Creativity for Sale Podcast - Episode S1 E21

The Science of Positive Creativity with Emmi Salonen

Mon, 15 Apr 2024

Send us a Text Message."It doesn't matter how you get there. It doesn't really matter if you're not using the font that you should be using because somebody thinks it's good. You just have to be firm on your intuition."This episode of the Creativity for Sale podcast hosted by Radim Malinic features an inspiring conversation with Emmi Salonen, a designer and happiness facilitator.



Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

"It doesn't matter how you get there. It doesn't really matter if you're not using the font that you should be using because somebody thinks it's good. You just have to be firm on your intuition."

This episode of the Creativity for Sale podcast hosted by Radim Malinic features an inspiring conversation with Emmi Salonen, a designer and happiness facilitator. ~

They explore the transformative power of creativity in personal and professional lives, touching on themes of micro-passions, positive creativity in design, and the science of happiness. 

Emmi shares her journey from the inception of her creative career, the influence of Finnish design culture, her experience at Fabrica, and her eventual burnout that led to a year-long sabbatical. 

This sabbatical birthed her unique approach to fostering creativity and well-being through what she terms as a Creative Ecosystem, comprising five core input areas: Connection, Wonder, Pause, Movement, and Joy. 

The discussion delves deep into how these elements can help avoid burnout and maintain a joyful, sustainable creative practice. Emmy’s story acts as a beacon for creatives everywhere, encouraging the integration of personal well-being with professional creativity.

Key Takeaways:
1. 'Micro passions' and the transformational power of positive creativity in design. 
2. Insights into the career journey and burnout experience of Emmi. 
3. The importance of finding creative identity and fostering meaningful connections in the design world. 
4. Creating a framework for creativity to prevent burnout and ensuring productivity. 
5. Emphasizing a mindful approach to creativity, wellbeing, and maintaining purpose in the industry.


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Emmi Sallonen:

But when's the last time you took a Saturday morning, I don't know, to work on your watercolours or anything that sort of brings you that joyful flow state. And it doesn't need to be like big chunks of time, it's also acknowledging what brings you That sort of, confidence in just knowing what you're doing and losing yourself making or in the doing, whether it could even be reading, it doesn't really matter. But I call them micro passions, and I think we need these in our days.

Radim:

Hello and welcome to Creativity for Sale podcast, a show to help you start and grow your life changing creative career and business. My name is Radim Malinich and creativity changed my life. You see, I believe creativity can change your life too. I even wrote a book about it and it inspired this podcast. I've set out to interview the world's most brilliant creatives, designers, writers, musicians, makers and marketeers about their life changing experiences with creativity. If you ever wanted to know how people go from their humble beginnings to the pinnacle of their success, our conversation should provide you with an intimate look into triumphs, challenges and untold stories behind their creative endeavours. We also discuss the highs and lows of creative careers and creative life. So Thank you for joining me on this exploration of passion, creativity, innovation, and the boundless potential within us all. Let creativity change your life. Are you ready?

Radim Malinic:

Everything that my guest today does is underpinned by a simple but powerful idea. Positive creativity. From the creative process to the final output, she believes that design can bring people together, create sustainable choices, and foster well being. She partners with clients and creatives who want to make a positive contribution to society and planet. Her creative output is uplifting and grounded in empathy. It's my pleasure to introduce Emmy Sullivan. hi, Amy, it's nice to have you on the show. How are you doing today?

Emmi Sallonen:

Hi Radim, I'm good, thank you. Thank you for inviting me.

Radim Malinic:

Oh, it's a pleasure to have you on. I have to say from all the guests I've had so far, I have not come across a happiness facilitator. I'm sorry to start with a topic like this, but, how does one become a happiness facilitator?

Emmi Sallonen:

That's a great, great place to start. gosh, I got into, training as a happiness facilitator because I started running workshops and I was carrying a bit of self doubt about, am I doing this correctly? And I wanted to do training in facilitating and researched on various programs out there and came across Museum of Happiness and, their Certificate of Happiness Facilitator. And I was like, that's what I want to be. And it aligned really perfectly with me at the same time, or maybe just before having done the course with Yale and the course was called, the science of well being and it was very much about, focusing on the well being aspect, but obviously with the Museum of Happiness, it was training you as a facilitator while sharing a lot of information about happiness and, it was fascinating. It was really fascinating. There was quite a lot of overlap. some of the scientific studies that they shared was sort same things. for example, The one that I often refer to is by Sonia Lebomersky. I don't know if you might have come across her. She's this sort of leading positive psychologist and leading sort of research on happiness. And she's come up with this sort of, research results that where does happiness come from and She discovered that it's 50 percent down to our genetics and 40 percent down to our actions, which leaves just 10 percent down to circumstance. Which is amazing because basically, regardless of the hardships that we go through and difficulties that we face, it's in fact the way that we approach them and how we act on them, how we think about them, that gives us the sort of power viewpoint on how to action on it. So a lot of snippets of information like this. was gathered on both of the courses and this wisdom is something that I can now use in my talks and in my workshops and so on. So it was a very, enlightening journey for sure.

Radim Malinic:

it sounds like a fascinating course. We'll have to link to it on the show notes I'm definitely signing up because I believe that's a free course from Yale, is that right? Anyone can do it

Emmi Sallonen:

it is, yes. it's a three month online course that anyone, absolutely anyone can do. It's their most successful course, ever. I don't dare to mention how many people have done it, but it's a lot, and, yeah, you don't have to have any qualifications to do it, but it gives you a lot of guidance on how to, face situations in life, and, Really fascinating teachings around happiness and what brings us happiness and how often we place hope and thinking along the lines of once I reach that, I'll be happy, or once I have that, I'll be happy, or, once this happens, then everything is good. And whereas in, in fact, she was using actually, the students at Yale as a reference that the real students who actually go there in person and get their decrees in there, that when you get accepted to Yale, that is just absolutely incredible, isn't it? And you can just imagine the sort of levels of like excitement. But once you've rolled in, and once you've started the course, and once you're there, and you're in the midst of it all, that sort of evaporates. And what you're left with is your everyday struggles with your studies and like your exams and so on and so forth. And she just sort of reminds everyone that this is the waves that we go through in life. That, once we've reached these sort of statuses that we've put on ourselves and are once I'm here, I'll be happy. Actually, when we are there, things tend to just balance back to normal again. and it tilts either way. Either we'll get happy again or we might go down again. But that's the sort of, waves that we ride. And really it's all about just finding, if not happiness, contentment in the null.

Radim Malinic:

I love the fact that you said that happiness is 50 percent genetics. I guess this is the, this is the half full, half empty glass, right? Because you get people who are naturally negative and people, because it reminds me of a sentence by one and only Tony Robbins. And he said, everyone's got people in their life who are always complaining and everyone's got people in their life who are always happy. And you're like. Yes, that's true. Yeah. Cause I know lots of people who are just, it's never helpful. And, it's always people who, so unhappy and it's just, kind of look at it like, yeah, I'll totally not if it makes sense. Cause I've never heard that percentage

Emmi Sallonen:

Yeah. That's a really nice link to make actually. I hadn't thought of it. Yeah. It really is like about how we are predisposed to be with our like genetic and biological set pointers and, I often get tasked what happens? if you have depression in the family and so on, it doesn't mean that you will then. Be depressed as well. It's just you might be more easily tilting to one way or another. so yeah, you still have control over things to certain level, but your genetics obviously will, determine somewhat of how you will be

Radim Malinic:

yeah. And it's interesting. You said it's a 10, 10%, percent is just the circumstance. Because, you ask the people who are always unhappy, it would be always, the circumstances would be like 90%, like the world is against me. because it's interesting, because I always, when I was writing Mindful Creative, I very much thought that happiness is peace, it's calm, you know, like you don't have to there's no client battles, there's invoices are paid, you the kids are in bed, happiness is just, happiness is like the equation of expectations versus reality equals happiness. And if you tell yourself the life's going to be amazing, but you earn 10 a day, you're never going to buy a million pound house, but if you have a million pounds, you want to use that as a happiness, that will never equal the happiness. It's the expectations. you love your expectations and benchmark it to reality, that's where really happiness starts. Because I think we, I think the perception of happiness is that, you jolly happy, and I know you don't drink, but for example, after three pints, you're like, life is amazing after three beers, life is like, we switch up the levels of let's not worry about stuff. Whereas. What I truly actually see it now, I think happiness is just you know what, life is okay. Life is good. This is like appreciations of what we've got and how we condone ourselves. Because I believe that those actions and circumstances, you can influence it very much. you can work on it. That sounds fascinating. I think we should tell the listeners that, you are originally from Finland, is that right? You're from Finland and, you are currently, mostly based in, whereas you run a studio in England. how was, how was the life? of growing up in Finland and exposure to creativity and sort of craft and stuff. How did that shape your, how did it shape your upbringing and your, journey towards graphic design and creativity?

Emmi Sallonen:

I'd say I'm more, much more influenced by the maker culture than the design culture. Because I come from a family of makers, I was always very much crafting with my mum, always making things with hand, like by hand, and she would have, little exhibitions showcasing her work. And my dad is a carpenter, so he had a, his wood workshop and basically built our house, so I saw the house going up. So a lot of sort of hands on building and shaping and designing in that sense, and although I was exposed to design by just because I was living in Finnish culture and every single Finnish household is filled with some form or another of Finnish design like Marimekko or Itala for the class fair or, kitchenware or Fiskars. So, you know, there's a lot of great, fantastic, design brands coming from Finland that are very much embedded in the everyday living of Finns. so I, I was obviously aware of that, Artec as well. who later on became my client. but the idea of making a living from design just had never crossed my mind. I was more sort of thinking like along the lines of photography and I really like photography. And especially, compositions within the picture. And I decided to move to London when I had just turned 19 after, graduating from high school. I knew nobody, but I just wanted to come over and improve on my English. And once I was in London, I heard about, Foundation courses, so foundation for art and design and that didn't exist elsewhere in Europe and, these courses were obviously created because, somehow like the UK government realized that a lot of the students entering the, design education and arts education. dropped out from their studies within the first half a year or so. so. they wanted to help students to really like fine tune what it is that they want earlier on, and that's what the foundation was about. We did everything in there, photography, graphic design, illustration, Stage design even, because I went to the Central School of Speech and Drama to do it, and I discovered graphic design that way, I wasn't really aware of it before, and, yeah, I was like, this is amazing! What is this? Colours and type and shapes, this is my thing, so it really became my thing. yeah. The sort of beginning of my journey, and I brought my portfolio together and applied to University of Brighton and then studied graphic design there. So that's what sort of set me on my path to become a designer.

Radim Malinic:

You and I have a very similar story because I moved, to England, when I was 21 and I came here for six months just to have a look around. Yeah. my drive was to be closer to the music cause I was, I wasn't designer. I was a musician, music producer and. DJ. And, I've just, I was just totally intoxicated by the culture and especially by the graphic design surrounding the music industry. So that's, that was just because I'm originally, people know, I'm originally from Czech Republic, from sort of Northeast, where you know, things are as exciting as you make them for yourself, but the outside influences in a strong, and there was no. graphic designers in my life. You know, there was people like using a Mac like for a bit. But, what I'm interested in about, if I go back to Finland for a second, like you mentioned your parents and your family being family of makers, did you have that family where, and your surroundings where. Like in Czech Republic, when I was young, everyone can do anything. Everyone can build walls and do carpentry. Like, it just felt like, you know, you'd be bike breaks, your dad's going to like, everyone could fix everything. And then you realize where we live now, like there's one person for one job. And what I want to say, like, do you feel like that sort of multifaceted exposure to creativity and obviously be the foundation cause? Would you say that give you a foundation to, for what you do now, to see problem solving from every angle?

Emmi Sallonen:

yeah, I would, I'd never really thought of it that way. I'm sure it has. I'm sure it's really just so ingrained in me that I haven't even figured it out. But I must say that music was huge for me as well. And I always, refer to the DIY music scene as something that I really relate to as a designer who runs a solo design practice. Because being part of the music scene where the musicians didn't only make their tunes and do put their shows together and promote the shows. They also designed their flyers. They sold their T-shirts, like they did everything, which is basically what a designer does if you work for yourself. Like you do everything. You change the light bulbs, you do your marketing, you do your design work, like it's all in the same package. And it's that thinking of do it yourself. Like you can do it, not waiting for anyone else to come along and tell you like, hey, this is the way to go. Or like next step you need to do this. Um, that really gave me the encouragement and the understanding. It's if I want something, I'll, I just got to do it. And it doesn't mean that you can't ask for help or you can't do it. together with somebody, but the self initiative very much comes from the music culture that I was part of, for sure.

Radim Malinic:

love it. I think, yeah, you, bands when I was more from the age of 14, 15, and you didn't even think twice that. okay, well, we've got a band, obviously no one's going to promote that. So I remember my mom had access to screen printing. So someone drew us like a very, I mean, I was inspired by the Finnish and Swedish death metal scene, obviously. it was some sort of illogical logo. And I we had t shirts when I was like, I was on a stage when we were 15 and we had t shirts printed with our logo and everyone thought like, who's that band? Like they've got t shirts. It's I'm like. My mouse got screen printed, and that was the access to it. And but again, when I told you in our pre conversation, it's just it's just like learning from words and from, so outside world. So like, okay, what's around us? Because you just, you put it together and you create your own world when you think about that way. so you went to uni in Brighton and then how did you find yourself in the employment afterwards? What did you study in Brighton? Did you do graphic design or did you do?

Emmi Sallonen:

Graphic Design, yeah, BA in Graphic Design. along the lines of the DIY, as far as, all through university, I was using my learned skills on design and applying it into making. Batches? Pins? After all these years I still can't pronounce that word properly, sorry. Batches, yeah. so I was making them all the time as a response to news and packaging them and selling them and I was making a whole set around music and records and, Home is Where the Record Player is kind of things and selling these in shops and so on and being quite political with some of them. In university, I learned about the crits and structures and how to do things in one way and then on my own time, I was just exploring those boundaries and finding my own ways of expressing things. and then I came across Fabrica. I don't know if you've ever heard of Fabrica.

Radim Malinic:

Sounds familiar, yeah. But I can't picture who they, what they, how they, what they. Can't.

Emmi Sallonen:

So it was set up, by Benetton in the 90s, around the time when they were doing all those controversial adverts, and, it's basically sort of like a place for young designers from various fields, and you, I'm slowing, slowing here because I'm never entirely sure how to describe it, but you basically get paid to work there on your own project. So you get like a grant, I suppose. I think you have to be under 25 to apply. And there's different departments, graphic design, photography, 3D design, music, and so on. And you can apply there any time of the year, and they accept you or they don't. And once you're in, you can be there from three months to three years, like there's no limits or set formats into anything. But I got in and it was absolutely life changing for me, because suddenly I came from, From one place of learning, like how to do design and I was transported into an environment with young designers from all over the world, really. and one of the things they had us do was a weekly coming together at the auditorium. where you have to display whatever it is that you're working on. some projects where actual client, live client work, so they might bring, I did a blood donation campaign in Italy, for example, just because they brought that client in and then. We worked on it together, but most of it was really to self initiated work and you have to present your sort of research and thinking and sketches and whatever you've done in front of everyone. And there are like 50 people that like, I really admired and I would just sort have to book my little sketch and and go, this is what I've been thinking. And I very quickly learned that it didn't matter. It really didn't matter what anyone else thought about it, it has to be, if I'm happy with it, then I have to be happy with it, because what was happening was like, somebody would shout from the audience like, yeah, no, I really don't think that's gonna work. And then someone else would go, but I really love the idea. I think it's great. And then you have like people arching whether my idea is good or not, and more like how bad it is, or like how good it is, or whatever, and following that and to seeing How there are no boundaries, like we, we learn to do these things in a set way, especially if you go through a place like university, but in making in communicating with the world, whether it's your own thoughts or sort of messages from your client, like it works if it. Works with the audience. It's intended to, it. It doesn't really matter how you get there. It doesn't really like matter if you're not using the font that you should be using because somebody thinks it's good, You just have to be firm on your own sort of intuition, almost, but also open to learn, like, it was a really beneficial time for me as a designer, it really broke down sort of boundaries that I'd quite quickly built in university and, I felt like I was settling in. to being who I am. And it's not so much about finding a style for me, as it often is for illustrators, for example. It was more about being confident in the choices that I was making and continually learning.

Radim Malinic:

think what you're describing there is just the nature of humanity. It's like a design, democracy. Like everyone's got a different opinion on what they're trying to say, what they're trying to see.

Emmi Sallonen:

Yeah.

Radim Malinic:

Where was, where was Fabrica based? Was it in Italy?

Emmi Sallonen:

It's outside Venice, so northern Italy. really, um, beautiful location. And, I was there for a year and a half. met, really wonderful, talented people whilst there that I'm still in touch with. and it's great because more or less, wherever I go in the world, there's somebody from Fabrica that I can link with and sort of, get shown the road, yeah.

Radim Malinic:

it seems like an amazing experience. So did you do it straight after university? Is that what you?

Emmi Sallonen:

great, yeah, it's great. I was incredibly lucky, that I think I graduated, I remember being on the train on my way from Brighton to London for an interview to do an internship at a studio when I got the call from Fabrica and they offered me the place. So within the month of graduating, I was living in Italy and yeah, it was sort of a whirlwind start,

Radim Malinic:

I would imagine I'd be So you've mentioned you could stay at Fabrica between three to three months to three years. How long do you stay? I'm intrigued.

Emmi Sallonen:

I stayed for a year and a half. And you can actually stay longer than three years. think some people were there for years and years. yeah, but I was there for a year and a half, and then, came back to London for a bit

Radim Malinic:

I mean who decides how long you can stay? I mean who decides how long you can stay? Because I mean if, if they pay you to pay on your projects, that sounds amazing. I will stay forever.

Emmi Sallonen:

Basically the head of your department, I think, decides, and I got a job offer from London, which is why I left. I would have still had, at the time at least for at least another half a year left, but, I've discovered over the years that I've, I'm. One of these people who make decisions a lot based on safety. So, I often looked back at that time and thought what would have happened if I would have stayed? Like, where would my path have taken me? would I have stayed longer and so on. But I had an offer for full time work as a junior designer and I took it. and this is where I am now. So not a bad choice either, I don't think, but, yeah, it felt very much of, like a safe, it was a safe option rather than let's see where life will take us and leave it to the destiny or whatever. yeah.

Radim Malinic:

think, when you're beginning of a sort of creative career, you take a job because that makes you somehow feel safe and you don't feel like, Oh, I'm going to leave the ambition to another day. Because when you think back, now you're running your own studio for the last 15 years, if I'm right. and you think about it, like with every uncertainty, every insecurity that you can throw into running your own business, you would not think that to yourself, when you were beginning, cause I remember employing juniors and it's it's like, Hey, how good do you want to be? What do you want to do? And they're like, I'm good for now. this is me for now. I don't, there's no need to go and turbocharge. Because. When you think about the influences outside, out then at the moment, there's a course on everything. Obviously there's a course on happiness that we just established, but as every other designer and me soon included, we'll have a course on, how to run a business or publish books on how to establish yourself. And I always, from my personal perspective, as an immigrant in a country where you don't have any sort of securities on family and stuff, you don't have, the network that you would have normally at home. The drive to strive is part driven by self interest because you're self by creative interest, but also by need for security, which you want to make sure that the bank balance is topped up. And it's interesting how we sort of evolve in our years. and our sort of abilities and how we mature, because what seemed really scary over the years, it's just like, Oh, you know what, it's doable and things, for example, I know from personal experience, what I've been doing, I could not imagine that even five years ago, right now, like what I've, changed everything about the way I work, how I run my business, what I'm investing in creative pursuits. That wouldn't be possible because you would have like, okay, let's keep it simple. Let's keep, we can't touch the reserves. We can't do this. And I think uncertainty is a quite good fuel sometimes for not knowing how it's not, how things should be, not what things, how things might pan out, but what could be there in the future. So your junior role. led you to move around a bit, right? Because I know this is not your last stop from Italy, back to London.

Emmi Sallonen:

No, so I mentioned that the work that I was doing on my own time at university was quite politically led, I suppose, sort of adbusters style, I would say. And that continued in Fabrica. So when I went to full time employment, I wanted to work somewhere, that was doing work for good. So at the time I was thinking, good for the society. Like I'll be really happy with that. I worked in a place called Hoop Associates. They don't exist anymore. but they were. Solely working for charities and the public sector, and I was there for a couple of years, maybe, yeah, a couple of years, I think, two or three years, and really found my feet as a designer, as a junior designer and discovered I have a passion for layout design and, all these things, and then softened a bit in my approach about what design for good is. can mean, and expanded my worldview to include, you know what, working for arts and culture is good. That is designed for good as well, which was, Very, good for myself, really, I shouldn't have boxed myself so tightly to begin with, I don't think. But it then, opened my, mind to possibilities of working at studios that when Slightly, more commercially led in, in one way, I suppose. And one of the places I sent my portfolio at the time was Carlson Wilker in New York. Carlson Wilker is run by Jan and Jalti, who met when they were both working for Sackmeister. And Sackmeister had taken one of his famous sabbaticals that he takes every seven years. It takes a year off. So he closed his studio and then Jan and Nialty were like, well, what do we do? And, Stefan very kindly had passed client work onto them to continue it. And that's how they got started with their studio. and the work that they produced back then and still, Yeah. Like I mentioned, it's very much for the arts and culture sector and book publishing and so on. And I approached them and said I'd love to, you come and meet you. I'm coming to New York and they opened their doors and had a coffee with me and I went on and on about how designing a book would be a My dream come through one day and that was kind of it. I came back to London and didn't hear from them for at least half a year or something. And then they got a commission to design a book for Fi. And because I'd been going on about book design, they kept me in mind and said oh, maybe Emmy could come over and do this. And that's how I ended up working there. And I like sharing that story because I think it's very. important to voice our interests and our sort of dreams because this really is how things work. It's just talking about them and letting people know what gets you going and what gets you inspired and they will keep you in mind even if it's not purposefully thinking of you every day, but if they come across that, they might very well pass on the work your way and so on. So I encourage any designers to just speak up about what they're into.

Radim Malinic:

I think what you're describing there is just a perfect example of meaningful connection because When you think about the digital friends we've got for our social media, you know, you have a conversation here and there and you kind of like, okay, they are nice to have, but when you meet someone even for five minutes at a conference or, for a coffee, you've got a totally different digital relationship afterwards because you know who they are, how they speak, how they behave themselves. you've got to be on my sort of sensory experience, so to speak. And, we described with the, ex Sagmeister employees. It's just okay, you've spoken to them and you manifested what you wanted to do, which sounds fascinating. And thank you for the insight, because I've always wondered what happens to the people that work for Sagmeister when Sagmeister goes to Bali. yeah, everyone knows that he's in Bali, playing with bananas and making typography, what he was in the past. But, yeah, I mean, it's a great story that happened. And how did you. go to wanting to make a book design. What was it? I don't know anyone who doesn't love books. but I never, until I started making books, I never really wanted to make a book, if that makes sense. I never needed to make a book. I never knew I could make it. How did you get to book design being the coveted thing at that time?

Emmi Sallonen:

I think, I got a chance working as a junior at Hope to design a series of, employer sort of guidebooks, and in doing this sort of set of, I think there was like eight of them or something, and in, in making them and creating the covers and the illustrations inside and so on, I realised how much storytelling goes into designing a layout that sort of includes the entire object, basically. So you introduce the reader to some of your elements on the cover, and then you repeat them inside. And there's a lovely element of surprise when you turn pages and so on. And I really wanted to explore this further. And therefore, in my head, I was thinking a book design would be ideal. Like imagine that, like hundreds of pages. And it turned out to be the case. I absolutely love. Still designing books, and I've designed a great number of them and written one myself as well and designed that and, and I also think that because You've mentioned there that I've had my studio for close to 20 years, and in that time, a lot of the work that I've put out there, identities I've created and so on, they are, they can, they've done, made and designed for companies that I've outlasted them, basically. Or they for events, mostly what I design are very time specific. So it might be something, a report for this year, or flyer for this event, or, something very sort of brief in time, but I find that a book is an actual object. It's something that has the potential to become a hairline design. And that's my only sort of like way in as a graphic designer to an object that somebody might just hold on to. And if I'm very lucky, they might even pass it on. And isn't that a legacy to have as a designer?

Radim Malinic:

I find book design like an endurance sport or like a really long haul flight. You know, when you fly between, let's say London and Italy, you fly for a couple of hours, but when you fly to Singapore or like anywhere further, that's a long flight. And then every other flight feels like. Oh, right. We already know it's happened. And I just found it like designing books by doing this, doing 256 pages and then going to do 64 page magazine for someone who's like, Oh, it's easy because it just gives you that sort of, resistance and endurance kind of like a, capacity because it just, everything seems much smaller in comparison. Do you agree that, do you find that,

Emmi Sallonen:

Yeah, I do I do. agree. I think it does take a different level of effort in all accounts, time included, and really thinking of a rigid system that works no matter what, you know, is thrown at you in terms of the content and so on.

Radim Malinic:

What you describe as a junior doing quite sort of page heavy, layout heavy publications. That's interesting because I Like from experience, it can feel quite daunting to have quite a big task early on. If that makes sense. talk about a sort of the genetics, I think genetics of an endurance bookmaker or a layout designer, because anything over four pages and I was dead, it was like, no, let me do five posters in an hour or whatever, but that many pages, like you wrestle the content and it depends how prepared you are for all of this. So might be talking about genetics again here.

Emmi Sallonen:

Maybe, but also at this point I was probably like four or five years into my career, so it wasn't really freshly out of, university and I think we had already switched from Quark Design to InDesign at this point, so. really

Radim Malinic:

there. was something magical about Quark. I didn't get too used to it. I was literally, before it died out of favour, but, Yeah, there was something about it. It was something old school, something like proper. And it was like, it was the sort of way in Oh, can you use quark? I'm like, what is quark in a way? And then when you learn quark, it was like, Oh, by the way, it's all in design now. so that's interesting, but it doesn't date you. so I know that through your sort of professional career being employed, you've got to the point where. You took one of Sam Weister's sabbaticals because you worked not necessarily in his way or for his reason, but you worked in an agency and it got to the point where it was all too much to the point of a burnout and you took some time out, is that right?

Emmi Sallonen:

Yeah, that's right. So this is, probably 10 years later. So from Carlson Wilco, I came back to London and encouraged by their wonderful and generous spirit and sort of them really giving me the confidence that I can run my own studio. I set up Studio EMI and, run it, a solo practice, like I mentioned before, and run it very happily for sort of 12, 13 years, until I started feeling like I really like to stretch my sort of, or challenge myself more. I felt like I, any work that would come in, I could do it so easily that I found it quite hard to stay motivated in a sense, and I'd thought if I go and work somewhere else with a bigger team and more sort of global project that would give me, the sort of, teachings that I was after, I suppose. And it Like often is the case, I started talking about this and then, got asked if I would be interested in going for an interview to be the UK Creative Director, at an agency, which I did and It was fantastic. I really loved it. I learned so much working with a much bigger design team with copywriters, strategists, global clients and very different sort of the setup that I had up until that point. But, it did also really burn me out and it wasn't specifically. I don't think working there, I think it was, uh, over a number of years already leading up to that with the work that I was doing and how I was working that got me to a stage where I, yeah, I really did have a burn out and it was, one day I went, for a walk with, my creative, the global creative director. And we just went for a coffee actually. And it was in this walk that everything came out and I just said to him like, actually, I'm, I've lost my spark. I don't have it in me. I don't know if I'm even a designer anymore. And me sort of hearing myself talk and say these words scared me so much that I realized I need to change something and I need some time off. to sort of understand what's happening in me and how could I think that I'm not, I don't have it anymore. Like if I'm not a designer, who am I? What's my identity? And I took half a year off. I left the agency and gave myself half a year. That turned into a year. and it was a very, groundbreaking time. It didn't feel like it at the time, like it often doesn't. But I really sort of rediscovered how to design and how to, be human and a designer, I suppose, in that year.

Radim Malinic:

It's interesting what you mentioned about before you took the creative role agency that you found the work easy. There was no challenge. And that brings us back to that Yale, analogy, you go through a pain point, but then it just becomes the norm and with the challenges like the autopilot kicks in and it just, the workflow is the same and sometimes, you know, when you stop needing to battle the work, if you focus on, let's say, on a niche and you do one thing in a certain way, then it becomes easier because you create, a framework for work. And yeah, because you know, from experience, if you take on everything from any way, you're like, Oh, what am I doing here? Like you feel like you're starting afresh all the time, but when you've created a framework, it does become easy and it does become Easier. Okay. Sorry. I have to backtrack. It becomes easier. And it can, the monotonousness can actually can kick in because. When you look at that, what's now sort of, touted as, branding déjà vu, you get amazing studios doing amazing work, yet you can't tell which studio did it because we've created this blend of ingredients for branding and creativity, which is, become universal in sort of form of medium of internet and, and magazines and blogs and stuff. So it's, the work is not as, sort of niche or hidden because everyone wants to have the publicity. I mean, I don't know how studios do it when they go case study ready for the launch. like I haven't published a work from 2019 on my website, you know, like we're busy working. it puts things into perspective, but I can fully appreciate and understand. that level of what am I doing? where's the spark because you can have, you can lose it on your own. you can be burned out by running a team. But initially it's just, when you think about it, it's that endurance. Like when, too much endurance, you don't have to, you don't have enough time to actually recover because we tell ourselves that I've just done a really heavy project and I actually need to pay my tax bill. I'm going to take this project and I do this with that. And, what you mentioned earlier, like, the thing. In the future, like, okay, I'm going to do another thing and that will make me happy. Another thing that will make me secure. Like we tell ourselves, we don't necessarily have the baseline cleared. We don't have that hour enough. we don't know what we want. And that's why we add, And I think, as you said quite a few times on this conversation is like, when you say what you want. It often happens because you manifest, you visualize it, you make it verbal, you make people aware of it because that's your intentions. And I always feel that the universe knows what you live and breathe, if that makes sense. You know, you can be, can be pursuing one type of career, but yet you'll be doing something else on the side. And the thing you do on the side, somehow the universe comes like, Hey, actually, I need some of these badges, or we need some of this design, we need some of this design. And somehow, even though you're promoting the thing on your website. The universe somehow knows. it's not like a wooboo thing when I'm trying to describe it, but I just feel, you know, what we try to sometimes offer, the world doesn't need it. And we're like, you know what? I love your graphic design, but I need illustration in here on this billboard, moving, animated. I'm like, can you do it? yeah, because it's the same thing, right? But it's like how we sort of perceive it, because sometimes I see people try to sort of have their creativity black and white, This is our defined deliverables, and this is our defined price, and this is what we do. And you're thinking, how long is it going to be interesting for? Because I'm already bored reading this, you know, like you kind of fluidity of creativity to actually be there because that's how we keep engaging and entertain ourselves. And be curious, if that makes sense, because I keep hearing this phrase, having people look around us, around the corners, and One, one thing to see around the corner, I think is, I can thankfully say that that's one of my biggest gifts I've been given by in this life, like wanting to see around the corner because you never run out of curiosity, like, you know, when I stopped wanting to look around the corners, maybe I'll give up, but it's also tiring. I mean, it's also tiring because you, you know, you, you know, doing these projects and again, like it goes back to bookmaking, the process you can approach it. Every time differently, you can plan differently, you've got different collaborators and, sometimes the design can take forever. Sometimes it can take a few days experience. so I know I'm going always wrong for a way of not a long way around to the next question, but I know, from our research that on the back of that year long sabbatical. You've created Creative Ecosystem, which I'm fascinated by.

Emmi Sallonen:

Yes. so I thought at the beginning of this, journey of mine that taking a year's break would end up with me having a very clear idea. The one route that I will take in life and give me the answer and that's it. And I discovered that, no, that's not the case. And that in life, like in design, there isn't just one solution. I think, you know, we know when we, let's say logo design, we know that there isn't just one perfect logo. It could be. many alternatives of it or something completely different and it could still be valid. And it's the same approach to life, overall that, it's more about Moving with the flow, I suppose, and making the best of the resources that we have within ourselves and around us, that fits the current situation and the journey that we're on. And I started to recognize these areas in life, that all feed into my creativity. Whereas in before I maybe thought more like, oh, creativity is this, thing on its own. It lives in this silo and then my life is elsewhere here. But it's all the same. It's all the same. And I sort of, figured these five core areas that I call input areas that we need to sort of really nourish our creative energies in order to then be able to give out, to do the output, and as a creative industry, we often so focused on the output, that when we are not as focused on the input as well, that's when things fall off balance, and it really should be like breathing, in and out. and flowing and making sure that, there's things coming in as well as we sort of continually pushing things out. And, I'm not going to sort of go very deep into the creative ecosystem, but the five core input areas are connection, wonder, pause, movement, and joy. Should I tell you a bit more about them or

Radim Malinic:

I'm looking at them online right now because it's, interesting putting things in pie charts because When you mentioned the 50, like, for example, we talked about happiness, like how that's 50 percent genetics, 40%, you think and the circumstances. When you think about burnout, it's like how much of that 100 percent is your work, how much is your play, how much is your rest? And I think things are sort of always of context, out of keel, not context, out of keel. They're never sort of in an even split. And that's what you've got with your creative outputs inputs. We expect, as you just said, like creativity is just a thing that works on its own. We don't feel like we're necessarily sort of connected to it. It's like, you know, having a nice pair of trainers for going running, like the trainers will do. No, they will do the thinking, like not necessarily hydration or clothing or temperature or course or whatever. And I think what you've got here. Yeah, I think it's fascinating. So yeah, if you can tell us more about the inputs,

Emmi Sallonen:

so I think we all need connection. We need connection to ourselves, where we come from, where we are, where we're going and connection to other people. And that gives us purpose. And I think it's very much like the brief stage of the sort of creative process is sort of just figuring out the foundations of things and asking a lot of questions. And then with Wonder, It's just about having that sort of looking around the corner, as you so beautifully put it, having that sort of open mindset and then continuously being open to learning and sharing as well, like sharing our influences and inspirations and, having this sort of, fresh air in things, pause is so incredibly vital. It's my favourite input area because of, what me taking a pause did for my career and myself. and it really is sort of about connecting with your, creative spirits, connecting with your intuition and giving yourself time and solitude. So whether it's just moments here or there, or what I actually advocate for is sort of. scheduling a day or so every couple of months to do something on your own, whatever it might be. It doesn't necessarily have to be like, I'm going to see all the like, great exhibitions at the moment. I think you talk about this in your book, Pause.

Radim Malinic:

Very much so. Yeah. I did a book called Pause, Breathe and Grow, but, my definition of pause is. Looking back, stop it, you can't change unless something changes. And I get a lot of feedback when people realize, you know what, if I could just easily keep going until the wheels come off. And that's the problem because that's how everyone else is doing. Like no one's obviously because Sag Meister is sabbaticals, but no one else can say, you know what, I'm going to take a year off because it'd be fine. so that's his, pause. Unless you had a different one. And I just feel. You need to take stock of what's happened so far. You need to take like even just

Emmi Sallonen:

Because if you don't, if you don't pause, you're not going to hear what your inner self is telling you. You're not going to hear it on thoughts. And if you don't hear it on thoughts, then you don't know what your needs are. And everything starts to feel a bit confusing. And it's very hard to connect to, the happiness in the now. Let's put it that way.

Radim Malinic:

very much. Yeah, I can fully understand that and then you've got movement,

Emmi Sallonen:

I've got movement, which is as much about moving our bodies as it is staying fluid in our thinking. And I often refer to this sort of being like water. So as you go through situations and things around you change, like you just adapt to it, but you always remain who you are at your core. So it's not like you change. your ethos and so on as you go along. It's just being flexible and it's like the stage when you've already had a, an idea in the creative process and then you're sort of testing that idea and you're poking it and like showing it for feedback and maybe you're making dummies and so on. And sometimes you realize it really doesn't work. I need to try something else. Or sometimes you know you improve it and you make the idea resilient. Being sort fluid in our own thinking and in our own movement helps us to stay resilient as well. And then finally there's joy. So I think often us creatives working in the creative industry don't save time for creative exploration with no purposeful outcome. Like just making something for the fun of it. It doesn't matter if it looks good or bad or whatever, but just making, because we love making, we love doing, this is why we're doing what we're doing. But when's the last time you took a Saturday morning, I don't know, to work on your watercolours or anything that sort of brings you that joyful flow state. And it doesn't need to be like big chunks of time, it's also acknowledging what brings you That sort of, confidence in just knowing what you're doing and losing yourself making or in the doing, whether it could even be reading, it doesn't really matter. But I call them micro passions, and I think we need these in our days.

Radim Malinic:

That's really interesting because it's defined as that. I mean It would be defined as a sort of peak of the day because sometimes when you think of like a branding project or any project Can take weeks and months to do and you're like you still haven't finished your dopamine hasn't still kicked in because what's to be happy about the work is still not done we're halfway through we don't know if it's any good and then what do you do so your micro moments are absolutely fantastic because it's like sometimes people can help themselves by defining the peak of the day like I'm gonna do something for a minute or for an hour that will make me happy and I can actually complete it in an hour I'll finish and I'll just, I'll be somewhere to stay where I'm like, Oh, this is new. this is refreshing. Actually, I feel like I'm moving somewhere because I was lucky once upon a time where I could. Work after work, if that makes sense, I could take an hour sort of finishing the projects and then ride for half an hour or just updating things or doing stuff. And that would be more rewarding time than the whole eight hours prior because you would have the reward. So Yeah, that's definitely like in your element of joy. I think that, makes perfect sense. And I like, yeah, the nourishing inputs and I like the word nourishing are fantastic yeah, mean, you have to tell me. From experience, because I feel like we don't talk about this stuff enough. Like, I there is books from every other sort of kind telling us how things we can be doing. And it's not impossible now, especially with the world of books, to find the right information. You can listen to it, you know, it's there, you you can download it. And yet we have still lots of unhappy people. We still have lots of people who need help, right? We still need to. Kind of change, change the process, change the formula. So when you do your creative works, when you do your sort of creative workshops, your happiness workshops, who do you normally work with? what's the sort of, what's the crowd? What's the companies?

Emmi Sallonen:

It's very varied. So I do the talks and workshops, across universities. mostly design students just because I'm a designer. So it's sort of an easy connection. so they are young people at the beginning of their careers. And I think it's really important to sort of, Give them that side of the industry as well, where burnout is actually very common and there's ways to avoid it. and then I attend design conferences globally, so this year I've been Toan and Toronto, across Europe. And then obviously online. It's easy to go anywhere to any place that I'm invited. and. That's often creative professionals, so whether you've been in the industry a moment to, being somebody who has spent their entire career in the industry. And then the third audience is, Creative agencies, or agencies where creatives work with, whichever kind of team they might have and working with them in-house and sort of that then it becomes a bit more specific of maybe something that culturally, that specific company, would like me to address, or it might be, you know, it might be a request around more on the sort of, micropolicies, or resilience, or it doesn't matter, but then it's often adjusted to the culture of where the need is. so very varied, and I also don't think it's necessarily just for designers, it just gives it a really nice way in because I know that if somebody comes and tells you about well being and how to avoid burnout and their background is very different to your own, it's hard to feel connected. It's hard to sort of, see how your feelings are related to somebody who's been, very corporate office based their entire career and hasn't got a sense about, design and how we as designers really unfortunately align our self worth to our work too much and all these issues that are really specific for the creative industry. I think me coming from having my career, having my 20 years in working in design gives it a, a very unique insight on how we can then use that design thinking to help us. So what burnt me out is actually also the tool for me to work through these challenges and give me the energy and healing, I suppose that we need in order to continue.

Radim Malinic:

I mean it's fantastic. Absolutely love it. Yeah. because it's interesting like how much you look when you start peeling the layers of how we do, how things work and how we do stuff and how much it doesn't work behind the scenes, like how much that needs to be changed. And I've mentioned on this podcast a few times before that. Things were a lot more cruel in the industry, some 20 years ago, people didn't really care about well being or mental health. It was like, do the work or, you can go somewhere else. And it just, and that, that changes a lot. And I think we put quite rightfully, put more focus on if people are happy doing the work. is there nourishing environment for the work? how the stuff is connected. Because as a sort of small agency owner, I know that, spinning lots of plates, and to be looking after people's progressions and, career progressions and wellbeing. it's hard because you've, Give yourself a lot more to work than just employing people for simple sort of creative work. That's it's important. Nothing's really simple, but so yeah, that can be really hard. I think what you're doing there, I think it's incredible because I've not come across anyone that would have actually so much alike with myself in common, because you're from, just like me, just like myself, even from a different background, you live in a different country, you've come to do it on your own and actually. I don't know, maybe it's something about like continental upbringing that we feel maybe we try to connect with ourselves a little bit more because it's so easy just to keep going and, and, let the wheels come off eventually, and then we find a sort of hard stop somewhere. your colour, I just want to talk lastly, what you do, it's your colour. there's, I mean, I remember, I don't know that many, I mean, Maybe my sort of creative ignorance, but I only know of a few Finnish born, creatives. But there's something about what I feel is the definition of folklore, how to block colors and, is it Lothar Niemannen? Have I got it right? Hopefully not. There's a few designers from Finland that I know that very much work with expressive colors, block colors, block objects. And, you know, you mentioned Marumeko, uh, earlier. I think it's that Scandinavian simplicity where we just, you guys have an amazing sort of feel for the objects and feel for the color. is it something that you can trace back to the maker culture or is it something that you, you get to see broadly in Finland?

Emmi Sallonen:

I really, I spend a lot of time thinking about this because I get asked it quite often. I think I'm too close to see the wood from the trees in that one, because I can't really look at my own work that objectively, but, I can definitely relate to. a level of sort of minimalism that exists in the Finnish visual culture and how it exists also in, in our sort of, way of living, especially how in the summertime all of us retreat into our wooden gapings in the forest where, It's very common not to have running water like we don't, we pump our water from a well, which means there's no hot water, so you have to chop wood to heat the water, and it's really back to the basics. So you get rid of everything that isn't necessary, and I think that sort of does come across in the design. But what I feel that what's really influenced me Being a Finn, having grown up in Finland, is the structure and the systems of the culture. It's very structured, maybe I should say well structured, and we're all quite aware of how good the Finnish education system is, for example. So I'm really quite fascinated by systems, and it's not a surprise that I've come up with my own system as a return over time, but I think it's really helped me as a designer to make things happen and stay on top of things to, to really honor the client's time and have that awareness of, what do I need in terms to make this actually happen in sort of very practical terms. And I think maybe surprisingly, I feel like that is my Finnish influence in my design. And. everything else sort of just, I feel like comes from the client and their needs and what is, you know, what do I need to communicate and what's the look and feel and the tone that I need to get to specifically with that client.

Radim Malinic:

what you're describing, I think it's It's a sense of purpose direction and sort of simplicity that usually when people come with complex problems, they need someone like yourself to actually make it simple, make it digestible. Actually, because it's like, when you think about it, it's like an antidote, you know, like when you go busy life, you want. something that actually makes the opposite is the antidote, like something that's super simple. When you go, when you strive, when your life is quite simple, if you're looking for things that are more complex and more, diverse and intricate, if that makes sense. So I think what you're describing, I think it's, an incredible way of just seeing like how you're, from your inputs, like your sense of wonder, from the, uh, off the grid life and a visual culture of Finland helps it to do it because I just feel like people like yourself and hopefully myself too, like bringing in sort of outside influences into a different country and kind of. Cross pollinating, I think everything that we do, is fascinating. So, um, it's been a great talking to you about what you do. And as I said, I've never come across someone like yourself, having a sort of like minded spirit about mindful approach and creativity and nourishing, people's wellbeing. And, yeah, thank you so much for being on the show. Thank you.

Emmi Sallonen:

Yeah, I really enjoyed it. It was really inspiring and I'm glad we did this in the morning so I can put all this good energy into use now.

Radim Malinic:

Thank you so much. Thank you for coming on.

Emmi Sallonen:

Thank you.

Radim Malinic:

Thank you for listening to this episode of Creativity for Sale podcast. The show was produced and presented by me, Radim Malinic. Editing and audio production was masterfully done by Neil mackay,. from 7 million Bikes Podcasts, Theme music was written and produced by Robert Summerfield. If you enjoyed this episode and would like to support the podcast, please subscribe and leave a rating or review. To get your own action plan on how to start and grow a life changing creative business. You can get a copy of the Creativity for Sale book via the links in show notes. burning, and until next time, I'm Radim Malinich, your guide through this exploration of passion, creativity, innovation, and the boundless potential within us all.






Radim Malinic

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