Aino-Maija Metsola – brief questions and book covers


The Idiot by Elif Batuman
Book cover illustration and lettering
Client: Vintage, Penguin Random House UK

In 2016 a few book covers stood out from the rest. One of them was the cover of the British edition of Elif Batumans charming and entertaining novel The Idiot. The cover is designed by Aino-Maija Metsola, Finnish designer and artist who, among other things, has designed patterns for Marimekko, and recently has focused on working with water colours. I believe that Metsolas book covers come across as so sensationally original, colourful and bold, precisely because she has a background in designing patterns for textiles. She pushes the boundaries for what is comme il faut when designing a book cover. I had the opportunity to ask her a couple of brief questions.

Could you please tell us a little about your background and how and why you became a designer?

I remember drawing was very important for me ever since I was very little. I got support and encouragement for my hobby so it was quite natural for me to follow my passion. I went to a high school focusing on visual arts and after that I applied and got in to study graphic design in the University of Art and design Helsinki. I think I probably chose graphic design as it felt secure then and afterwards I sometimes had the feeling that I could have focused on something else in the field of arts. So I wanted to broaden a little and I gradually started to lean towards illustration and textile design. Nowadays I try to find more time for my personal projects and lately I have been focusing on water colour painting.

Book covers have obvious limitations compared to textiles for instance. You have a very limited space to work with. Could you please tell us a little bit about the differences and what you like about designing book covers?

I learnt a lot about book design when I worked in a Finnish publishing house as a graphic designer for a short while about ten years ago. I enjoyed many aspects of it, being surrounded by stories, history and curious people. Now I design books and book covers once in a while and I also work in the field of children’s literature.

I have designed stamps for the Finnish post office, so compared to stamps there is an enormous amount of space on a book cover. I don’t feel the size of the space I work with as very restricting, possibly due to my graphic design background I feel it’s only normal and often even inspiring if there are limitations. And when it comes to limitations of course the most obvious and most important aspect of designing a book cover is that it all starts with the content of the book. That is where I look for inspiration and cues. On a novel my artwork is in a supportive role. It’s very different from designing textiles where I’m usually very free to play with my own ideas. But I love books and I love to focus on the conversation between the art forms, the content and the cover. I don’t want the cover to be too obvious, I believe it’s better to leave it more open so it arouses curiosity and leaves room for interpretation.

How does nature influence your work?

I live on an island close to the center of Helsinki. I miss the forest sometimes but even here you can easily experience the nature. By living my daily life here I have the opportunity to observe the colours and details in the nature around me and I can feel, see and smell the seasons. This all affects my work and probably for the most part unconsciously.

All images: Georgi Eremenko

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Virginia Woolf series
Book cover illustration and lettering
Client: Vintage Classics, Penguin Random House UK

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Pattern design
Client: Marimekko

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Weather Diary / Luovi
Pattern design
Client: Marimekko

Visit Aino-Maija Metsolas home page.

Ola Wihlke

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