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NEW LAUNCHES AT IMM 2019  - The color enthusiast LOTTA NIEMINEN designs TRAY
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NEW LAUNCHES AT IMM 2019 - The color enthusiast LOTTA NIEMINEN designs TRAY

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Art Director, Illustrator and Designer Lotta Nieminen designed her first product for AKTTEM's home accessoires range.

The interest for color, tactility and composition inspired her to create TRAY, a storage system that would function as a serving tray, but could be disassembled to work for a variety of different uses as well.

Originally from Finland, Lotta Nieminen studied graphic design and illustration at the University of Art and Design Helsinki and the Rhode Island School of Design, before founding her New York-based studio in 2012. She has been nominated for Forbes magazine’s annual 30 Under 30 list, the Art Directors Club Young Guns award and Print magazine’s New Visual Artist.

With her studio, she creates holistic visual solutions for clients across disciplines. Passionate about finding the best tools to execute content-driven visuals, the studio works as a creative partner in all aspects branding, bringing visual identities to life through thoughtfully crafted print and digital implementations.

We sat down with Lotta, to talk about her background and the process to create TRAY:

Tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to design in the first place.

LOTTA NIEMINEN   I’m a graphic designer and illustrator, originally from Finland, but have been based in New York for the past 8 years. My mother is a fine artist, my grandmother is a painter, my dad is in classical music. Needless to say, visual arts and music were always very present growing up, although I never felt like it would have been forced upon me or my sisters. We did all end up in creative careers – one of my sisters is a fashion designer in Paris, the other studies musicology in Berlin – so maybe we were just so skillfully brainwashed that we don’t even know it.

I initially studied graphic design in Helsinki, but through an exchange at the Rhode Island School of Design in the United States during my studies, I got really interested in illustration. After working as a full-time graphic designer for a few companies, I started my own studio in 2011 in order to focus on graphic design and illustration equally.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

LN   Color has always been a very big inspiration to me – whether it’s been in my work, or in the way I’ve decorated my home, or how I dress. Colors are such a fantastic tool to change a mood or convey an emotion. When we were little, my mom would stop me and my sisters to look if she'd spot a “gorgeous shade of green”. Probably not a stretch to say this might have been what started it – once you learn to look for colors, you start seeing inspiring hues everywhere.

I’m inspired by mediums that are new to me. There’s something about approaching a less familiar field that helps remove any set notions of how things should be or look: when working with something new, I find it easier to approach it with a more child-like joy of creating. I find it very important to have the patience to specialize and refine a craft, but equally important to remember to occasionally zoom out and try new things in order to see a little more objectively.


Tell us about TRAY and your approach on this product.

LN   This was my very first time working on developing an actual object – the closest I’ve gotten prior to this has been packaging design, so pretty far out! It was important to me that the product would be something that I would personally use or need: I feel like it helped me understand the product better.

I have a relatively broad collection of different ceramic tiles at home that I use as coasters, trivets or under pots of plants. This became the starting point and inspiration to the tray: I wanted to create a storage system that would function as a tray, but that could be disassembled to work for a variety of different uses, like I do with my ceramic tiles. The working name was “Utility Tray” – encouraging the use of the pieces for anything you’d need a little surface for. This multi-use approach also meant choosing materials that would both be able to handle heat and resist water.

At its core, my approach to the project didn’t differ vastly from how I approach design or illustration: with an interest for color, tactility and composition. The original idea of using different materials for each piece evolved into a color based approach. Choosing the colors was primarily an intuitive process: they had to be interesting together and work on their own. For this first edition, I ended up selecting primarily muted hues (my favorites!), with one single pop of warm red to liven things up.

Thank you for the interview Lotta!

TRAY debuts at IMM cologne on January 14th.
Hall 3.2 Stand E049
14 - 20 January 2019 / 9 am - 6 pm

Explore more of Lotta's beautiful work lottanieminen.com

Photos of TRAY by Tilman Weishart, portrait by Luca Venter