Published by Plaid Magazine Online, August 2011
Kustaa Saksi has been drawing ever since he was a child, and the Amsterdam-based graphic designer/illustrator has shown no signs of slowing down. His clients include Microsoft, The New York Times, Nike, Adobe, and Sony PlayStation, and his psychedelic dreamscapes have graced t-shirts, fashion show backdrops, and even coffee mugs.
What is your artistic background?
I started my artistic career when I entered a kid’s art school in my hometown at the age of seven. At the same time, I was doing covers and cartoons for a local kid’s magazine run by my sisters. I was always drawing pretty intensively, my schoolbook pages were full of doodling – mostly logos of bands. I didn’t really think of my future as a professional artist before I got into a design institute in Lahti, Finland to study graphic design.
Can you describe the design process for your illustrations?
I still like to doodle all kinds of forms and shapes. I like to experiment with different techniques. I like to draw things in really small dimensions and then explode them up to huge sizes. Usually the most interesting shapes come out accidentally. My design process is about control and making a big mess.
What mediums do you work with?
I really like to mix different mediums. I use watercolor, pencil, ink, vector and photography together, and try to choose the best combination for every project. It might sound like a collage, but I’m always trying to find harmony between the techniques I’m using.
What is your work environment like?
I have my studio in the center of Amsterdam, at the top floor of an ancient cigar factory. The place has really nice light as the sun comes in from many windows in the walls and ceiling. That also helps trying to keep the plants happy here…
What are your inspirations?
I like to travel a lot, and usually you can see some influences in my works after I’m back from a trip and trying to digest everything I was seeing and feeling. I think more inspirational is everyday life in general, be it my local street or somewhere on the other side of the planet. Supermarkets everywhere are always worth a visit.
Your colour palette is usually very bright and your shapes are often distorted to create surreal designs. Is there a common theme that you try to evoke?
I prefer contrasts: earthy tones with neon colors, bubbly shapes with sharp texturing or fat blobs with thin delicate lines. I’m trying to create as powerful images as possible, with a strong feeling.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects?
At the moment I’m just working on some patterns, making a children’s book, and doing some commercial work for various clients.
You have designed for such an array of clients, from book covers for publishing houses to illustrations for newspapers and backdrops for fashion shows. Do you have a favourite category to design for?
I like to design for as big variety of clients as possible, be it fashion, magazines, music or advertising. I think it’s nice and challenging to work with people from very different backgrounds. I think I’ve learned a lot.
Who would you love to collaborate with?
It would be great to do more pattern design for fashion/interior brands.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Freedom. And that’s what I sometimes hate as well. It’s hard to let go of your darlings.
If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be?
When I was younger I wanted to become an architect. Now I think it would be great to be an explorer: a deepsea diver or something!