Career. Kari Piippo (b. 1945) graduated as a graphic designer at the University School of Arts, Design and Architecture in 1967. After graduation, he worked at an advertising agency for two years after which he has worked as a freelancer. Piippo established his own graphic design studio, Kari Piippo Oy, in 1987.
Piippo has lectured at schools of art and design in Finland and abroad since 1980s. He has worked as the lecturer of graphic design at University School of Arts, Design and Architecture in 1989—1997 and since 2004 as a visiting professor at Tama Art University in Tokyo and as an honorary professor at Communication University of China in Beijing. Piippo has held poster courses and lectured around the world, and there are several international publications about his production. Piippo has participated in major international poster exhibitions since 1980s and worked as a member of jury in several Finnish and international competitions. He has held private exhibitions in the DDD gallery in Osaka in 1996 and the GGG gallery in Tokyo in 2013.
Awards and acknowledgements. Piippo has been awarded with the Finnish State Award for Arts in 1988 and Lion of Finland Pro Finlandia medal in 2011. He was selected as the Graphic Designer of the Year in 1990, awarded with the Platinum awards in 1993 and four Golden awards in 1990—1993.
The most important international prizes are The Icograda Excellence Award Chaumont poster festival in 1990 and Warsaw poster biennale in 2010, the first prize in Mexico’s poster biennale in 1990 and 2006, the first prize in Colorado's poster biennale in 1990 and Grand Prix at Trnava's poster triennale in Slovakia in 2012. Piippo is a member of the international graphic designers, Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI).
Field of specialization. Piippo specializes in illustration and poster design. Above all, he is famous for his culture posters and his significance is remarkable especially as the pioneer of modern theatre posters in Finland.
Design philosophy. Piippo aims at reaching people in a simple, understandable and interesting manner. He wants to combine individualism, art and the message into his works and always aims at having nothing too much or too little.
Sources of inspiration. “I am constantly observing the reality around us. It offers plenty of stimuli. Often the best solutions can be found near. You just must see them first. They say that travel broadens the mind. Various cultures provide new tunes to your thinking. They teach you to look at your everyday life from different perspectives. I have operated in the jury of various international poster competitions. Biennales and triennales show what the designers consider as their best work. It is good to admit that there is no one truth in graphic design. Discussions with valued colleagues and analysing work are inspiring moments. Finding the best of the best is a great joy and challenge for everybody. My work is also my hobby. Although it does not always feel like that. Then it is best to hit the woods. Picking mushrooms combines business and pleasure. You can experience the silence of nature. It gives room for your own thoughts."
Idols. ”My father introduced me to the art of painting. When I was 10 years old, I already knew the works of Picasso, Matisse, Cézanne, Gauguin, van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and Miró. It was clear that I wanted to be an artist. My orientation in graphic design was sharpened in the beginning of the 1960s when I saw ”Jean Sibelius, a monument for the master of music” fund collection poster designed by Martti Mykkänen. The warm humour and finesse of Erik Bruun’s posters also spoke immediately to me. An excursion to Poland in 1967 opened my eyes for good. The posters of Henryk Tomaszewski, Roman Cieslewiczi, Jan Lenica, Waldemar Swierzy and Jan Młodożeniec stroke to me like a lightning. They communicated freely, personally and bravely. I realized in an instant which direction I wanted to take as a graphic designer. In the 1970s, I got to know the supreme illustrators, Milton Glaser, Heinz Edelman and Seymor Chwast. Shigeo Fukuda’s visual surprises and Ikko Tanaka’s visual thinking that combined European modern art and Japanese tradition evoked my interest in Japanese art. During the next decade, the influence of a French Grapus group was almost impossible to pass. They renewed the poster language and brought an artistic view to the social communication. ”Now you are a Piippo” shouted my colleague Tapani Aartomaa at the end of 1980s, when he saw the ”Spring awakening” poster that I designed for the Mikkeli theatre. I was pleased by this. I felt that I had found my own way.”