Words by Katja Räisänen | Portrait by Elina Simonen, pictures courtesy of Lotta Nieminen, studio pictures by Katja Räisänen

“I was most fascinated by the multidisciplinary aspect of graphic design,” says graphic designer and illustrator Lotta Nieminen, looking back on when she was considering career options. The ambitious New York-based designer has worked with major brands such as Google, Facebook, Volkswagen, Liberty London, Hermès, the New York Times, Vanity Fair, and IBM. In 2014, she was nominated for the Forbes magazine “30 Under 30” list in the Art & Style category.

When I interviewed Lotta in her bright, inspiring Brooklyn studio, I was caught by her energy and contagious laughter. Lotta tries not to get too excited or talk too long, as she has a full schedule for the day. Indeed, besides creativity, this Finnish talent’s success has been driven by her discipline and determination.

Lotta is thorough regarding the projects she chooses. “It’s very important to consider what you can bring to the project – whether you are the right person.” When committed to a project, Lotta likes to participate in the entire process to get a more holistic view of all the work’s stages.

Her work includes both overarching graphic design entities and more focused illustration commissions. She prefers to take on projects with one role in mind: “It’s easy for me to swap hats between projects, not necessarily inside a project.” While her visual language varies with each project, it is easily recognizable in both contexts. Illustrations have an original and retro style, whereas her graphic designs are more classic and minimalistic.

Pancakes! -book caption, in courtesy of Lotta Nieminen
Cook In A Book: Pancakes!, illustrated by Lotta Nieminen (Phaidon, 2016)

Lotta’s newest project, Cook In a Book: Pancakes!, recently published by Phaidon Press, is an interactive recipe book for children. It contains a single recipe that allows a child to simulate the cooking process by pulling tabs and turning wheels, and its visual expression is simpler than Lotta’s previous work. “I like that in this one, the focus is more on composition and color, maybe more so than in my previous illustrations, which rely more on the abundance of detail.”

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Cook In A Book: Pancakes!, illustrated by Lotta Nieminen (Phaidon, 2016)

 

Pancakes! -book caption, in courtesy of Lotta Nieminen, Phaidon
Cook In A Book: Pancakes!, illustrated by Lotta Nieminen (Phaidon, 2016)

Innovative projects appear to inspire Lotta enormously. She has worked with multiple fashion, design, and beauty brands as well as with many American start-ups. As she takes out simple packages and places them on her studio floor, she enthusiastically explains the central idea behind this project and brand, Rent The Runway: a service that offers a subscription-based rental service for designer clothing and accessories. The visual identity she created is simple and delicate, and revolving around an adaptive logo – a stylized interpretation of an ever-changing closet – that can appear in many different combinations. “I design mostly with gut, but like to have a reasoning behind the design decisions I make”, Lotta emphasizes.

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Rent The Runway packages, designed by Lotta Nieminen
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Cienne packages, designed by Lotta Nieminen

“When designing printed pieces, I want to create objects that people want to keep,” she says while showing me a brilliant, finished Cienne scarf package. The experience of opening a package should resemble the moment of visiting a shop, especially today when online shops often replace actual boutiques. Lotta works on many digital implementations, but she highlights the importance of high-quality tactile products when working in print.

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Pictures by Katja Räisänen

When asked about trends and their influence on her work, Lotta states, “Well, I don’t work in a cave – of course everything around me has an unconscious impact on my work. But I don’t really care about how my work might be labeled by others – the most important thing is to be content with your own work, and to be hyped on your own stuff.”