Life is learning

Tapio Anttila

“Our ancestors had an innate sense of practical aesthetics and were forced to live side by side with nature, whether they wanted to or not. The use of materials was developed to its top and the next generation improved on the innovations of the previous one. Can a designer learn from this?”


When I started my studies at the Helsinki University of Art and Design in the 1980s, my first lesson was held in, of all places, a smokehouse; which is essentially an old hut with a large fire place in it, situated in the National Museum. Why are we here? I wondered.  After all, an old hut has nothing to do with top-class design that I thought I had come to study. My first lesson was held by the legendary designer Ilmari Tapiovaara and then gradually it become clear to me, a budding designer, why he had chosen a smokehouse as the venue for the lesson.


"After all, the old bar had nothing to do with cutting-edge design, which I thought I had come to study."


Tapiovaara explained that although Finland’s history and culture may not be as long and rich as other nations, it’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Instead of trying to be like something we’re not, we should embrace our own Finnish traditions and find something there that successfully blows the competition away on global markets.

You don’t have to look far for uber-great design and functionality, unknowingly we’ve been doing it for centuries; we as the designer just must bring the design thinking to the forefront. The basic problems to be solved are always the same: there is a limited amount of space, and we need products to solve the problems of how our space is used, to be functional, durable, and of course beautiful to look at.


More stories coming

This story is the very beginning of my career as a designer. I will tell these types of stories about myself who also take a stand in my field in general. I am often asked where the ideas come from, so I thought about revealing the stuff behind new and old products, their origins, adversities, and missteps (there are plenty of topics for that), that is, a little bit of the designer’s everyday life. I was also thinking of asking readers for their opinions, even on a draft, if it would have an idea for a product. Not all the stuff is going to talk just about myself, I meant to give some general tips on decorating or even maintaining wooden furniture. One of my main interests as a designer is the much talked about responsibility. My team and I have dived deep into it, and I can promise that there will be enough of it, hopefully from new perspectives. Certainly, also make statements on current topics or phenomena when it feels like it.

So, let's get back soon!

- Tapio