Designer Interviews

Erik Bruun, Graphic Designer and Illustrator

Erik Bruun. Erik's tools.

Much of Erik Bruun's work has nature themes, and is the result of a conscious effort on his part to raise society’s consciousness of nature. The son of a gardener, he considers himself a professional conservationist as well as designer. His experience has shown that when he works with more representative nature ideas versus abstract design ideas, people react much more positively to depictions of nature. In his travels, he has noted that other nations do not share the closeness to nature that Finland has. Similarly, when friends from elsewhere in Europe visit him and he takes them to his summer cottage on a lake, they do not understand his interest in being there and ask if he ever is afraid of being alone.

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Nora Fleming, Graphic Designer

Nora Fleming. Hevoskastanja fabric pattern by Fleming.

Nora is a graphic designer who has done contract design work for Marimekko. The main theme of Nora's interview was the inherent prevalence of nature in Finland—that it is so strong that people are barely aware of it, “like a fish not being aware of being in water.” Nora spoke of her designs for Marimekko. One, entitled Melansirkka, is based on a grasshopper. She developed this central character of the design to represent a carefree, nature-oriented lifestyle and shows it in various scenes, playing with caterpillars or frolicking among flowers.  A butterfly-based design has similar characteristics. In both cases, she features their lifecycles, too—egg, larva, pupa, and mature insect. She also noted that there is an acute awareness of light in Finland due to its proximity to the Arctic Circle; the light nearly always falls into too extremes—very little in the winter, and very much in the summer. She believes that this has an impact in how people perceive color and pattern, and how bold colors and patterns are popular because their energy helps to counteract the low levels of light that dominate nearly half of their year. Her Hevoskastanja fabric pattern (above) is such an example.

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Vesa Loikas, Architect and Graphic Designer

Vesa Loikas. Part of the family cabin complex on Nauvo.

Vesa Loikas discussed Finnish design primarily from the standpoint of architecture. After living and working in the United States for ten years, he has a unique perspective on Finland—that of both an insider and outside. He sees Finnish architects as being more attentive to the full range of human senses and the project aspects that affect them, from the large scale of siting to the smallest scale such as door handles. This began with Aalto, who used bright, engaging colors (e.g. in his Paimio Hospital) to express and elicit joy. He finds Finnish design to be more romantic and less mechanical than other examples of design, particularly other interpretations of Modernism. Personally, Vesa recognizes a tendency to engage himself across multiple media. An early example of this is his architecture thesis project, in which he designed a building, a multimedia virtual tour of the building set to a soundtrack, and packaging for a CD-ROM. He sees this comprehensive approach to design across media as a typically Finnish pursuit, one that is comprehensive, holistic, and intentionally focused across media to impact multiple senses—but in a way that focuses on a unified experiential goal.

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Jenni Ristimäki, Marketing and Communications Specialist
Design Forum Finland

Jenni Ristimaki. A Savoy vase designed by Alvar Aalto.

Jenni Ristimäki notes that the post-WWII years were pivotal for Finnish designers. Reparations to Russia increased pressure on industrial production of goods, and as it happens, the designers of that era (including Alvar Aalto) were tapped into for domestic goods that could be used in everyday domestic life, such as ceramics, glass, fabric, etc. Nowadays, the designs from the 1950s are still as popular as ever and are riding a resurgence due to their retro appeal. Even younger people remember seeing these objects or fabrics in their grandparents’ homes, and they are charged with nostalgia and emotion. The nationalist associations of these designs are not just apparent to the Finns themselves, either; exporting the products abroad has never been as lucrative because they do not resonate with others in the same way. But increasingly, they are standing on their own in the international marketplace on their own merits and high quality.

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Featured Photo

Turku Cathedral
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