- How do you start your day?
With great difficulty. I’m more of a night owl so getting up early has always been a struggle for me. I often have one or two cups of espresso and hope it does its trick.
- What was your dream profession as a child?
I had plenty. I wanted to be a writer, professional flute player, a band member…
- What attracted you to the graphic design industry?
It’s something I’ve grown into. I’ve always done something related to graphic designing even when I was still in school. I loved making posters, editing pictures, creating logos, drawing and designing for the other part of my interests; IT and web design played a huge part in that too. Apart from Finnish Nightmares, what I do most is user interface design and user experience design. I can get the best of both worlds.
- Your comic Finnish Nightmares has attracted wide publicity especially in China. Why do you think people are so interested in it?
I’ve been told that especially Chinese millennials need more physical and mental space than their parents. That’s why Finnish Nightmares resonates with them.
- You have told that the Finnish Nightmares blog itself was born spontaneously, but what is the story behind the main character Matti?
When I made Finnish Nightmares and it went viral, people started to ask who the character was. I realised I didn’t have a name for him, so I searched for the most common first name in Finland. It was actually Kari, but I didn’t see my character as Kari. The second most common first name in Finland was Matti, and I thought that name fit my character better, so he became Matti.
And the reason he wears that hat is my dad. He wears a hat like that whenever he goes abroad and sometimes in Finland too. I think the comic has made him wear his hat more often.
- What are the steps in your creative process?
I get the ideas from people around me or from my own actions. Many of the comics in the book are based on situations where I’ve been and thought afterwards that “This was a Finnish nightmare”. Some of the ideas I get from my followers.
Then I do a rough doodle, if needed on a Post-it or phone depending on where I am, and when I get home I draw it on my computer.
- What could the rest of the world learn from your comic?
Maybe it will give some insight into the quirks of Finnish social culture, even though the comic is a bit exaggerated.
- When are you at your happiest?
When I’m having a good long talk with friends.
- What is the best feedback you have ever received?
I love to read stories from people who have read my comics and tell me how they are like Matti or how someone they know is just like Matti. These stories are heart-warming and they come from across the globe.
The other kind of feedback I find quite cute is someone I know telling me how they have heard someone else talk about Finnish Nightmares, but they stayed silent, said nothing and just smiled to themselves. That’s like the embodiment of “Mattiness” right there.
- There is a new Chinese buzzword inspired by your comic, “jingfen” (精芬) that means “spiritually Finnish”. In your opinion, what represents Finnishness the best?
Personal space, physical and mental.
*This article was originally published in August 2018