Weekly Bubbling: Anna Kokki

The Weekly Bubbling series works as a chain: each designer gets to name a colleague they admire to be interviewed in the next story. Last time, designer Jesse Pietilä named the shoe designer Anna Kokki. 

The Weekly Bubbling series works as a chain: each designer gets to name a colleague they admire to be interviewed in the next story. Last time, designer Jesse Pietilä named the shoe designer Anna Kokki. 

Anna Kokki first graduated to be a shoe designer but has now moved on to sustainable development themes and service design. She may focus on soft toys next, who knows.

How are you, Anna?

At the turn of the year, I graduated from the Creative Sustainability programme of Aalto University. I got my official degree just last week. Now I’m working part time in a service design project for Aula, a supported living and working arrangement for people with special needs. My idea is also to lead a few sessions for the fashion design club at SuoMu, the Finnish Association of Design Learning. I’m going through an experimental period at the moment, trying to find out which way to go. I’m still interested in sustainability themes and hoping to utilize my service-design skills. However, I also like tutoring at SuoMu, which lets me use the knowledge from my first degree and focus on a more traditional design process with kids. In a way, the problem is that I’m kind of interested in everything!

Anna Kokki
Photo: Ulla Kokki

What did the Creative Sustainability curriculum include?

It’s a Master’s degree that offers certain courses shared with the School of Economics and the Architecture programme. The teams are multi-discipline and international, including people with very diverse backgrounds. Sustainable development principles are essential in everything we do, and the programme contains plenty of team work, service design and systems thinking. It was quite a leap from practical applied-science studies to an academic programme. I wrote my thesis as part of the Inland Design team of the Finnish Immigration Service. It had to do with experimentation and experimentation culture, a key project of the current government.

You first studied to become a shoe designer. Why did you choose shoes?

I remember admiring Julia Lundsten’s shoes when I was in high school. Perhaps three-dimensionality was the attraction. I still follow what’s going on in the shoe design field, and I’m still interested, but I’ve left fashion more in the background. I could surely return to shoe design if there was an opportunity, but it would have to be mostly about sustainable design. Having studied these topics, it’s terribly difficult to justify product design, even if I know that products wear out and people need good products. Perhaps my taste has changed, too. I’ve always had the idea that I’m creating something simple, but the end result is always complicated. Previously I paid a lot of attention to the material and played with the surface texture, but now I’ve become more practical with my own choices, too. My interest in the material still shows in handmaking.

You’re a nature-lover. What else interests you right now?

Now that my thesis is done, I feel the need to draw, paint and do things with my hands. It’s a funny idea, but I have an urge to make soft toys. I’ve always loved to create different characters. It’s important for me to be able to do things slowly and think, to have a moment of meditation. Perhaps that is why my shoes are more like artwork. I hope to find more time for my own projects after a while.

Röja (2016)
Röja (2016)

What is your latest realization?

During my studies, I realized how much going through a performing-arts high school and learning to use a sketchbook has influenced my life. I still always carry a notebook or many notebooks. They are like journals but not quite.

Who do you admire or follow?

For shoes, I admire Aku Bäckström, who now works for Samuji. He studied at the Royal College of Art in London and is creating really interesting projects. He has used different materials in shoes in interesting ways. Looking at how the shoes are made, the structures and soles are exciting, too.

What would you like to ask him? 

In your career, what has been a meaningful moment that has changed something your doing?