The Finest of Finnish Design: Pekka Loiri in Graphis Journal #372

“Form and function must be in balance” is the key phrase in Finnish design, and graphic designer Pekka Loiri fulfills this challenge perfectly.

Born on March 30th, 1946, in Helsinki, Finland, Loiri studied art and design at various places, including the Aukusti Tuhka School of Graphic Art. Loiri established his studio, Studio Pekka Loiri, in 1982, originally named Loiri Oy. Besides studio work, he has also taught at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki (now Aalto Univ.), held the chancellor’s post at the MG School Helsinki, and has lectured at a number of universities all around the world. He is currently a visiting professor at the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts. On top of an amazing teaching career, he’s also had numerous international solo exhibitions, and has won numerous awards like the Czech Ladislav Surtnar Award, the Icocrada Excellence Award, and the Pro Finlandia Medal.

To quote fellow designer Kari Piippo, “Pekka’s design is based on an idea, and he always has a story to tell. The messages are understandable and often involve warm humor. He wisely dares to leave room for the viewer’s own imagination as well. Pekka Loiri uses graphic design tools in a versatile and inspiring way. His works are always characterized by sophisticated typography. Pekka is a great friend of classical music, which is evident in his posters. They are visual music.”

Here is a snippet of Pekka Loiri’s QA:

What is your work philosophy?

My motto is keep it simple. For me, graphic design uses both the brain and the hands. It means communicating messages and telling stories in an effective and aesthetically pleasing way. The most important thing is to get the point across, but the designer’s personality is also important. It means standing out from the crowd but also something more difficult to define, something inexplicable and perhaps something more intellectual, as if you were looking at the world through a broken mirror. In my mirror, things never appear 1:1; they’re neither realistic nor naturalistic. Realism and naturalism isn’t a method I use. I feel them to be too straightforward, too concrete.

What would be your dream assignment?

My dream project would now just be a poster assignment for any grand opera house.

What is your greatest professional achievement?

I have been fortunate to work with my greatest passions, classical music and opera. I have had the chance to design posters, program booklets, and other similar things. Such work has been the salt, pepper, and other spices of my life. For years, I was responsible for the visual design of Finland’s largest and most respected communications agency and communications educator. I found this work, as well as the many more or less random client relationships in the field of packaging and corporate design, highly rewarding.

Where do you seek inspiration?

I’m inspired by the work of previous designers, architecture, and the built environment as well as all well-designed items and things. My family owns an island in central Finland. There is a sauna, the nature is incredibly beautiful, and everything is surrounded by a large lake. But it’s not, however, a source of inspiration. There your thoughts can rest, your head can be cleared, your mind is reset, and your brain can recharge. It is a place for calming, not for inspiration.

To read more of Pekka Loiri’s interview and discover other great designers, check out Graphis Journal #372, which can be purchased online at

Author: Graphis