The Annual Visual Identity of HDW Designed by Helsinkian Lars Högström

Each year, the design and architecture festival Helsinki Design Week gets a new look through the design of its annual visual identity. This year, graphic designer Lars Högström was invited to carry out the task. The HDW communications team and the Association of Visual Communication Designers, Grafia, were particularly impressed by Högström’s fearless approach to exploring new means of expression, especially in animation. Helsinki Design Weekly’s Anni Korkman spoke with Högström during a sweltering week filled with multiple deadlines.

Anni Korkman: Hi Lars! Tell me, how did you become a designer?

Lars Högström: I studied Visual Communication Design at Aalto University. When I was younger, I was always the “drawer” of the class, and at university, the pencil just switched to a keyboard. I remember that a couple of cool people from my high school class applied to Aalto for graphic design. That’s when I decided I wanted to go there too, even though I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant. I got into the school in 2014 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2018, if I remember correctly.

AK: What aspects of your daily work do you find meaningful?

LH: Usually, it’s the very basic things! For example, the moment I get an idea about how to approach a project. And then another cliché; when I truly manage to help a client! Currently, I work part-time as a freelancer, often from the couch at home in Käpylä, where I live with my girlfriend. The rest of the time, I’m working at TSTO on Castréninkatu.

AK: Speaking of helping clients, let’s move on to the 2024 visual identity for Helsinki Design Week. Could you tell us a bit about your creative process behind it?

LH: I tried to find visual ways to represent the “Underneath” theme. In the chosen design, I think there’s a nice unfinished feel to it. I like that the end result looks like it’s not completely finished. The hazy dotted line, or “outline treatment”, seemed to fit that mood.

In the chosen design, I think there’s a nice unfinished feel to it. I like that the end result looks like it’s not completely finished.

Lars Högström

AK: Yes! It also reminded us of a city captured with a thermal camera. And the moving dots are people…or city lights glowing in the dark. The typographic approach, where the repetitive “Underneath” words form their own texture – the “surface” we need to go beneath – also fits the theme well.

LH: And because you and I talked about the processual nature of design during the planning stages, I wanted to make that visible. I often feel that in my own design process, there are moments when you just have to keep repeating things until everything clicks into place. That’s also why the word “Underneath” is repeated there.

The word “Underneath” is repeated in the visual, too.

AK: Was designing the annual visual for HDW a typical project for you?

LH: In this sense, it was a different job because usually, I create visual identities from scratch, based only on an idea or a client’s brief. Here, the recognizable core identity of HDW was already in place. The annual update was built on top of that.

AK: Helsinki Design Week is approaching. What are your expectations for the festival in September?

LH: It’s great that HDW highlights Finnish design. It’s also fantastic that people outside of the design fields know about HDW! Overall, it’s also really good that there’s some buzz in Helsinki and people get to mingle.

AK: Yep, I agree. What kind of things do you dream about?

LH: World peace and taxing the rich.

AK: Thank you so much for this chat. Would you like to add anything else?

LH: I’d like to end by quoting Paris Hilton: “The only rule is don’t be boring and dress cute wherever you go! Life is too short to blend in.”

You can find Underneath motion design at Helsinki Design Week’s instagram.

Helsinki Design Week 6–15 September 2024. The visual identity partner is the Association of Visual Communication Designers, Grafia. Grafia is also involved in the Open Studios main event (6 and 13 September), where the curious can peek into the most inspiring workspaces and atmospheric offices in our city. The participating studios will be announced in August, and the event is free to attend.