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Aarni Kapanen illustrates Dudes & Feelings podcasts

Fighting toxic masculinity with a podcast and the help of Visual Communication Design.
Man in sunny winter cityscape
Aarni Kapanen

Aarni Kapanen is on his third year of studies of Visual Communication Design at the Department of Media. He explains how he ended up in Aalto, what he has learned and what inspires him, and also what it's like to make a podcast where dudes can discuss their feelings.

Studies and insights

'I've been lucky in the sense that I've always known I could express myself visually. I painted and drew playfully since I was a child. At the age of eighteen I realised that I couldn't paint graffiti in Tampere my whole life. So, I pondered what would be the best possible work for me. I dreamed about working with visual art somehow, attracting the attention of the general public, not knowing exactly how and what that would be. Today, that job description to me means media communication and art direction. I realized that Aalto’s Visual Communication Design program would be the best place for me to learn the necessary skills to become a multidimensional creative worker.

Luckily, I got in by working hard. I can’t condense three years of study experience into courses that promote critical thinking or very personal teaching. In addition to the lectures, I learned equally as much during periods of stagnation. Sometimes the most important insights happen when I hang out with a friend in the school’s studios late at night talking about our childhood with Run the Jewels playing in the background. I feel that the school has, above all, provided extraordinary tools and resources to learn and try your own wings.

My main lesson has been that in visual communication, it’s best to do what you love. Nowadays, I try to forget the ideas I learned about good design and seek the sources for my inspiration myself. I get style tips from mafia movies, stand up comedy and Young Thug's music. I get inspired about the fact that everyone express themselves in their own style during studies. I admire my extremely talented friends who follow their own passions and tastes in the field of visual communication.

The second most important lesson for me is to always present your own work proudly. I have tried to get attention with my visual work, because visual communication is based on attracting attention, one way or another.'

'Jäbät & Tunteet' podcast - shedding toxic masculinity

'I am part of 'Jäbät & Tunteet' (Dudes & Feelings) podcast production group, which includes Nosh A Lody, Miro Olsoni, Nasim Selmani, Abdirahman A. Bile, and Jonathan Guzman Monet. The mission of the podcast is to normalize the fact that people identifying as male, dudes, also talk about their feelings. With our own example, we want to encourage young dudes to be more vulnerable, to be brave and to talk about their feelings to a safe person. Our vision is that young dudes in particular, and why not older ones too, would have a new male role model with less traces of toxic masculinity.

The concept of the podcast began when my friend, A&R coordinator Nosh A Lody, thought out loud why he and other dudes donated have a safe space to talk about their feelings. A Lody wanted to create a space in the Finnish media field for dudes to feel, and asked me to create a visual look for the discussion program. I have always found gender roles and male role models strange and questionable, so I seized the opportunity immediately.'

Creating the visual identity for the podcast

'I do the art direction and visual communication for the podcast. On my part, I manifest a new, emotionally vocal male role model through my visual communication on Instagram. My goal is to create an easily approachable social media precence, with posts that are easily shared and thus popularize our way of speaking. The purpose of communication is to grow our platform organically, without a large marketing machinery. I have freedom in my work, but I still justify my choices to the team. I discuss the topics of the episodes with the dudes and express my opinions as a big consumer of podcasts. In addition, we discuss our feelings and support each other as if we were in group therapy.

I don’t write the episodes myself, but most of all I listen carefully in joint meetings and behind the scenes when the episodes are recorded. After befriending every member of the production team, it was clear to me that the podcast communication should look and sound like our common moments together. The program is based on everyones' own experiential expertise, so I ended up writing down my own feelings and experiences alongside my illustrations.

In addition to our circles' peer support, the most significant in the project is the audience feedback it brought. Young and older dudes, as well as those close to them, have expressed how there has been a great need for an open conversational culture among men. Reading the messages makes you feel as if you are witnessing a change in the culture of masculinity. The main discussions have made it to our own close circles, and as a result, I have begun to talk about my feelings to the people near and dear to me.'

You can listen to the 'Jäbät & Tunteet' podcast (in Finnish) on Spotify. On the Instagram profile of the podcast (@jabatjatunteet) you can admire Aarni's illustrations.

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