Illustration for Psykologi magazine. This time the quote was “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” by Mother Theresa. Art direction by Johannes Rantapuska. Bigger image right here.
Illustration for Psykologi magazine’s opening quote. This time “Human itself consists of the longest journeys.”by author Mika Waltari from the book “Turms the immortal”. Higher resolution version right here.
Other entries of the Psykologi series have made it onto the Finnish graphic designers association grafia's short list “Best Of 2013”. Kiitos!
Illustration for Psykologi magazine, illustrating the quote “Kuinka moni näkee kaikki sävyt harmauden?” (rough translation: “Who can claim to see all shades of grey?”) from an Ismo Alanko song. Art direction by Johannes Rantapuska. High res version right here.
Illustration for Scientific American Mind about lost flexibility of the brain as a main factor in addictive behaviour. Art direction by Patti Nemoto.
The following is an interview with me in “grafia”-magazine, the members magazine of the Finnish Association of Professional Graphic Designers. Editors Katja Ojala and Matti Uronen. Photographer Konsta Leppänen.
You were born in Germany. Where and when? What kind of education do you have?
I was born in Bautzen in 1982. I studied industrial design in Dresden and graduated from there in 2006.
Why Finland? And why Tampere?
I was an exchange student at Lahti University of Applied Sciences. After graduating in Germany, I came back to Finland. I did not want to work as an industrial designer, and even less did I want to move to a bigger city in the west of Germany to do so. Not knowing what to do, I moved to Finland to start with a clean slate. I lived in Lahti for two years, then in Tampere for four, and now I have just moved to the countryside.
When and why did you start your own business?
Already during my studies, I was getting more interested in graphic design than industrial design. But in my school it wasn’t really possible to change your major, and there was even a bit of looking down on graphic design. I was an intern for a graphic and web designer during one summer. I liked the job but noticed that a graphic designer barely touches a pen. So I wondered who actually makes the drawings in the publications we were working on. That led me to illustration. After graduation, being unemployed in Finland, that was what I tried to get into. I drew my own stuff almost every day and got a decent website together. After some time, my website got featured on some blogs and from there I got my first clients and the jobs started coming in more and more frequently.
Did you have some challenges in the beginning?
At first, when I did not have many jobs yet, I delivered advertisements in Lahti. So you could say I started quite low in the newspaper industry. It was of course also not that easy to figure out how to work with clients and how the process of making drawings professionally works in general. I also contacted illustrators that I really like and asked them questions and have always got good and helpful replies.
Where do you work?
Until recently, I worked in a shared studio in Tampere. That was very nice. It was on the 7th floor of an apartment building in the centre. It was good to have people around, because illustration work is quite lonely at times. However, in a shared studio, it is important to find the balance between being social and actually working. There are fun days, but there must also be days, when it is okay just to say ”Hello” in the morning and ”Goodbye” in the evening. But I just moved, and for the time being I am on my own in my new studio.
How important is the local environment for your work?
Surprisingly not that important. I have done work in various places, even while travelling, and I am surprised that I can work basically wherever. It is important to find the time and a bit of calm in your head.
How do you get new clients?
I don’t do any promotion, besides my website. Although, my agency does some promotion. The great thing is that once you get something published, more people will see it and that generates new work.
What kind of clients do you have? What kind would you wish to have more of?
My clients are mostly German, Swiss, American and Canadian magazines. I would be interested in doing more book illustration or work on more long-running projects. I would also like to work more with Finnish clients. This year, I have started to get more work from Finland, and I am very happy about the results.
What are Finnish clients like compared with foreign ones?
I think the difference is more between European clients in general and the American ones. I have a feeling that in America there is more of an awareness what illustration is and what its purpose is in a publication. In Europe, there seems to be more of a historical cut – editorial illustration was not used so much in the eighties and nineties, and now we have rediscovered it. The consequence may be that the European clients are a bit more careful and controlling. But it is very hard to generalize.
Do you work 9 to 5?
Generally I try to keep to regular hours. But occasionally I also have to work nights due to time differences. But even with clients in the same timezone, the work day is shifted towards the evening. I usually make concepts and sketches in the morning, and the feedback comes in the late afternoon.
How do you manage your projects?
I have a very low-tech folders-on-desktop system. That might sound a bit more chaotic than it is. It works pretty well for me. I tried to track my hours some time ago, but I felt that I was spending too much time tracking my time, and it became easier to simply start working.
Do you have any good tips for people who are starting their own freelance-career?
Make something for yourself. It helps to make something you are interested in, and if it is good, people will come and also be interested in it. If not, maybe you are not quite there yet or maybe the time has not come yet. It helped me to think in the beginning that there is somebody out there who really likes what I am doing; they just have not discovered it yet. It was important for me to be very serious about illustration. “This is what I want to do and what I want to be good at – how can I make it happen?” That means you also have to take risks. It is very hard, or maybe impossible, to do it, after having worked a whole day in another job. But there is also the danger of becoming monothematic – you need something else to feed your main interest. I am curious about the fact that people who are very good at something are often also good at something very different – like Einstein playing the violin. I think it is about not getting in a rut with your main job, if you have something else to go to when you are stuck.
How do you see the state of Finnish illustration and graphic design?
I got interested in illustration in the first place mainly from seeing the work of contemporary Finnish illustrators. I wonder if I would have been equally enthusiastic about contemporary German illustrators’ work had I lived in Germany. So I am thankful for that. Design in general is an accepted discipline in Finland, from my point of view more so than in Germany. But the word is also too often used to sell something. In that context, design is put on a pedestal, as a sign of quality, but at the same time, it is limited to the surface of things. For me, design is not anything fancy, and in general, it should not be. It is something that makes things better in my daily life: bus seats, tax-forms, waiting rooms etc. I know that great work is being done out there, but I am not happy that great stuff can often only be found in niches, while so many things right around us are still made so thoughtlessly.
How do you see the future of illustration?
There is a lot of talk about the “end of print”– it has been ending for over a decade now. From my point of view, the transition of media is really not that shocking. I have made animated illustrations for iPad-only magazines, and it is not that different at all. Illustration does not become obsolete when media changes – just as photography and music haven’t. For me it is a very straight-forward thing that somebody picks up a pen and interprets a subject with a drawing; it will always be there. I am doing a lot of economy-related illustrations, and I can see that these abstract topics really need a drawing: on the one hand to explain more complex things than a photograph could do and on the other, to give them a more human face.
Illustration for Psykologi magazine. For the quotation “On helppoa mennä joukon mukaan, on helppoa mennä minne vaan. Vaan kysyä sopii, oppiiko kukaan siellä ajattelemaan.” by the Finnish musician Juice Leskinen. Very roughly translated: It is easy to follow the crowd, but you won’t learn to think for yourself that way. Art direction by Johannes Rantapuska.
Cover illustration of Judge Dredd for Industria Magazine. Art direction by Ché Storey. Industria is an iPad magazine, download it here and see the drawing animated.
8 of 8 for the Equity -section of Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Second one about the problems of investing in “emerging markets”.
7 of 8 for the Equity -section of Neue Zürcher Zeitung. This one about the problems of investing in “emerging markets”.
6 of 8 for the Equity -section of Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Second one about shrinking percentages on pension investments.
5 of 8 for the Equity -section of Neue Zürcher Zeitung. This one about shrinking percentages on pension investments.
4 of 8 for the Equity -section of Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Second one about markers for analysing or diagnosing markets.
3 of 8 for the Equity -section of Neue Zürcher Zeitung. This one about markers for analysing or diagnosing markets.
2 of 8 for the Equity -section of Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Second one about HFT - high frequency trading.