My Growth Story: Marimekko Graphic Design Team Lead Hanna Knaapi

I have always admired Marimekko. Even as a young girl I told my grandmother that if it’s a cloudy day we have to paint colourful pictures and look at them. Colours and visuals have always been important to me, and they drew me to Marimekko, which has turned out to be an even richer working environment than I could have ever imagined. In my opinion, the best aspects are a supportive and joyful atmosphere as well as the fact that skills are noticed here in people that they themselves might not have even known existed. Being given a platform for growth is a rare feature in a working environment in my opinion.

“If something hasn’t felt right, it has felt like there are chafing clothes on me that need to be changed”

Right now I feel like I have my dream job but if I look back at the development of my career, it has consisted more of separate chance occurrences.  Marimekko was always on such a high pedestal in my mind that I had to really grow and charge myself up mentally before I dared to start pursuing my big dream.  A growth story of several years was needed before I felt I was ready but last spring I told my husband that now I’ll do it and set out to pursue my dream.

Instead of pushing on with determination, I have moved forward in life and work with heart and intuition.  It means that I have always had a strong feeling about what is the right move in any given situation. “If something hasn’t felt right, it has felt like there are chafing clothes on me that need to be changed. I think the most important thing is to know how to say “yes” in the right situations and to seize opportunities opening up in front of you in spite of possible fear. On the other hand, it is also important to learn how to tackle adversity and to know that they have always had some purpose. In hindsight I have realised that maybe it wasn’t meant for me, after all, to travel a certain route but to go on my own path.  It is often the case that after a failure I have actually got something better. Whether it’s a job or life in general, energy should not be wasted on looking to the sides; instead you should only focus on running in your own lane.

“I have learned to know my own limits and to let go”

I am creative and I work in the creative sector, where it is important to know how to also take a breather and give space for creativity. The flip side of a creative personality is that I get excited about things too easily and don’t know how to say no. At one point, I did far too much performance-type work, and freelance work in addition to my daytime work, which began to turn against itself.  I realized that having too much work at my hands started to downgrade my creativity. That´s why I have needed to learn to understand my limits and to let go. Now, for example, I have started to paint again and make graphics in my spare time. Right now I am learning graphics by engraving and it is liberating to be able to try new creative things without a compelling need to produce a finished or fine result. I also get inspirations from art exhibitions and museums. Even if a certain exhibition isn’t particularly impressive to me, pausing before a work of art is always inspiring – an experience that can even move me to tears.

“Nothing new is generated by force”

Every now and then there will be moments of a blank slate when nothing comes up. That’s when I go to sleep – if the schedule allows for it. I dream a lot in my sleep and often a concrete solution is clear on my mind after a good night’s sleep. My advice is that if your brain is completely stuck, you should allow it to rest. “Nothing new is generated by force” In creative work it is also important to take part in routine tasks because they, too, allow the brain to rest.

“Working together produces better results”

Over the years I have done very much work alone, so working with others feels awesome! Marimekko’s written values include getting things done – together, which is realised in our everyday work.  For example, we have reserved time on our calendars for creative days, which means we work together outside the office in a totally different kind of environment and work on the challenge or project on hand together. When more than one head works on a particular problem together, the solution is many times better.

“I want to expand my overall picture of the operations of a design house”

In a short period of time, I have got my own team to lead at Marimekko, and for my own development I am interested in creativity management and how I can be the best possible support to my team. There is plenty to learn in this. I am also interested in expanding my overall knowledge of the processes of a design house and it would be wonderful to be able to work in printing or design for a day, for instance, so I could gain a deeper understanding of the operation of a design house. Fortunately, our company culture encourages us to learn from each other so I believe that there will be an opportunity for this. I don’t know what kind of future I will have at Marimekko, but I do know that I have found my place and want to have a long career here.

Text: Mia Heiskanen



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