At Work With: Pekka Toivonen, FAT
Pekka Toivonen is ‘art dictator’ at Helsinki-based Kasino Creative Studio, where he has developed publications including magCulture favourites Kasino A4 and Kasino Creative Annual. We join him as he heads to London for this week’s Printout, and just after the launch of the studio’s latest fine publication FAT.
Where are you today?
I’m at Kasino Creative Studio, on my way to the Helsinki-Vantaa airport – tomorrow I'll give a lecture about FAT, a trailblazing magazine about Art & Life, at the Printout event. Feeling excited! After London I'm heading to Beijing and then Shanghai, where I'm speaking as well at this superb summit called EARS. It's a platform for building bridges between European & Asian creatives. Great, hefty week ahead, and I get to do what I'm good at: not shut up.
What can you see from the window?
It’s the other way around – people see me. We have a clear, wall-size window to the public, so the Kallio district crowd can have a daily sneak peek at Kasino Creative Studio's means and methods to create Art on Demand. Oh my lord all the things people (may) have seen during the years...
How many emails are waiting in your inbox?
Enough. Spam. Good ongoing projects. Good pending projects. Interviews. To-dos. You can’t work without email, but I think it's a bit messy way to communicate.
What’s your favourite magazine this morning?
What I like is mix’n’match, black and white, vica & versa. I visited a local magstore for the first time this year a while ago, and wanted to pick up something inspiring. So I bought Herpetomania and Smooth. I like challenging, yet simple editorial concepts and out-of-the-box formats.
In Herpetomania, what appealed me the most was the dead-serious devotion to the topic. You can smell that from a distance. In addition, there's the itchiest possible name/logotype (well, maybe some fine adjustments could be done, to make the most of it) and striking headlines like “Why are vipers black?” Whereas in Smooth everything is, well, smooth. Americans have the eager to clarify concepts to the max, and even if I am not a typical Smooth reader, the silky execution made me smile.
So, my favourite magazine this morning would be these two – combined.
Kasino Creative Studio design lots of different things but there always seems to be a magazine of some sort on the go. What is special about magazines for you and the team?
Magazines are the ultimate playground of Life! Even with your own hair you can't play as much as with a magazine (trust me, I've tried). The combining of things, thoughts, words, images, stories, narrative, style, vibe, feel, beat, dare, guts and random fun – that might be the answer. Or then we're just stuck on what we do. I'm constantly emphasizing that whenever working with Kasino, the end result does not necessarily have to be a magazine – but at the same time, that's what we are best known for, and I think we are damn good in making magazines. But building brands too!
The first issue of FAT is punctuated by a series of double-page quotes about art. What's your favourite quote about magazines?
‘What the magazine world needs is not another quote.’ – PT
The magazines you make are quite experimental, yet underlying this theoretical surface there is a warm, humorous and human character. How do you explain this difference?
Human is what we are, and experiences is what we want. That has always been a key characteristics in what we do. Maybe it is also some sort of Finnish humbleness, combined with honesty, but: we love realism. Fuck Photoshop! Magazine is a physical, sensitive format, even online and off the pages, so things should always feel like made by humans, for humans. And humour – of course there has to be humour. What is more depressing than a dead-serious journalist?
But you have to be careful with humour. Whenever there's too much of it, the fun becomes sad. In these times of over-ironic communication culture, you actually have to be really subtle with your haha. But never forget fun. One of our dogmas in making the first-ever FAT was "Do and haha" (voice-over with extremely laconic, movie director Aki Kaurismäki -kinda style).
What was the last thing your editor said to you?
As an Art Dictator, I work with many editors, designers and other kind of creatives. Currently the whole FAT team is out of Kallio: Text Designer in Miami, Moderator in Barcelona, and Curator in Töölö – but I can tell you the last thing a dear client said to me, with my reply included!
Client: “Maybe you could be a bit more nice to the creative team?”
Me: “Art Dictators are not nice, but effective.”
Mjölk identity (2009)
What are you most looking forward to this week?
Many things! Meeting a lot of people, have a good sleep at a hotel, buying christmas presents from Harrod's, seeing the final visuals of EARS (I'm the Brand Supervisor), working on an upcoming book project while in China... And I also have some BIG news coming up! Unfortunately, I can't tell you everything about it quite yet – but I need to work on it this week as well. Now that the fishing season is nearly over, and the killing winter is about to hit Finland, fun at work is all that's left.
What are you least looking forward to this week?
Sleeping in planes. Although I’m a pretty good sleeper.
What will you be doing after this chat?
I’m gonna hit the plane – see you soon, folks!