Young Designer of the Year 2021
Colour, strong shapes, combinations and surprises. Painted wood or graphic design, including relief-like works that combine graphics with wood. Items the purpose of which is not always immediately apparent. Images of an amusement park or a sweetshop, playfulness, joy of life. The works by Young Designer of the Year 2021, Hanna Anonen, delight both the eyes and the mind.
Her background is in her crafty and skilled youth, when an idea of turning her hobbies into a profession emerged. First, she started wood artisan studies in Lahti and then an industrial design programme at the Institute of Design. Hanna Anonen graduated from Aalto University’s Master’s programme of industrial design in 2013.
Hanna Anonen’s designs garnered interest early on. In the Habitare fair of 2013, she presented her Ripsiraita “rag rug”, made of wooden slats, at the juried Protoshop stand for young designers. It gained visibility in the press, all the way to Wallpaper. In 2016, she designed Pala, an acoustic wall textile made of pieces of felt, later manufactured by Innofusor, which was also one of the most popular items at Habitare.
in 2019, Anonen presented the Cocktail lamp, made of colourful wooden sticks, which even made the pages of Vogue Living. Later, Hakola started to manufacture the lamp. The Plizé and Beebee boxes designed for Made by Choice were released at the Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair in 2020, and Financial Times became interested in several of Anonen’s products. The article presenting the exhibition discoveries was titled “Psychedelic is the new Nordic”.
When you are open to situations and opportunities, you never know where you end up and who you will meet… I never would have guessed Cocktail’s story. There is variety and adventure in this profession. You need to have courage to be your own kind, to throw yourself in.
Hanna Anonen is inspired by life. She makes a lot of sketches, her notebook and pen always travelling with her so that she can take notes anywhere. When she gets an interesting idea, she first sketches it by hand, then starts to model it with the computer. She tests out different dimensions and lets the idea simmer for a while. Then she looks at the sketches again and considers how they make her feel. If the idea seems good, Anonen finishes the work, creates a prototype, plans the shooting sessions and publishes through social media. Even a designer has to be active and share material all the time.
The young designer of today has networks and is open and active. Through your networks, you gain work, competence and inspiration. “Designers are more open about their work and their interests,” says Anonen, who also shares a studio with other designers. “It’s open discussion with your colleagues. You respect each other’s strengths and are inspired by them, exchange views and let it feed your own enthusiasm.”
Clear, strong forms and delicious colours are characteristic to Hanna Anonen. They truly modernise the classic image of Nordic design: rather than being anonymous or careful, they demand to be noticed and given space. “They are their own kinds,” she describes. “You don’t always have to go for understated, being unique is the thing.” Elsewhere in the world, design has been richer and more colourful for some time, and now this has finally emerged in Finland, too.
Basic shapes – cubes, sticks, cones, balls – help make the items less dependent on trends. In a way, they are call-backs to the postmodernism of the 1980s, which also used familiar forms, colours and surprising combinations in the same ways. Postmodernism shook up modernism, now we are shaking up the minimalism of the early 2000s.
Being inspired is the creative part – not just rationally solving something and then performing the solution, but rather finding the solution through inspiration.
Most of Hanna Anonen’s products that were picked up for production have started from her own idea. A company representative has seen a prototype, for example at a fair, and has become interested in it. This is the ideal case, according to Anonen, as it has allowed her to design the item from her own starting points and make the visual decisions by herself. “It is fully mine, both the idea and the decisions, and I didn’t have to make compromises with the manufacturer. For example, I made the Plizé Boxes, Beebees and Cocktail just for myself when I needed something to show at the Milan Fair. This paid off, as they ended up being picked up for production.” The products are further refined with the manufacturer, of course, and it is considered how it suits the factory’s processes, but the basic idea stays the same.
Hanna Anonen also does a great deal of graphic design. It is two-dimensional, whereas wood is three-dimensional. Can they be combined? Of course, Anonen says: although wood is a three-dimensional material, finding graphic shapes and geometric design is possible. “It is not quite understated, but it is fun and joyful geometry.” New production and working methods and ecological materials interest Anonen, but she likes wood the best: it is familiar to her. It is also a durable, renewable material that can be repaired.
Anonen’s third strength is spatial and exhibition design. She started in the field during her Master’s studies at Aalto University, where she took part in designing exhibitions along with a working group. Working together and the varied commissions felt nice, and being able to combine many various fields of design in the exhibition and fair design was also fun. Her wood artisan training proved useful: Hanna Anonen knows materials and working techniques and understands the production and implementation processes.
Spatial and exhibition design starts from the client’s needs, says Anonen, and this sets them apart from designing items. The client provides the exhibition content, but Anonen brings the visuality. She has a clear style, and her work is known and desired. “When designing exhibition architecture, it is fun to come up with some aspect that creates an experience. Something to give the visitors some inspiration!”
Hanna Anonen often talks about inspiration, as it is something she enjoys. “Being inspired is the creative part – not just rationally solving something and then performing the solution, but rather finding the solution through inspiration.” Solid expertise and knowledge of the material will then turn the inspiration into a space or a product. One should trust their own vision. And have the right kind of attitude. “An entrepreneur needs to be active and fair and reliable… and keep her joyfulness, inspiration and creativity. You need to be there as yourself, and this will then be seen in the end result. When you are open to situations and opportunities, you never know where you end up and who you will meet… I never would have guessed Cocktail’s story. There is variety and adventure in this profession. You need to have courage to be your own kind, to throw yourself in”
Design Forum Finland