Pushing pixels, planning video games and taking photo’s of his mates Skateboarding, Hannu Koho of Kallan & Co, got his design wheels turning at an early age. With a strong affirmation for ‘digital first’, it’s exciting to see what these guys are bringing to the design world 🌏
What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design? My earliest creative memories are when we were drawing ASCII art for Bulletin Board Systems (yes, you can Google those terms) and then planning our own computer game with my friends on late 90’s. I think we only managed to do some concept graphics for the game before hitting the wall with our limited skills. Around that time, I also broke my hand skateboarding so I needed a new hobby. Photography was something that I could do with one hand only and it gave me a purpose to hang around other skateboarders not being able to skate myself.
Both the computer scene and photography made me interested in design. The first actual graphic design work I did was an album cover for our band playing experimental electronic music. I did that album cover as a high school arts project and my vector traced images impressed the teacher to give me a good grade. This was sort of the actual kick-off to becoming a designer.
‘If you don’t have a work place yet or you haven’t had a chance to work on your dream project, you can always make up a concept of your own and showcase your skills and passion towards design in that way.’
What was your plan for graduating and what actually happened? When I got into a design school, I had already set up a small design studio with my friend. I managed to juggle between the school and work for almost three years and I was trying to graduate almost in time. But then I got recruited to a big agency. They had lots of interesting projects that included some travelling and other fun stuff. That put my school to an almost complete pause. I was so close to being kicked out from the school because of my delayed studies, but then I decided that I just had to graduate. Otherwise the years spent in school would feel somehow wasted. I managed to negotiate with my school teachers and I got a lot of courses accepted by just presenting and reporting projects that I had done at work. I also completed some courses by teaching in the school which is sort of a paradox.
In the end, it took around six years to graduate which was two years on top of the standard graduation time. Made it.
What does a typical working day include for you right now? If I have a typical office day and I’m not travelling for meetings etc., it goes roughly like this. I wake up and check Slack for updates and questions from our talented New Zealand office (Yo Brett King!) and see what they have achieved during their day. After this I wake up my office assistant, who usually sleeps in my bed, and brief her about the upcoming day while walking her to the office (yes, she’s a dog). When I get to the office the first hour goes with replying mails and handling urgent stuff. Then I typically have one or two meetings with clients during the day. Between those lots of time goes by reviewing, discussing and brainstorming designs with other designers. At Kallan & Co we strongly believe in the power of collaboration. All the best things we have done, have been born through an intensive collaboration between multiple designers.
The remaining time then goes to the actual design work before leaving for home. Quite typically my day at the office has lots of interrupts taking my time, so I often do more design work when I get home and there’s no one harassing me. Before going to bed, I make sure that our New Zealand office knows what has happened during our day and what they should work on while our Helsinki office sleeps.
To put my typical working day in the numbers:
– 10 % random errands
– 20 % client communication
– 30 % design
– 40 % team work and communication with colleagues
What do you look for in a great portfolio? Quality over quantity. Quite many portfolios I review have too much work samples. Even though it is good to show that you can do a variety of different kinds of things, it’s still smarter to show just the projects that represent your style and skills best. Keep the bar high and curate your projects heavily. I also appreciate passion projects a lot. If you don’t have a work place yet or you haven’t had a chance to work on your dream project, you can always make up a concept of your own and showcase your skills and passion towards design in that way.
What role does digital design play in your studio in 2017, and how do you apply traditional graphic design skills in a digital age? Kallan & Co has always been heavily “digital first” and we tend to think everything through digital executions first. But even though it’s digital design, the same basic visual rules of graphic design apply. A digital environment just brings more dimensions that you must consider, but also many more possibilities to play with.
Whats on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months? Professionally I’m looking forward to working on some super exciting global projects. It’s really amazing for a design studio of our size to get these kinds of cases. The projects include designing future user experiences, brands and innovating new products and services with our clients. We are also expanding our team in Helsinki and actually looking for a new and bigger office space.
Personally, I hope the next 12 months will bring as many surf trips as possible and maybe some remote working out of the Helsinki office, including a trip to our branch in New Zealand.