Category: Branding, Entrepreneurship

In the spotlight: Klaus Haapaniemi

In the feature ‘In the spotlight’ I periodically interview the people behind inspiring design/fashion and lifestyle brands about how they build their success, as an inspiration for me and to everyone else in the field. This month I interviewed Klaus Haapaniemi, a Finnish-born and London based artist/illustrator.

Klaus’ long list of clients include print collections for Clements Ribeiro, Cacharel, Dolce & Gabbana, Marimekko, Levi’s, Diesel, a store identity for Selfridges, and an ever expanding range of his own published books, ceramics and wall tapestry collections. The list goes on and on. I ‘discovered’ him when I first bought Iittala x Klaus Haapaniemi (Taika series) tableware years ago, my all time favorite. I love his style: it’s colorful, mysterious and always has a bliss of magic. I asked Klaus about his success as an illustrator and about branding in particular.

What is the philosophy behind the brand and does it differ from your own personality?

As a brand we don’t have one specific philosophy but some principles we follow. We strongly believe in ethical manufacturing and sustainability is important to us. We try to eliminate all the unnecessary transportations as much as possible, not use chemicals or other substances in our printing that would harm nature. Basically fair collaboration and peaceful co existence with the rest of the world is one of our keywords. We try to be earthy and honest and unpretentious, but still have enough mystery to give people a chance to imagine fairytales or stories when they see our designs.

My own philosophy is purely aesthetic. I believe in intuition as the most important tool for all sorts of creative work. My interest lies in crossover artistic collaborations with different people in the field of art, food and science and my utmost challenge is to abandon all beauty standards.

You have an impressive list of clients. Can you tell us what the key factors were that attributed to your CV and the success up until now?

The key factors with positive effect on my career have been stubbornness, luck and disbelief in any kind of failure. Also hallucinogenic thoughts of an easy artist/designer lifestyle with immense benefits. I guess some of these motivations still drive me. I was also lucky to meet amazing individuals and talents who nurtured and guided me along my career this far.

In my view, since the collaboration with Iittala your brand name has gained major brand awareness on the consumer market. Do you agree and what are the main effects/results of this collaboration for you? In general what is your view on brand collaborations like these (artists x consumer goods)?

I agree my brand name gained awareness with the Iittala collaboration. I think our collaboration together with Iittala did offer something new and unusual for the consumer market. Nordic and Scandinavian design have been associated with minimal and simple functionality for years. I hope we keep conveying more complex and artistic but at the same time also the modern side of Nordic design. I guess a design collaboration can bring a more emotional side to consumer goods at its best and that’s worth working for.

What’s the role of social media in building your brand?

I’m a total novice in social media and marketing but aware of the effects it has on any brand. I think it’s an interesting tool but I personally don’t have time for strategically using it. I think it is great to hear direct feedback from customers and followers, and we are slowly learning to be more engaging.

What tip can you give talented artists on their path to success?

Keep your mind free and open and don’t worry too much of what others are saying. Communicate and learn everything and everywhere you can.

A lot of young artists struggle with the tension between keeping their own signature and creative freedom and compromising when working for bigger clients. Does this sound familiar to you and if so, how did/do you cope with that?

You learn the balance with time. But sometimes you learn from compromises as well. My advice is: don’t push too hard in an early stage to shape your expressiveness into a branded style/signature look you can’t get away from.

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