Janine Rewell’s cute, energetic illustrations makes us so happy it's Spring

See beautiful Spring-inspired illustrations for Seoul's largest shopping mall by Finnish illustrator Janine Rewell.

Spring is finally here. And Janine Rewell’s cute, new illustrations celebrate everything in the season- from those cloudy spring days to the animals frolicking below them. 

Lotte World Mall - Seoul, South Korea’s largest shopping mall which commissioned the project - didn’t just want any old version of spring from the Helsinki-based illustrator. No, for such a important project, they wanted imagination, engaging characters and a cute, magical story bursting with life. 

Janine has certainly delivered with a simple, childlike tale complete with a cloud kingdom, a host of wonderfully realised real-life spring animals and a flock of make-believe ones - including a blimp (yes, that slightly ridiculous-looking, balloon-like airship) that is so loveable that it should be made part of traditional spring celebrations with immediate effect. 

On her website, Janine says she has “a crush on geometry” - which really does show in the beautiful vector lines and cleanly imagined shapes in this project, as well as the rest of the work, as you can see in our article on swatchbooks released by Pantone, which used Janine's work on one of its covers. 

So, Janine has managed to make spring even more warming and full of life. For the three remaining seasonal project she’ll complete for Lotte World Mall, we have no doubt she can make those seasons pop too (it’d be great if she could make the coming winter feel a bit warmer…). 

Here, we’ve caught up with Janine about the process behind this project, her other work and why she wanted to work on a South Korean project.

Neil Bennett: Has it been a conscious choice to work on more 3D projects recently?

Janine Rewell: “I’ve been working as designer and illustrator for nearly ten years now and yet I'm finding new mediums to work with all the time. I don't want to lock myself with only one type of client, so I've been consciously developing my style and character palette to serve all different kind of commissions from art to commercial projects."

“Lately I've been working a lot with three dimensional mediums and products. There is something calming about creating physical objects in the middle of the fast pace of the digital, advertorial and editorial platforms that illustrators typically work with. Three dimensional spaces, textures and materials give an exciting contrast to my vector style, which is to its core very two dimensional.”

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NB: How did you come to work on this project?

JR: “The Korean TIST agency contacted me directly asking for collaboration possibility and I wanted to bring my agent in to help with the cost estimates and contracts. Lotte World Mall is the biggest international shopping centre in South Korea, so it made sense to get an international design lead to work side-by-side with a local production team. The spring campaign is one out of four seasonal campaigns that we are making for them."

“The internet bridge between Asia and Europe is still pretty long because of the linguistic barrier so I'm really glad to work with a Red-Dot-awarded local agency and such a big client; hopefully this case will open more doors for me in Korea, since I think my style fits quite well with the aesthetics there. Also, Asia has a different kind of market for illustration campaigns and such a bigger scale with production that it's interesting to get a peek into that world. 

“Last year I made a few advertising films for the Korean phone brand Samsung and my work has been featured in a bunch of Asian design books and magazines, so that's my guess as to why the client contacted me.”

NB: What was the brief?

NB: “The brief was to loosely emphasise a spring atmosphere in a fantastical way. I've had the pleasure to participate in conceptualising the seasonal themes and oversee key illustrations as art director, while TIST agency has successfully translated the visuals into display designs, handled the production and mediated the client's feedback with me. 

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“Often illustrators get briefs that are already pre-chewed by the art directors, which tells them exactly what to do. Sometimes advertising agencies sell ideas and sketches to the client before even contacting the illustrator. It's a shame because, in the end, we illustrators are the masters of our own styles and know best what kind of compositions and colour combinations work best to achieve maximum results. 

“I'm happy to have been given enough responsibility and trust to already participate in the first steps of the concepts. The client, Lotte World Mall, is encouraging me to create imaginative, absurd and magical worlds, something which is - in my mind - very distinctively an Asian approach. They love fairytales, which suits my style well - whereas in the west, brands are often all about maximum product communication and are sometimes boringly grown up.”

NB: What was your response to the brief? Did you have to do anything differently due to Korean conventions or other language/social considerations?

JR: “It’s challenging to design key visuals that work as whole illustrations but can be also separated to independent elements and re-assembled to all kinds of display designs, windows, banners, magazine covers - and that’s not forgetting storylines that can be animated. There are lots of moving parts to think about! 

“There has been some cultural misunderstandings regarding the feedback but that's pretty much expected when you work from the other side of the world. I've never been to Korea and I'm still getting to know what seasons are like there; at the moment, I'm working on the upcoming summer campaign for Lotte Mall - here in Scandinavia, an ideal summer would be hot and tropical, but in Korea the weather in the summer is actually hot an tropical, so what they really long for is cool and breezy atmosphere. It's a learning curve!”

NB: Tell us about designing the characters. Which character is your favourite and why?

JR: “Characteristic animals for spring are butterflies, bees, bunnies, but we wanted to also give humans a place in this whimsical world to make it more fashionable. By distorting the size scale between animals and humans, I created this fantastical fairytale of a goofy airship arriving to a magical garden cloud, which is inhabited by little girls and creatures. The yellow cat is absolutely my favourite of all characters, with the scarf and two lady shoes. I hope that all the amazing three dimensional characters will find good homes after the campaigns.”

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NB: How did the nature of this project – the scale and sculpted animals – affect the way you conceived, drew and worked up the artworks?

JR: “I made all the illustrations in a two dimensional vector format and TIST gave the characters three dimensional shapes and planned the whole production. It's amazing to see how well my somewhat geometrical style translates to round objects. Typically illustrators only see their designs being wrapped around packaging or - best case scenario - on laser-cut paper in window displays, but these characters are really three dimensional."

“The overall usage of characters within visual identities in Asia is advanced with all kinds of mascots popping up in every corner. They are far ahead in production techniques and the good quality can be seen in the close ups of these characters, not seeing any seams or screws anywhere. 

“Compositions of windows and decoration displays at Lotte World Mall are assembled by TIST. And to be honest, I was pretty scared handing over the final vector files not knowing what they would come up with. Composition is such a big part of an illustration style and, at this point, TIST was still a new collaboration partner."

“But, after I saw the first drafts and finally the pictures of the end result. I was happy and relieved about the overall direction. Obviously I would have made a few of the composition details differently myself, but this is something we can work on over the remaining three campaigns - so keep an eye on my portfolio!

“We thought that it's a nice addition to the campaign to tell the story with the help of animation. I created the concept and storyboard of the video and TIST handled the animation. I think it's really cute how calm the pace of the video is!”

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NB: What’s next?

JR: “Aside from the summer, autumn and winter season campaigns for Lotte World Mall, I'm working on my upcoming solo exhibitions this summer. Last fall, after judging the China Illustration Biennale, I was honourably invited to exhibit in the national Guan Shanyue Art Museum in Shenzhen, China. The same show is simultaneously displayed as an satellite-exhibition in Finland, at Visavuori Museum.”