Ilkka Suppanen is one of the best-known contemporary Finnish designers in the world. His works have been widely exhibited, and he has received many international awards. His design studio, founded in 1995, operates in the fields of interior, product and concept design and architecture. In 1997, Suppanen co-founded the Snowcrash design co-operative, which quickly gained international success. Suppanen’s works reflect his constant interest in new materials, uses and production techniques. His style can be described as light, forward-looking and yet classically Scandinavian.
What inspires your work?
I am inspired by lots of things. Sometimes it can be a material, sometimes a picture, or people’s behaviour in general. What I find most inspiring about people is their
natural activities.When designing
the Marhaba fabric for Marimekko,
I was inspired by the abstract, even mathematical and logical figures of Arab culture, which forbids the
depiction of living beings.
How do you usually work? What is your design process like?
Each work requires its own process. Designing patterns is very different from designing spaces, furniture or
lamps. I usually begin the design process with an analysis of the project in question. When designing
textiles, I focus more on the colour and the pattern, since textiles are functional by nature.
What does the word Marimekko bring to your mind?
One cannot talk about Nordic and Finnish design without mentioning Marimekko. Marimekko’s history is
multifaceted and clear. In my opinion, Marimekko’s visual quality has always been apparent. Marimekko’s
values have formed the basis for all its operations, although the original values may not have remained
completely unchanged until today.
Marimekko represents simple, beautiful, functional, clean, and in a way trend-free design. The company
has commendably introduced products that reflect the spirit of the day.
What is it like to design for Marimekko?
It is great! This is also the first time for me to work in a female-dominated organisation, and therefore it is
interesting at many levels. In my opinion, Marimekko works in a bit different way than other companies. Its processes may not be so linear and coherent; things are rediscussed and rethought continuously.
The traditional male-organisation starts with deciding on a general framework, and then moves on to
the details. At Marimekko, even things that have already been agreed upon can be brought back to the
discussion table for reassessment. One can thus change decisions within a given time frame. I find this
interesting, and I could also adopt this in my own work.
How does designing fabric prints differ from designing other products?
Fabrics are functional by nature, so in the design of fabric prints, one does not need to consider such things as ergonomics and production feasibility. These create their own conditions. When designing fabrics, I focus perhaps more on the ambiance than the message.
What do you want to communicate with the fabrics that you have designed Marimekko?
I design upholstery and curtain fabrics to suit a space – this is the starting point. In general, Marimekko is known for a twofold tradition: the abstract even-striped world and the bold figurative motifs. Lately,
Marimekko’s figurative motifs may have received more attention. As a designer of spaces and objects, I bring to the fore the abstract even-striped world by creating new stripes and geometric patterns. Hence, my designs are not out of keeping with other Marimekko products.
In your opinion, what does Marimekko have to offer to public premises?
In my opinion, Marimekko offers colour and interest – not grey basics that remain in the background, but
rather points of attention or a visual image. The character, the colours, and even the lines of the patterns I have designed are stronger than what is usually seen in public spaces.
In what kind of environment would you like to see your fabric design used?
I don't think this is the choice of the designer. A fabric designed by me should look good in any space where it is used. I find it interesting to see how someone else uses a design I have created.