Riikka Laakso


Hello, Riikka!
What’s your interest about illustration and design?

The most fascinating thing about illustration to me is the ability to reach people instantly, on a primal level, and elicit a reaction. It could be a smile, feelings of anger or perhaps just triggering thought.
Naturally, the aesthetics of an illustration affect how people react to it whether they like it or not. But what I am more interested in are the ideas behind the images. The conceptualization process of my illustrations is what I enjoy most but at the same time can be most challenging. Sometimes it almost feels like mathematics, as if I need to find solutions to questions which can be dizzying. Even so, it’s a great feeling and I love what I do.

How would you describe your illustrative style in three words?
Colorful, graphical, conceptual.

You’re born in Finland, now based in Berlin, how does the city inform your work and the environments you create?
I’m not sure if Berlin has such a distinct influence on my work. If you live in a big city you are surrounded by a lot of different people and cultures which I love. But for my work process, I prefer the calm atmosphere of my studio where I can escape my environment. I will say Berlin has influenced my work with regard to freelance projects I have been commissioned with. I always thought that it doesn’t matter where you live as a freelancer in today’s digital world, but in the past few years I have worked with many Berlin-based clients and therefore Berlin has had an influence on my work and advancement as an illustrator.

Can the creativity be learned later, or is it a feeling that is always within the human being?
When I think about my path, a creative, learning and working process comes to my mind. I wasn’t born as a great drawer and there are times when I’m not into drawing or being creative at all. You need a lot of time and patience to find your own language as an illustrator. I believe that there is some kind of creativity in every person, but it depends on how much work and passion you are willing to invest.

What does the future hold for you?
I hope I will be able to travel more and work on more manual projects again. And of course, I am always open and interested in working with new clients and interesting new projects.

What was the last piece of music you listened to? When and where was that?
This morning I listened to “Night Faces” by Jessica Pratt. It helped me wake up and start my day peacefully.

What is a day in the life of Riikka Laakso like? Tell us about your daily routine.
I wake up every day at 7 am and start my day with a cup of coffee and a shower and then I take the few steps to my home studio. What follows depends on the project I am currently working on. If it’s a commissioned project, I typically work intensely on it until it’s completed or until the day ends. At lunchtime, I take a break and perhaps a walk around my neighborhood.

If I am not engaged with commissioned work, I am probably working on personal projects, finding new ideas, experimenting, writing emails, organizing, reading, gardening or strolling around.

How do you keep yourself inspired?
There are diverse ways I garner inspiration. Observing the environment can be very inspiring. Seeing something that makes me angry, happy or confused is a good start. Coming across some great creative work from others, reading books, going to bookstores (I love the international children’s bookstore Mundo Azul in Berlin, it’s so inspiring there). Walking or riding my bike in nature can also have a stimulating effect on me. Sometimes I am really dissatisfied with my work, which can be annoying, but it also keeps me on my toes when trying out something new or starting a new personal project. Even boredom and silence can lead to new ideas.

What would you do if you could start all over again?
Looking back, there were a few sections in my career that maybe weren’t ideal. For example, when I started my Bachelor’s in Graphic Design, I wasn’t sure if it would be the right field or right place for me. I could also have been more outgoing, braver or more industrious. But everyone has a different background and I did the best I could at the time. Failures are often helpful to find out what you want and what you don’t want. In this case, I ended up getting my Master’s degree in a place I wanted to be in and at a school, I really wanted to study at, so it ended up working out.

Most important is that I am happy about where I am personally and professionally now and I believe that journey needed to be taken to get there.

Who are some of your artistic influences?
There are a lot! Many of my peers, friends and my sister are all illustrators, designers, and artists who inspire me. So more well-known names whose work I admire include Luke Best, Jenni Rope, David Shrigley, Tove Jansson, Frida Kahlo, Henri Rousseau, David Hockney, Katia Fouquet, Katrin Stangl, Laura Carlin.

The thing you never go without.
That depends on where I am going. The only thing I never really leave without are my keys, so I can always come back home.

Who would you like to be interviewed after you?
Jesus Cisneros. I follow him on Instagram and love his work. I would love to learn more about him.

Finally, Is there something you wish interviewers would ask you — but never do?
No, not yet. 

Thank you!