10 Questions with Tomi Lahdesmaki

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Tomi Lahdesmaki is an Associate Creative Director at the design studio Code and Theory. Living in Hackney, London, he founded Forage Press in 2013 as an online synthesis of music and graphic design that has since attracted the talents of hundreds of artists, musicians and designers.

How did you get into design? What’s your story?

I was never really good at anything to do with traditional schooling, but I kept on trying (failing), knowing that this was something I had to do. On the last day of registration for classes at my local community college, the second year after failing philosophy, I came upon a leaflet advertising a graphic design course the school was offering. I knew that the subject matter was something creative because my mother had worked in advertising as a graphic designer, so I thought ‘what the heck’ and the rest is history. I completely fell in love with graphic design and illustration, later enrolling and completing a BFA in graphic design at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

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Forage Press Pattern

For our readers who are not familiar with the project of Forage Press, tell us what it’s about. How did you come up with this idea?

The relationship between visual and audio mediums goes all the way back to the beginnings of published music. Whether it’s album cover art or band tee shirts, there has always been visual work supporting, expanding, contributing and completing the listening experience. Forage Press embraces this relationship.

For this project we’ve invited various unique creatives around the world to produce a visual article inspired by the music they love. Contributors are free to choose any music that inspires them, and in turn create a series of images that expresses, interprets or tells the story of their chosen music. Each visual article is made up of imagery exclusively created for Forage Press. To date, we’ve published over 150 articles, amounting to over 700 original images produced specifically for the site. The inspiration for our contributors is real.

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foragepress.com

Bearing in mind that you also have a full-time job as an associate creative director at Code and Theory, how do you combine your current projects with Forage Press? Is there someone else on the team or is it just you?

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What’s influenced the look and feel of Forage Press?

The branding itself was a large motivation for myself when creating the project. I have always been fascinated by the branding process and I find it extremely inspiring when independent and honest companies are able to create a truly desirable and aspirational world through their brand, one that people can truly believe in. This is something that I continue to work on through Forage Press. From every email I send, to all the various design pieces including our edition of Readymag, every form of communication makes up our ‘brand’ and everything we produce is something that the followers of the project should be able to believe in and trust. I try to create a design which won’t intrude on the content.

How do you gather material and choose your contributors? What are you favorite posts on Forage Press so far?

I cannot choose any favorites. If a creative truly pours their heart and soul into their creation, that’s all I can ask for and there are more than a few in our collection where this is evident.

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Your FPD01 mag is one of our most beloved, mostly thanks to its bare design. You use Arial in only two sizes to emphasize the content. This minimalism is captivating. Tell us a bit about the process of working on this mag.

One of the things that Readymag offered that was particularly helpful for the content was the easy system for embedding SoundCloud links. This feature is a key component of Forage Press as we want readers to be able to listen to the music while viewing the imagery. Also, I usually create my designs using other applications, so it was nice that I could design directly in the Readymag interface. It was easy to use and I had fun with it.

The idea of combining audio and visual creativity seems to be logically belonging to web and devices, but still you decided to make the printed version of Forage Press. How does it differ from your online content?

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The music industry is great example of this. As mp3s and streaming services continue to close down record shops and music fans do most of their browsing online, certain bands are focusing efforts on producing special and limited edition physical copies of their music as well as various bits of merchandise. This phenomenon I believe has put a greater focus on the physical copy. Instead of a boring jewel case CD, dedicated fans can obtain a beautifully produced piece for their personal collection. All the while the rest of the casual fans continue to browse, purchase and listen using the fastest way possible. We will always live in a physical world with physical things.

I believe that the digital and physical world should continue to embrace the opportunities that they give each other. We will always live in a physical world with physical things. The digital world won’t change this but rather will enhance it.

Any printed and online publications you learn from and inspire?

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Spin’s Manuals 2 features a mix of 20 outstanding American and European design manuals.

Online, I really love the blog but does it float. The curators behind the blog bring together an amazing collection of visual inspiration ranging from art and design to strange scientific imagery.

What are your all-time favorite album covers?

I absolutely love the process and thinking behind this cover. The initial idea and vision the creatives had, and then to see it through and have the guts to produce it in real life instead of opting for graphically representing it or illustrating the image is inspirational. In the end, the image for the cover is extremely powerful and striking, a result that could of only been achieved through a proper execution of the initial vision.

Another favorite is “Celestial Lineage” by Wolves in the Throne Room. It’s pretty cliché to feature a cryptic logo and photo of a forest on the cover of your black metal album, however this album does it damn well with beautifully haunting images and a classic hand drawn logo.

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Is there anything new or different that you’d like to try or explore in the near future?

We are also sketching out some initial thoughts around a real digital/physical magazine about music culture. It’s a great concept, but that’s all I’m willing to say at this point in time.

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