Pol Solsona’s desk at his studio in Helsinki is scattered with dried fruits, glasses of water, and cups of coffee to fuel his work, but he’s also got a collection of strange rocks, bits of bark, shells, and even miniature skulls—these are the crucial items that help the Barcelona-born graphic designer think.
“Everyday life is inspiring,” says Solsona, whose work combines natural textures and digital techniques, “That’s why you have to get out of the house and see the world. I collect whatever I get attracted to because once you place those things with objects from daily life, the contrast between the organic and ‘mass produced’ is beautiful.”
Solsona’s recent, much lauded identity for a Latin American film festival in Helsinki is a perfect example of how he combines the organic and the uniform: a solid sans serif collides with cascading, fluid shapes to create a composition that’s both textural and flat. The wave-like forms derive, unexpectedly enough, from “an abstraction of popcorn” as well as the outlines of Finnish designer Alvar Aalto’s iconic designs and Savoy Vase, and the juxtaposition of vibrant and muted colors feels vital. “They evoke the same contrast that you experience here at the festival,” says Solsona. “The combination of the happy liveliness of the Latin countries against the dark and gloomy Finnish backdrop.”
Landscapes and the mood of a city are a constant source of inspiration, providing Solsona with visual context that he continually plays off. For an independent music festival in Helsinki, Solosona wanted to visually capture the event’s cultural impact on the community. “It’s a yearly splash of color in a city that is as grey as one can imagine,” he explains. The resulting identity is a cosmic composition that’s bright, despite using only two colors (for cost efficiency), and the lively formations erupt when the posters are placed on top of cold, white stone.
When designing a pattern for an expedition to the Faroe Islands, Solsona drew again from the surrounding landscape. He sought to capture the iconic mountains in the pattern’s rocky forms, and the magic moment of a solar eclipse in all its effervescent colors. “The emotional charge of color informs a lot of my work,” says Solsona, who’s particularly drawn to the theories of Joseph Albers and the emphatic tones of Swiss Style.
Solsona’s visual alchemy draws from the volcanic and the cosmic, the organic and the everyday, and his reference points spring up from somewhere between the Finnish mountains and the computer screen. “I like combining rules with spontaneity,” says Solsona, who begins each project with an idea and a tight grid, and then lets intuition run free and grow into whatever spontaneous and organic directions it might take.