Markus Itkonen
Humanist of the day

Markus Itkonen

In the summer of 1984, the young baccalaureate Markua Itkonen found himself particularly attracted to the Gill Sans font, little knowing that in the classification of fonts it was particularly associated with the humanities – more specifically with the grotesque. Today Dr Itkonen is a graphic designer specialised in book design who also writes non-fiction and teaches typography. Moreover, he is the only Finn known to have completed a doctorate in typology. Gill Sans is still one of his favourites, and he now understands more about its connection to the humanities.

Markus Itkonen

Markus Kalevi Itkonen
Born December 17, 1965 Rural Municipality of Helsinki (Vantaa)
Doctor of Arts 2012 (graphic design), Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture
Master of Arts 1991 (art history), University of Helsinki
Graphic designer 1986, Mainosgraafikkojen koulu, Helsinki

Graafinen suunnittelu Markus Itkonen Oy 1987– (owner), core business: book design

Kirjaintyypit ja tyyli (‘Type designs and style’). November 2015

Typografian käsikirja (‘Handbook of Typography’) 2003. 4th Ed. 2012

The Unknown Finnish Type Designs 1920–1985. Doctoral dissertation, 2012

Typoteesejä. Tarkan typografian opas. (‘A precise guide to typography’) 1999

Articles from the field of typography and graphic design 1990–

Awards and special achievements
State Award for Public Information (as a member of a working group) 2009

10 honorary diplomas from the Vuoden kirjavaliot (‘Books of the year’) competition (now The Most Beautiful Book of the Year competition)

The Finnish Centre for Easy to Read’s Sesame Prize 2005, for the design of a an easy-to-read art book

Photo: Pertti Salonen
Written by Markus Itkonen (Kaija Hartikainen, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Typography is the selection and use of typefaces (or fonts). It’s not by writing by hand that you produce typography but by employing pre-prepared letters (typefaces). For the general public, typography is still mostly a closed book, even though we live surrounded by it. Nevertheless, it does arouse interest and provoke opinions.

Read more

Sometimes I am offered other assignments connected to my profession – writing an article, giving a lecture, teaching. I usually accept because their purpose is the same as my work: to visually improve our environment. They all involve rearranging information in a form that is more logical, more interesting, and easier to absorb. They include selecting the most illustrative examples and removing imprecise expressions. There is and will be an inexhaustible demand for that.

Read more

During my first two academic years I was studying concurrently at the University of Helsinki and Mainosgraafikkojen koulu, a traditional school for graphic design. This combination resulted in long, fragmented days which often kept me up around the clock. I spent most of my third academic year in the army, and it was only in the fourth year that was I able to dedicate myself full time to the University.

Read more

After a fifteen-year break, I returned to academia to start my doctoral studies at the University of Industrial Arts and Design. I was annoyed when in the middle of my studies its name changed to Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture.

Read more

Today, there must be at least 200,000 different typefaces in the world. If I had to choose, from all of them, one single letter to represent both elegant and practical design, or as a sample to an alien civilization, I would nominate the lowercase a of Gill Sans.

Read more