Helsinki Design Week 2017 look by GRMMXI

The graphic appearance of Helsinki Design Week 2017 was inspired by a paper mache duck and polyphony.

Graphic design collective GRMMXI created Helsinki Design Week 2017’s visual appearance. Find out where the look came from and where GRMMX people find inspiration for their work.


Who or what is GRMMXI?

(Samuli) GRMMXI is a collective that consists of some representatives of the Aalto University graphic design class of 2011, and I am one of its members. GRMMXI is not a company, and none of its members makes a living of it. This and partial anonymity have enabled us to use it as a type of laboratory to experiment what may not be possible within ‘real’ employment.

(Kiia) A good way to describe it is that we are a group of friends or people who sometimes do graphic design together.

(Matts) GRMMXI has also been said to be a lump of people that consists of differences and similarities.

(Taru) Laboratory is a good definition.

(Antti) True that.

(Eevi) GRMMXI is a non-hierarchical lump of people, it can be anything within the sphere of values and hopes of these individuals.


Helsinki Design Week 2017 ilme / GRMMXI

Why did you want to design the Helsinki Design Week 2017 look?

(Samuli) Well, HDW contacted us and asked if we were game… I personally was interested because this is a job on the cultural sector and HDW is one of the most manifested trade events in Finnish design, so I wanted to contribute. And the Questions & Answers theme resonates well with what we’re doing.

(Kiia) It was motivating to get back together around the HDW project to hang out regularly in the same space. The potential collaboration deal also resonated from the get-go in a rather pleasant way!

(Matts) HDW’s briefing sounded fun and fairly suitable for this lump of people!

(Antti) I think the brief said to create an “annoying look”. That was interesting.

(Eevi) It’s of course always fun to do something that will appear in extremely large size on the streets! Especially based on such a free creative brief that we got from HDW. What I think is interesting about working with GRMMXI is that we may be able to shake the type of graphic design seen and done.


What inspired the HDW 2017 look?

(Samuli) We figured that the Q&A theme would make a good structure for the look. There are levels that interact in a polyphonic dialogue, a bit like questions and answers :D.

(Kiia) HDW’s brief, Kokoro&Moi’s graphic guidelines and previous years’ looks directed us to design something completely different that would put stress on the existing “rules”. In many ways the result is surprisingly conservative at least on our own scale; it’s a visual look with guidelines, stationary elements, fonts and colours.

(Matts) I was largely inspired by polyphony :-3

(Eevi) The look had to be concretely dynamic because it needs to work on digital screens. It was an interesting challenge to consider the look in the form of moving pictures, especially since none of us is experienced in animation! I think the result is an appropriate combo of awkward amateurism and slick design agency approach.


Design Museon näyttelyn Enter and Encounter seinät peittävä verho on GRMMXIN työ nimeltä “Työ, Design ja Isänmaa”. © Paavo Lehtonen
© Paavo Lehtonen

Tell us about the duck!

(Samuli) The duck is our colours palette! Everyone has their own favourite colours, so we decided to “outsource” our selection to tough methodology. In this case, the method was taking a photo of a paper mache duck that we found at Kiia’s studio and separating its tones into a funky autumn colour palette in Photoshop.

(Kiia) In a way, this is the same kind of design definition as an illustration technique or a font selection. The decision to apply duck colours in the design was suitably irrational and made it easier to work collectively; in a good way, a choice by none yet all together.

(Matts) Moreover: what could be a more beautiful color palette than the one chosen by nature?

(Taru) I have to use my cats as a colour palette some time <3. Elmo and Nyyti make nice pastels.

(Eevi) Nobody remembers, who came up with the idea, so the concept was conceived while working, hanging out and having fun together, not as a result of anyone’s subjective taste or ego.



The unpolished “non-fonts” that you designed are used as typographic illustrations. What is their purpose?

(Kiia) In practice we produced six customized non-fonts to create polyphony and contrast compared to HDW’s official, elaborately designed typefaces. In that sense typography, too, is a dialogue between the “official” (HDW) and “unofficial” (GRMMXI) design and fits the concept.

(Antti) In practice the project started by each of us creating one font. It was a fun way to start the project.

You are known for your non-bowing, experimental style. Where does it come from?

(Samuli) As we’re dealing with issues that are not so serious on the cosmic scale (fonts and colors, layouts… what not), there is no reason to take typographic “rules” so seriously. It would be nice for our work to inspire more junior (or senior, why not) graphic designers to have fun and paint with a bigger brush.

(Kiia) We all represent various privileges and minorities because we’re complex human beings. Pursuit of solidarity and difficult issues are interesting but that doesn’t mean we need to be super serious all the time.

(Matts) Visual expression does not need to conform to old conventions and rules.
(taru) while our design is so non-design, we do pay special attention to repetition. 😀 we check certain things to a T. Perhaps it is the minimum of professionalism we have to indicate to show that we know the typographic rules. Sometimes we hear people doubt if we can do anything proper :D. 

(Antti) We do pay a lot of attention to design principles, even if the result may look the opposite to some people. I think it’s a matter of laidbackness rather than not caring. We wear our buns loose.

(Eevi) I’d say the same; our “style” derives from the values we share rather than any formality. Joy, solidarity, equality, what have you.

What else are you working on at the moment?

(Samuli) We’re just doing the layout of the Swedish version of Johannes Ekholm’s first novel Rakkaus niinku for Förlaget.

(Kiia) In addition we’re considering at least one exhibition and grant applications for the autumn. Many of us will continue studies in the autumn. Some of us have been founding a guild of critical design under Grafia, and we warmly welcome all interested to join!

(Taru) We also have a little chair exhibition at the Cosmic in the end of August. We wanted to design chairs because they are the “master sport” of furniture design, a bit like posters in graphic design, according to some. We also have an item called “Work, Design & Fatherland” included in the Enter and Encounter exhibition at the Design Museum.

(Eevi) Finland needs more critical discussion about the potential roles of designers, and I think grmmxi has its place in this discourse.