This is the latest installment of our Core77 Questionnaire. Previously, we talked to Li Edelkoort.
Enter a caption (optional)
Name: Mika Piirainen
Occupation: I'm a designer at Marimekko's ready-to-wear design team. In the past, I have also designed some prints for Marimekko, but at the moment I'm concentrating on creating the silhouettes. In this job it's important to understand the characteristics of prints, as well as the foundation of Marimekko's ready-to-wear—paying equal attention to the print and the shape of the garment.
Location: Helsinki, Finland
Current projects: At the moment we're designing the spring 2019 collection—there's some recognizable Marimekko looks coming. As Marimekko has never been about trendy fashion but about timeless design, we're always many seasons ahead in our design work.
All images provided by Marimekko Enter a caption (optional) Enter a caption (optional) Enter a caption (optional)
Mission: One of the most iconic Marimekko designers, Vuokko Eskolin-Nurmesniemi, stated many decades ago that the woman is the one that should be sexy, not the dress. I have always kept this in mind when designing. Marimekko's design philosophy is based on empowering women to walk their own path and bringing joy to everyday moments through timeless and functional designs.
When did you decide that you wanted to be a designer? I actually never decided or wanted to be a designer—it was a lucky and happy accident. Sometimes life takes you in a direction that you never though it would take you. After working as a Marimekko designer for over two decades now, I wouldn't change a thing!
Education: I graduated from the Lahti Institute of Design and Fine Arts in Finland and from Ravensbourne College in London as well.
First design job? My first design job was actually at Marimekko, the iconic Finnish design house known for its original prints and colors. In 1994, the Marimekko team came to critique my final student presentation at Lahti Institute of Design and Fine Arts, and afterwards they told me to call them. Within a few days, I had an interview with Marimekko's previous owner Kirsti Paakkanen herself. I got hired as a design assistant in the middle of the first meeting. I was very lucky.
Enter a caption (optional)
Describe your workspace: I work from many different locations. Sometimes from the Marimekko headquarters in Helsinki, sometimes from my home and sometimes on the road. Traveling is a great source of inspiration for my work, I consider myself as a nomad.
What is your most important tool? Imagination is my most important tool as a designer. Besides Marimekko's rich heritage and history that goes all the way to the year 1951, as well as my travels, Marimekko's in-house printing factory is a great source of inspiration for me. Around a million meters of fabric are printed here every year. The printing mill serves both as a factory and as an innovative hub for our creative community. These things especially feed my imagination.
What is the best part of your job? My favorite part of my job is seeing someone wear my designs. It is inspiring to see these designs as an important part of people's everyday lives.
What challenges do you face at work? I feel that the most challenging part of my job is the fact that we're designing functional and timeless pieces. This requires a lot of thought in the design process. You need to think of many details to achieve this goal.
How do you procrastinate? My favorite thing to do when I want to procrastinate is garden. It puts things in perspective and is a great counterweight for all the thinking and problem solving that design work requires.
What is your favorite productivity tip or trick? I like to think that things will always work out. My favorite productivity tip is to be relaxed and stress-free—when you're stressed, you'll never be able to get the best out of your productivity.
What is the best-designed object in your home? The best-designed object in my home is a Sarpaneva cast-iron pot designed by Finnish designer Timo Sarpaneva in 1960. I love how practical but also appealing the pot with its wooden handle is.
Who is your design hero? I have two design gurus: Alfred Hitchcock and Sarah Winchester.
People don't usually think movies as a design, but from my point of view, the British movie director Alfred Hitchcock was a master in designing entities. The costumes, casting, story—all the pieces in his movies create a seamless entity. He also mastered timelessness in his designs—his movies truly stand the test of time.
Sarah Winchester is my other design guru for the Winchester Mystery House that she built to San José, California. She kept building the house for many decades. There's a lot of things that are opposite of functionality; the odd design of this house fascinates me, and I look forward to seeing the movie about the house that will be out next year.
Enter a caption (optional) Enter a caption (optional) Enter a caption (optional) Enter a caption (optional)
What is the most important quality in a designer? A designer is a problem solver as well. When you create something new, there are always some problems that you need to solve in order to create timeless and functional design. Another important quality is to be able to be a bit laid-back even under a pressure—nothing good comes out when you're too stressed.
In design, one must always look forward but also treasure rich heritage. Sometimes heritage can be more interesting than the future.
What is the most widespread misunderstanding about design or designers? The most widespread misunderstanding about designers is that we master everything in our own. When you're a designer, it's never only about you but the team you have around you. All our professionals, whether they work in sourcing or our in-house printing factory, are actually designers as well. Good design is much more than a beautiful object and is always a team effort; the sense of doing things together has always been essential to our design philosophy. We even have a term for it, we call it Marimekko's creative community.