In the poster competition organized to celebrate the anniversaries of the Paimio Sanatorium Foundation and Grafia, the Association of Visual Communication Designers in Finland, the participants were invited to interpret Aino and Alvar Aalto’s vision of the human relationship with the environment, architecture and design. We asked the designers awarded in the poster competition what inspires them most about the Aaltos’ design legacy.
Anna Meck: “Holistic Healing”
Shared first place
Your poster represents, first and foremost, light and warmth. The interpretation seems very accurate when visiting Paimio Sanatorium. Had you had a chance to visit the Sanatorium before starting to design your poster?
“I had been to Finland before but unfortunately hadn’t had the time to visit Paimio Sanatorium. However, I had had the chance to visit the Aaltos’ home in Munkkiniemi, Helsinki, and the light and subtle warmth of the interior made a particularly great impression on me. These strong impressions and, of course, numerous pictures and publications about Paimio Sanatorium inspired me to create this poster. At the opening of the exhibition, I was really relieved to see that my idea of the colors and atmosphere reflected the building and its surroundings so well.”
You work as a designer and your partner is an architect. What does the design legacy of Aino and Alvar Aalto mean to you as a creative couple?
“All in all, the legacy of the Aaltos’ is incredibly impressive. Both for work and the relationship beyond it, it’s really good to have the opportunity to exchange thoughts about certain creative problems and topics and support the other person. Particularly when the jobs complement each other so well. In that sense, too, I think it’s really important that Aino Aalto’s contribution to the collaborative projects is given the attention and recognition it deserves.”
Could you tell us something about your future plans?
“I just completed my master’s degree in Munich at the end of summer. At the moment, I’m working on a book that will be published in fall 2023. The book is called “Wohnhochhaus”, and it’s an architectural collection curated by two architects. Once the book is published, I plan to move to Milan to work as a graphic designer.”
Petri Henriksson: “Aalto Variation I”
Shared first place
Your poster is an expression of human imperfection, among other things. How difficult or easy is it for you as a graphic designer to just let go and leave room for chance that may often lead to that certain “imperfection”?
“Learning by doing and adopting a kind of an amateur approach are usually useful tools that I use when I want to break free from routine. I often do things that I’m not very good at. I may, for example, paint too quickly or use a brush that’s too big for the purpose, or even use a low-quality scanner or the camera on my phone to digitalize the first drafts. That leaves the images lacking in a good way.”
How did you start outlining the idea for the poster, and how much did the drafts change in the process?
“I usually start the design process by trying to visualize the image in my head, and sometimes I also put it on paper. In the implementation phase, I try not to think too much. I usually make several quick proofs at once, repeating the same shapes over and over, and then start putting all the pieces together. At this point, certain unpredictability and speed can only do good. Trusting the process usually pays off.
I created my entry for the poster competition quite intuitively one morning at my studio in Oslo. While waiting for my morning coffee to brew, I started painting lines and tearing paper to create shapes that I’d been developing in my head. I had a pretty good idea of what I was aiming at, but while painting, the idea started evolving on its own in a new, interesting direction.”
Could you tell us about your relationship with the Aaltos? How has their legacy influenced your visual ideals?
“That’s a good question! It’s hard to tell where the influences originally come from, but perhaps I, too, value a certain sense of simplicity. Interesting things can be created with fairly scarce and simple means.”
What does your near future in Oslo entail?
“I’ve pretty much spent the late summer and fall making art books. For example, a monograph for Joar Nango, a Sámi artist from Norway, that I’ve been working on for some time is now nearing completion. I’m also planning to go hiking in the forest and mountains as soon as I finish the projects.”
Rosa Aamunkoi: “Take a Seat”
Thanks to the colors and shapes in your poster, it’s easy to see that it’s about Paimio Sanatorium. In what kinds of other places could you see it hung?
“In many ways, the Aaltos’ design is very much a product of its time despite the fact that timelessness is strongly associated with their brand. In this instance, getting close provided a way of making the Aaltos’ art more abstract and contemporary looking. I hope this also makes the poster a good fit for a variety of modern spaces and interiors.”
Colors inspire you the most in your work. Do you have a special color memory related to the Aaltos?
“I’ve always liked the colors that the Aaltos used in their glass objects, as they remind me of a variety of natural elements. I love the cobalt blue that the Aaltos have picked, for example, as one of the colors of the Savoy vase. The color reminds me of the last minutes of the blue hour in a snowy landscape.”
Nowadays, you are living and working in New York. How are things over there?
“I’m working here as a freelance graphic designer for Apple, among other things. At the moment, the museums in New York are offering a myriad of great exhibitions that I want to see. The first on my list are Sarah Sze’s installations at the Guggenheim.”
Jolanda Kerttuli: “Shapes of Happiness”
Where did you get the idea to create different characters inspired by the objects designed by the Aaltos?
“I’ve always been fascinated by various characters and their personalities. Already a single image can convey many stories, inspiring the viewer with both the look of the characters and the emotions they express.
I visited Paimio Sanatorium to draw inspiration before designing the poster. I immediately started seeing characters and faces on the furniture and the shapes of the building. I saw the shape of the fish in the upper left-hand corner of the poster in the canopy of the Sanatorium’s entrance, and the character with yellow trousers was inspired by the shape of the reception desk and the lamp above it. The silhouette of the Golden Bell lamp, on the other hand, ended up as the shape of the blue character using a mobile phone. During my visit to the Sanatorium, I saw phones in the hands of many visitors, which gave me the idea of also using one in the poster to reflect the modern age where people tend to view the world through their phones.”
Your poster features many classics designed by the Aaltos. What is your relationship with the Aalto classics?
“It’s only as an adult that I’ve bought furniture designed by the Aaltos, both new and recycled. I value the simplicity, timelessness and functionality of their design. The pieces are also easy to combine with other interior elements.”
You live in Turku, Finland, and Paimio Sanatorium is one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the area. What other recommendations would you give for visiting Turku?
“The best things about the city center are, of course, the small brick-and-mortar cafés, the Turku Market Hall, flea markets, good bakeries and Turku Art Museum. Ruissalo is also a nice place to visit, as it’s fairly close to the city and great for enjoying the nature and taking in the marine atmosphere. From the center of Turku, it only takes a short while by bus or car to reach Naantali, a city with a compact and charming old town. I also want to mention Taattinen Farm in Merimasku as well as the numerous nature trails in both Turku and the neighboring municipalities.”
Linda Linko: “Beyond Function”
You have extensive experience in poster design, among other things. In what direction would you like to take poster design with your work and example?
“In poster design, I’m interested in the sense of community and the opportunities provided by the medium. The designer can influence the tone in which they communicate with the viewer. I’m more interested in quiet signals than loud-and-clear messages. What I mean by the sense of community is that as a medium, poster is for everyone. It belongs to everybody. Moreover, a skillfully designed poster can also reach and appeal to new groups of people – groups that may not even have been defined yet. So, in a way, posters unite us. Poster design is also one of the last artistic forms of graphic design. I’d like to set an example that helps maintain this tradition and keep it contemporary.”
Even though familiar elements can be identified in your poster, it takes time to see the big picture and interpret the image. How would you describe your poster to a person who would have to comprehend it without seeing it?
“The starting point for my poster was the feeling of joy. The poster can be considered a collage of fragmented memories of Paimio Sanatorium’s architecture, details and atmosphere. The elements are drawn and painted from memory, and the result is cheerful and colorful. I tried to make the poster look like it could’ve just as well been designed in the 1930s as the 2020s.”
How did it feel to visit Paimio Sanatorium and see your poster in the environment that inspired it?
“I visited Paimio Sanatorium already before the competition was announced, and I was very impressed with what I saw and experienced. The fact that my grandmother spent a large part of her youth in the Sanatorium also influenced my experience. During the visit, I fully internalized the fact and its meaning for the first time.
It was clear from the start that I’d participate in the competition, and I actually got the idea for the poster right away. I’m very pleased that the judges understood my vision and honored that my poster got to be on display in the stunning setting of the Sanatorium.”
What have you been excited about in your work lately?
“In September, I held an exhibition at BUD Helsinki. The pieces featured, once again, something new, as I’ve been interested in charcoal lately. You can also use it for painting! I will also participate in Art Verona 2023 where my work will be on display.”
Tuukka Tujula: “Raitis Ilma”
What did you think when first reading the assignment of the competition?
“I got excited about participating right away. The work of the Aaltos had always been awe-inspiring, and I had also read quite a lot about Paimio Sanatorium but just never visited it. The background work involved getting to know the Sanatorium in even more detail. Of course, when working on something concerning this masterpiece of design, you cannot help but take the work seriously and even be a little anxious about it.
I worked on several posters that were based on different thoughts and details of the Sanatorium. I also sent several entries to the competition.”
What other buildings designed by the Aaltos would you recommend in addition to Paimio Sanatorium? Which of them hold a particular meaning to you?
“I visited Säynätsalo Town Hall in Jyväskylä last summer. It made an impression on me, and I can recommend it wholeheartedly. That being said, I think the Church of the Three Crosses in Imatra is still the one that’s made the greatest impression, and it’s probably the first Aalto building that I’ve ever visited.”
You have worked in a variety of positions in the field of design, including that of a graphic designer. What other projects are you currently working on?
“A group exhibition called Puhdetyö Exhibition III, showcasing my work and the work of five other designers, was held in September as part of Helsinki Design Week. I’m also working on an interesting project in which I’m doing graphic design for a Finnish TV series.”
Spirit of Paimio Conference
THE FIRST EDITION of the Spirit of Paimio, a one-day conference hosted at the historic Paimio Sanatorium will take place on Monday, 16 October 2023. The conference is intended to spark an ongoing dialogue about the intersection
of architecture and societal care, aiming to inspire professionals and communities globally, building new networks and cultural initiatives that will be centred around the Paimio Sanatorium.
The event includes a lineup of notable international speakers, including Lyndon Neri (Architect, Neri & Hu), Hans Ulrich Obrist (Artistic director, Serpentine Galleries),Juhani Pallasmaa (Architect), Beatrice Galilee (Founder, The World Around), Susanna Pettersson (CEO, Finnish Cultural Foundation), Otto Lowe (The Factum Foundation), Nicolay Boyadjiev (Architect, REARC Institute), Sofia Pia Belenky (Partner, Space Caviar) and Joseph Grima (Curator of Paimio Sanatorium Foundation and founder of Space Caviar).
• Get to know the program and sign up: Spirit of Paimio Conference >
Text: Jenna Kiuru Images: Jenna Kiuru and Tuomas Pajuniemi