MADE BY is the Institute’s series of interviews that allows artists, designers, thinkers and doers to unfold their creative process in their own words.
Graphic designer and artist Toni Halonen has created illustrations for, among others, Kenzo, Trendi magazine, and Samsung, and is shortlisted for the Designs of the Year 2015 award in the graphic design category. By invitation of It’s Nice That and London Graphic Centre, he created the Christmas 2014 billboard for LGC’s flagship store.
It’s Nice That cooperates with London Graphic Centre to produce a billboard for the LGC store that changes every few months. Usually it’s been made by a London-based illustrator, but to my delight they asked me, a Finnish artist, to create their Christmas billboard.
I’m at my most creative when I give myself time for daydreaming. I’ve learned to have faith in my subconscious and don’t really stress about coming up with ideas. If a longer period of time has been reserved for the thinking process, I let my brain solve the problems by itself.
Unfortunately illustrating doesn’t usually benefit from the luxury of time, and schedules ensure that ideas have to be produced quite quickly. In such cases I’ve learned to cheat myself a bit. I was in the middle of another deadline while contemplating the illustration for the LGC billboard, so I went for a long walk. For me, walking has always been a prolific activity for ruminating.
My works are colourful, raw in a good way, and organic. They often have elements of humour, and some have even described them as erotic. I try to avoid unnecessary ornamentations and retro effects, which are quite common in illustration. I think the easier the solution for making an image work, the more effective the image is.
I try to discuss each project with the client openly. First sketches are usually so rough that I’m almost embarrassed to send them to the client. On the other hand, if you try and finish a piece before submitting it, it’s probably not what they had in mind when they requested it. It’s also much harder to change a completed piece of work. There have been occasions when I’ve become so excited about a topic that I’ve let my imagination run wild. My heart does bleed if a project has to be restarted or the illustration changed substantially as I always put a lot of myself into the work.
Possibly the most challenging parts of this project were the schedule and the fact that we simultaneously made a video of the illustration process. Making the video was in the end just as arduous as illustrating, and we almost ran out of hours trying to put both together at the same time. Luckily the amazing Osma Harvilahti and Oskari Pulkkinen were there to take care of the video.
The message my illustrations are trying to convey depends massively on the context for which they’re designed. In magazine illustration it’s not enough for the images to complement the text - they need to draw the reader’s attention to the article and make them want to immerse themselves in it. More so than the message, I’m interested in the emotions that my works stimulate in the viewer.
I read a lot about art and try to be interested in the world around me. I try to keep a certain organic and human element in my art, although it is at times very graphic in style. Combined with a strong colour palette, they deepest impact on people. Perhaps it’s easier to get a grasp of than precise, engineer-like design, which is very easy to create using modern computer programmes.
I derive a great deal of energy from certain pieces of art. I hope that my work makes someone else feel at least remotely the same. One of the greatest feedbacks is also hearing that seeing my work has inspired someone.
In the future I would like to work more on my own projects and find a balance between making art and doing commercial work. I have tried to paint and draw a lot of late. I wouldn’t want to get stuck doing too many similar jobs. Trying out new media makes your work more interesting.
I’m happy that I’ve been able to do so many interesting projects. There will be a really cool announcement regarding my work early this year, but I can’t reveal more about that yet. This year will also see my first solo exhibition, which I’m really excited about.