONS Stefania Ferretti

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    Getting rid of acquired helplessness


    In the always uncertain and stressful trade of graphic design, the tricky customers and occasionally failing designs can discourage the designer. Analysis of the unfortunate situation does not always follow the discouragement and the dejection is caused by wallowing and therefore bad thinking. One of the most important survival skills that a designer should possess is the ability to process negative and positive experiences in a constructive way. It is best to explain a failure to oneself with reasons resulting from momentary and circumstantial causes rather than permanent causes. One must learn to argue against negative and automatic thoughts from oneself. Self-esteem is visible in the work and makes sure that the inevitable failures do not have a discouraging effect on the person. Even good designers sometimes do poor works.

    Appreciation for the design


    When a graphic designer does their own share to prevent the creation of artificial needs, welfare is improved. Health-based design produces healthy advertising and healthy products. Healthy advertising prevents the depletion of the soil and stimulates the minds of the rich. Understanding spiritual values increases responsible actions. People are more likely to buy products made with respect, rather than with disdain. In working life, the workers’ self-esteem affects their contribution to work. Well-being of the graphic designer stems from self-respect. A graphic designer, who knows their worth, does not consent to dubious labour market. It is better that the designer is well, rather than working in an environment that favours a weak set of values and life experience. There must be room for the designer’s views and experiences. In the creative industry, people must work with different kinds of people in teams, in which case conflicts are bound to spring up every now and then. Companies are not big families but rather battlefields in a civilian war. On the other hand, advertising agencies are the fire control towers. It is precisely the repetition-based routines, which help employees to survive from their tasks under pressure.

    Control your habits


    Willpower is the most important qualification for success. Willpower is a habit and habit control is welfare. Willpower is self-control and a muscle, which one can reinforce. When it comes to habits, longing for something triggers a stimulus that makes one perform a certain routine to get satisfaction. To change bad habits, one must keep the prize in mind and transform the routine into a correct one when the stimulus appears. The longing for a small snack can be satisfied with a routine healthier than junk food, such as vegetables. The routines of watching television or using Facebook can be replaced with a more meaningful act, such as sports or drawing into a sketchbook. Self-control that one turns into a habit can get one to do things in time. A designer should learn independence, to work according to their abilities, until it is time for feedback. Well-being of the designer and success depends on how well they can manage their use of time and thinking.

    Succeed in your own terms


    Success is to do one’s best. Then again, the road to happiness is not to expect excessive things from life. Life, instead, is to block the biggest leaks in the dam. A person should strive for a happy life. One cannot find happiness in wealth and fame. Happiness is to behave sensibly. Fame is based on tolerance and humanism, valuing information, classical civilization, and learning for the sake of learning. Hard work is a precondition for success, but one has to accept the fact that monetary and public fame always contain a little bit of coincidence. In addition, many creative people are a bit lazy, because creativity requires idleness, a change to dream, and to think big enough. A well-being designer can develop visions on how things could be and on top of it all, how things could be even better.



    Hellsten, Tommy: Virtahepo työpaikalla. WSOY 1998

    Seligman, Martin E.P.: Learned Optimism. Vintage 1990

    Turunen, Ari: Ettekö te tiedä kuka minä olen – ylimielisyyden historiaa. Atena 2010

    Duhigg, Charles: The Power of Habit. Random House 2012


A healthy person usually has an uplifting effect on their surroundings. Likewise, a healthy graphic designer can convey a constructive spirit with their works. Researchers and developers working with marketing and design must be future-oriented idealists so that the company succeeds. They have to see things that do not yet exist. It is good for a graphic designer to be familiar with phenomena that affect well-being of the person.



TEXT Heidi Liikala AND LAura Torvinen / PHOTOGRAPHS Jody  Rogac

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    How have you changed during the years, in a professional sense?


    Every big change has improved me. For example when I started my studies in graphic design at the University of Industrial Arts. Half a year earlier I had heard that a thing such as graphic design exists and at the same time it just hit me that this is a real profession. Suddenly, I was surrounded by people who also got their kicks out of fonts, because as a student you can still muse over fonts all day long without shame. It feels like, when we’re actually in the profession that your graphic designer mates will look at you bad, if you talk about nothing else.


    The next one might’ve been the job that I got in magazine publishing after I graduated with a Bachelor's degree. It was an empowering experience in a different way, for the first time you could get engrossed in this one thing and actually learn it well and long-term. Moving to New York has also been a really big change for me. Enthusiasm was followed by engrossment and now I’ve gained confidence in my work in a different way than before. Here it feels like you are always thrown into the deep end of the pool, but it’s also really fun and builds your self-confidence. You get through all the experiences that feel horrible and new kinds of projects. The self-assurance that I’ve gotten from this makes it possible to take up new challenges in a very different way than I would’ve done before.

    How do you relate to change?


    Still more open-mindedly, I think. In principle, we’re probably in a profession where we have to be pretty open to change, starting from the fact that the means and tools of working chance continuously. If you’d be all against it, it would be hard to keep up. I feel that basically the people who get into this job are relatively open to new things and change.

    Does change stress you out?


    I’m pretty stressed out most of the time, so it’s really hard to differentiate how much of it is caused by change and how much just general lifestyle and work situation (laughs). I don’t see it as an especially stressful thing, it feels that in here I’ve started to see it as a positive challenge. Even if you’re nervous about things, change has rarely led to anything bad. On the contrary, things always go forward, either by developing your own skills or relationships or whatever.

    You’ve gotten on the Forbes 30 Under 30 Who Are Changing the World -list, and it’s said that designers have the ability to change the world. Do you agree?


    I laughed at that (list) from the start because I thought it was pretty pompous and I didn’t think of it like I’ve already seen and done everything now. Of course everyone wants to change the world, but I myself wouldn’t ever take such a merit on my shoulders, that after that listing I’d be somehow in a special position. I think everyone can change the environment with their own work and good deeds.

    How does one change the world with graphic design?


    Graphic design is a way to transform important information into a visual form. The importance comes with the fact that if the graphic designer does not design the message clearly, the content will not come across. When you’ve finally learned how to make works that look like your and that you enjoy yourself, the joy of making will often shine through. If you can make someone glad, spread happiness, it might be the biggest change I feel I can make.

    How has the job of a graphic designer changed during your career?


    Hm, that’s an interesting question, because my career is still pretty tiny, actually spot-on ten years. Because you yourself are in such a state of continuous development, it’s hard to differentiate what’s your own development and what’s the development of graphic design overall. Social media and the net have had plenty of change in the way people get visibility and how you can work easily for international clients that are in an entirely different part of the world than you yourself. On the other hand, it adds to competition, there’s a pretty big crowd on the same oasis.

    Can you foretell how the profession of a graphic designer would change in the future?


    I could imagine that the significance of the digital world will grow stronger. You need to be able to take advantage of the chances for global working and putting forth your own work. I think learning these skills must be the kind of a change, that will be happening in the job of a graphic designer. In my own job I notice that the amount of digital work has grown significantly. When I graduated, I only wanted to do print, I didn’t get why anyone would want to do anything but print. That, this is just craziness, this website design. I didn’t do even one web thing until I started an internship in 2010 in NYC in a company called Pentagram. After that a real uprising showed at RoadAndCo in the amount of digital work. I was so panicked when they gave me a website project. I was all, this is so horrible, is this what this is gonna be? One client was a magazine named Lula, that I had to design a website for and they approached me like, “We definitely don’t want a website, but apparently we have to have one.” At that time I thought that souls met here, I hate websites too, but of course I didn’t tell them that. Sometimes it also helps in a big change if the client is in the same boat as you and sometimes they’re even more scared of those things. Then you yourself have to have a bit more courage and justify things. Nowadays the design projects I take are more or less digital applications.

    Have you noticed that societal changes would have an effect on your work, for example recession?


    I’ll precisely grab on to that recession part now. When you work globally, different work situations give you perspective somewhat. When the economy lagged in the U.S.A., Europe still had it going hard. Now it’s turned around: in here the economy has gone strongly up during last year, and correspondingly I get less jobs from the Europe-end.

    Why and how do you think graphic design trends get born?


    Yikes. I think that they get born basically from when someone makes some design and other people see it, get inspired, and possibly start reproducing it. That has happened through the ages in art periods, but they’re called periods because they lasted for several decades. The information stuffed at people through the internet makes design cycles faster, I think. For example, that we have things like “The Pantone-color of the Year”. That we all look at pretty much the same things and get inspired by pretty much the same things leads to “all’s done with the same font” or that “everyone uses this on everything”. On the other, hand I see that “trends” can co-exist, which luckily keeps the stuff relatively versatile.

    Would you have any profound advice to us who’ll graduate as graphic designers?


    Oh, this is terrible. I always think that directions never do any good, because people won't learn from them, but just from their own experiences. I think the only advice is that you make an effort to live and work as all-round as possible. You’d always think that I like this or I like that, but you never know before you try. I think the most important matter to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t have just one thing, you can have many. Everything else you can learn from your own experience, but nothing can be learned if you don’t experiment a lot and take risks. The totem animal has spoken.



    Lotta Nieminen (29)

    Illustrator/Graphic Designer/AD

    Lives in New York

    Got on the Forbes-magazine 30 Under 30 -list during the year 2014 and has won several prizes.

    Clients include Google, New York Times and Volkswagen

Change – that surest power of the world. Especially graphic designers in their profession are exposed to it continuously. What does Lotta Nieminen, a freelance graphic designer who got to the influential Forbes-list, think about change? We made a Skype-call to the Big Apple to ask Lotta some questions.

In through the eye, out from the hand

text Cami Vilpas / illustrations Tea nevanperä

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    How long have you worked as a printmaker and illustrator?


    Maybe as long as from the year –68. That was when I got work from a three-year exhibition. At the same time, I probably already created my first illustrations for some publisher. When I graduated from the University of Industrial Arts, I started illustrating for Helsingin Sanomat and in Iltasanomat I actually worked even daily. However, I’ve always worked as a freelancer, I’ve never had a permanent job.

    Was becoming an artist your
    childhood dream?


    Yeah, for sure. Some people said that you should get a bit more bourguois profession. Maybe that’s why I applied to the University of Industrial Arts to study Graphic Design, because I knew it would bring food to the table better than if I was just a free artist.

    How does the work of a graphic designer, for example your wife’s work, and your work differ from each other?


    Our jobs differ from each other quite a lot. I work in the atelier whenever, every day anyhow, but very impulsively. A graphic designer is pretty much stuck in schedules, especially if they have an eight to four job. Teaching is a bit more regular and controlled work, and for that I have to prepare a bit.

    What’s been the biggest change for you in your profession?


    Maybe when we moved in –82 to this house, where I’m now standing in the atelier. This is a five-family house of artists, where everyone has their own atelier. It’s in connection with my home, so I can go and do work for a bit and then go to the other side for a little while.

    What was student life like for you when compared to how it’s now?


    Puttering around with people and getting to know how this field actually works overall that was important. You could see all the different aspects. That’s actually why I transferred from graphic design to photography, because I thought that I had pretty much gotten the hold of the graphic design part and photography started to interest me. There was a teacher there, Arno Rafael Minkkinen, who’s maybe the most famous Finnish photographer internationally. There was also a teacher called Teemu Lipasti, who taught visual communication. He’s still a good friend of mine and I was with him in the book art committee, which chooses the most beautiful book every year.

    You’ve had a long career as an artist and illustrator. How have your techniques changed during the years?


    Probably the first tool was a pencil. I’m thinking of a fairytale book where I’ve drawn different kind of pictures in the marginals at around two or three-years-old. My dad painted as a hobby, so I got watercolours from him. After that came the oil paints and at some point acrylics. From those, it began. It’s typical for me to use a lot of different techniques. I make prints for a while and paint all the while, and maybe do some sculpture and illustration on the side. I got excited about printmaking when Pentti Koskipuro taught it in the University of Industrial Arts and he was a very engaging person. And now I have an etching press here in the atelier, that I’m using to make art for an exhibition in London.

    There are lots of different types of faces in the first picture you sent me, and they all seem to have their own story. How did these different types of people get on paper?


    They do get created inside my head, but on the other hand I do draw everywhere all the time, in the train and while shopping. Probably that’s where these caricatures come from. Nothing comes from nowhere, everything goes in through the eye and comes out from the hand.

    I noticed that in quite a few of your prints there are dark birds. What do these birds mean for you?


    Well, birds have been a hobby of mine, I’m a kind of an amateur ornithologist. During high school, I used to go to bird walks on my own as well as with my friends. Birds are close to my heart, in that way. They must date from the end of 60’s. Right now I’m making prints of piece that illustrates birds. The print that hasn’t been published yet, this is a brand new slate. They pop up all the time in my art.

    How has the profession changed during
    your career?


    Well, the biggest change must feel pretty unimaginable for someone your age. It was when computers came. My wife immediately took a course on how to use these computer programs, but I didn’t even consider it. I said that I wouldn’t touch those things with a stick. All my friends were cheating with computer programs and I thought that I do illustrations and free art, that’s not my thing. I don’t use the computer for illustrations or layouts, or anything, I haven’t gotten into that.

    So even without using the computer, you can get your pay?


    Well yeah of course, I’ve never tripped on that. People have called me that they need a picture, where they can see the stamp of traditional art. They ask: "You don’t make these with the computer, do you?".  I’ve never been asked to do anything with the computer. Of course the picture will be scanned to the computer, but that’s no longer my problem.

    How do societal changes show in your work?


    I’m pretty sure I’ve done a bit of some political art at some point. I’m in no way politically active; I think it’s quite hard to influence anything with fine art. It’s of course at the back of my mind always, this situation, but it’s hard to say if you can see it directly. Maybe it would be easier to see in ten years time.

    What would you like to say to students who are afraid that they can’t make it as artists or illustrators?


    You have to believe in your own thing. Everyone must have a speciality where they excel. It’s no use trying to imitate what other people do.



    Hannu Hyrske (65)

    Illustrator, printmaker

    Hobbies: listens to classical music, reads, free-time is spent with art and work as well as with grandchildren.

    Has taught f.ex. photography, printmaking, oil painting and illustration in Pekka Halonen academy for several years

    Numerous exhibitions in Finland and overseas

    Several rewards and recognitions

An interview with a long-time freelance illustrator, amateur ornithologist and an artist of many techniques, Hannu Hyrske. What kind of change has Mr. Hyrske met in his life?



never retiring!
Graphic designer Helmiriitta Honkanen

text kaisa-Maria Peltokorpi / illustrations Henri Suhonen

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    Artist, graphic designer Helmiriitta Honkanen (nee Setälä, s. 1920–) worked as Osuusliike Elanto’s advert illustrator during the years 1961–1978. She was hired for the whole nation connecting Elanto for her skilful ex libris samples. “This is exactly the kind of imagination we’ve been looking for!”, said the head of advertising, Master Väinö Hakala overjoyed. “It was fun to make posters, they were like the ex libris in a bigger size”, writes Honkanen in her blog, which she even now as a 94-year-old steadily updates alongside Facebook. When Honkanen started as Elanto’s ad illustrator, it was the end period of the golden age for poster art. Honkanen had the chance to produce more than 100 pieces of serigraphy made posters in Elanto. In the year 1965 photography subsided drawing in poster art.


    Elanto had risen under the hand of a known politician Väinö Tanner “like a french bun dough”. After his death, the functions were outsourced to private companies. For three years Honkanen worked as a cleaning lady and had to clean the attic of Elanto. By the 1978 recession, she was transferred to a premature retirement with 80 other workers. Cleaning the attic proved to be like a treasure chest for a graphic designer. From there you could find Elanto’s century long visual history with packages, etiquettes and posters. There were more than a 1000 posters there. Honkanen saved the items and delivered them to Helsinki City Museum and Lahti Poster Museum. The gathered material was so inspiring, that she started to research Finnish poster design and graduated as a Master of Arts from the University of Industrial Arts of Helsinki in the year 1985.


    Apart from other Elanto’s visual production, she has also published several books and arranged many national and international art shows. She thinks that the latest years have been the best of her life. “Health isn’t the greatest anymore, but now I can concentrate entirely on painting!” In a blog post talking about her new art show she declares: “Never retiring!”

A 94-year-old woman dressed in a red and white striped apron dress flutters in with twinkling eyes. She is coming from an art show in Ateneum with her friend and cruised home in a taxi with pizza boxes under her arm. She spends the New Years eve in our company until long past midnight, shows us her paintings and tells stories about her century long career as an advert illustrator and a free artist.

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