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Interview with Ossi Pirkonen


Ossi Pirkonen is an illustrator with a knack for quirky character design and using vibrant, warm colors. His vector-style illustration has appeared on everything from album covers to books to Ford car ads.

Like many of you, Ossi moonlights as a freelancer while working full-time. In this interview Ossi shares his tricks of the trade, words of inspiration and tells how a career in illustration is all his mom's fault!

Could you tell us about yourself?

Hello! My name is Ossi Pirkonen and I'm 29 years of age. I live in the cool part of Helsinki (Finland), called Kallio. That's the former place of the working class, nowadays it's more or less a place for the younger crowd of Helsinki. There's a quiet area in the middle of Kallio called Torkkelinmäki. That's where I spend my nights.

I work in an advertising agency during the day and do illustration at night. I've been working in different agencies for couple of years now and it pays the bills. At the moment I'm fortunate to be in an agency that appreciates my skills.

I like watching TV, movies and reading comic books. I read a little and play mobile games with my phone. Listening to music is somewhat my passion. I used to play drums, but now that it's quite expensive to rent a place in Helsinki for my drums, so I've kind of quit.

How did you get started with graphic design and illustration?

I used to draw a lot with my dad as a kid. Also with my buddy Ilkka. We used to make these monsterous cars, buildings, space ships and cities out of Lego. We also drew funny three-story vehicles that had missile centers and kitchens in them. I don't remember ever finishing one of those vehicles, but I remember starting a million.

Why did you make the choice to take the plunge and turn your hobby into a profession?

My mom's responsible. After high school I was wondering whether I should make a career out of music or drawing. My mom was working in the local library and bought home a Folk High School brochure. I applied and got in. After that I got into the Lahti Institute of Design.

What attracts you to vector illustration over other mediums?

I don't know, really. Maybe it is the ability to modify what you've made. I've gotten a bit more into drawing and painting recently. We'll see what future brings.

The items in your portfolio feature vivid, warm colors, reminiscent of Latin American art. Where do you draw inspiration for your design work?

I guess you could see them as a result of that culture also. My biggest inspiration is 50's, 60's illustration. Mary Blair, Jim Flora, Miroslav Sasek and such. Also, pop culture in its rainbow colors. Everything, basically. Music, films, TV, books, magazines, people, icons, animals, phenomena.

Do you have any words of advice for beginning illustrators?

Work hard. Inspire yourself, find inspiration. Work more. Believe in finding your own voice. Don't give up. Find out which medium is most suitable for your voice. Know your medium like thy back pockets. Try to think about how to market yourself. The web is a good tool for both marketing and finding marketing tips.

What's your biggest challenge as a professional designer, and how do you try to overcome it?

My biggest challenge is to go full time freelance at some point of my career. I want to try it. To try to overcome it... Well, I need a whole lot of courage. I'd also like to maintain the level of professionality that I have now and improve myself as an illustrator.

What is the best piece of work you've ever created, and what does it mean to you?

Well, the cliché answer would be that my best piece is not even made yet. The work on my online portfolio ( is my best work.

Thanks Ossi!

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