Tapio Hakanen, Nokia's leading sound designer, talks about the work behind the ringtones
ESPOO, Finland – Tapio Hakanen is currently leading Nokia’s Sound Design team, who creates the sounds for our Nokia devices (ringtones, notifications and UI sounds). We talked to Tapio to understand more about what he does, how he does it and what makes him tick in terms of sound design!
1. We noticed you are an active Twitter user, how would you best describe yourself in 140 characters?
Nokia sound design manager, DJ, producer, remixer, promoter, audio branding enthusiast and a music lover.
2. Where did your passion for music design come from? Where do you get flashes of brilliance from?
I currently have two careers; a Sound Designer and DJ. I believe my passion and music inspiration comes from everywhere. I have been open minded with music and I’m always excited about learning more and listening to music, whether I hear it in films, theatres, music gigs and general sounds around me. Musical inspiration can also come from other parts of the art, design world or just day-to-day life. Exploring new sound creation tools inspire and guide me to try new things and challenge myself.
The sound designer is usually in a supporting role and sonifying someone else’s vision so often the inspiration and guidance comes from the creative lead of whatever project I am working on.
3. Who has been a key role model to you in your career?
So many people, which is great. From the sound design world, it has to be Randy Thom, who is one of the most brilliant minds in film sound and has the awards to prove it! Randy Thom has worked on numerous great films including Apocalypse Now, The Empire Strikes Back and Forest Gump. In the DJ world, it has to be Paul Oakenfold, who has been a true pioneer in field of DJing.
People that personally inspire me are those who are always pushing for new styles and genres, people who are at the cutting edge of what they do and are leading the way for others.
4. Looking back over the last 12 months, what accomplishments are you personally most proud of?
I’m particularly proud of the sounds for the Nokia N9, which the Nokia Sound Design team together with some external designers. It was such a great achievement for our team and we worked so hard to create new Nokia sounds for SMS, alarms, emails, ringtones and other system sounds.
We brought together a whole new sound experience for the Meego platform. Henry Daw and a team in London were accountable for rolling these out, so I am very honoured to have led them through this process. Another achievement is implementing localised ringtones for some of our key markets e.g. China, Middle East and India. My team worked hard creating localised ringtones to appeal to different cultures around the world.
5. Describe a typical day in your life as a sound designer at Nokia?
As a Manager, my ultimate goal is to lead the global Sound Design team. It’s essential for me to remove obstacles for the team, so they can really concentrate on their creative work. On each key project I will be the main contact for all our major stakeholders across Communications, Brand, Product Management and Design, to ensure everyone is working together effectively, smoothing out any issues and driving productivity. On a day to day basis, all our Sound Designers will be accountable for their own platform/products with full end to end responsibilities from creative, implementation to testing e.g. a designer will be leading the creative work for all our accessories sounds. If you had a chance to watch the Keynote for Nokia World last week, you may have heard the introductory music and sounds throughout, we have a Sound Designer responsible for leading sound for events.
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6. Any pearls of wisdom that you would be willing to share with aspiring Sound Designers?
Experiment as often as possible, be really active and keep learning. After University, I had to do lots of freelancing, not always being paid that well but I carried on and worked harder and harder and it’s all paid off. Make sure you get yourself online, so you have a strong digital identity and show reel to compliment your CV. When I am recruiting now for Sound Designers, personality is so important. I want to know you are friendly, trustworthy and a great team player, as some of the sound design techniques can be taught quickly.
7. What are some of the joys and challenges in leading highly creative people?
For me, it’s so exciting working with a super performing team and watching them challenge themselves and grow. Right now, one of the key challenges is making sure as Designers, we are all looking outwards at the big creative world outside Nokia to get inspiration, keeping up to date with the latest trends, tools, films, games etc. Sometimes working in a big organization, there is a tendency to just look inwards.
8. If you had a time machine that could take you to a point in the future, where everything you had hoped for in your work is achieved…..What’s it like? What’s happening?
More special adventures and moments with my family and friends every day, outside of work. One of the greatest achievements for me would be winning a Grammy for my music or an Oscar for best Sound Design. For the DJ world, it would be a real honor to do a BBC Radio 1’s Essential Mix, which is one of the highest recognitions in the DJ world.
9. What does Nokia mean to you?
I am pleased with the current challenger attitude in Nokia; this is really helping us in Sound Design. We are able to push boundaries, try new things and achieve things quicker than ever before. In Design, there are great opportunities for us and our organization full of talented people. Right now, the importance of Sound is being leveraged within Nokia, with the new Microsoft partnership. We are working with the talented sound designers at Microsoft, generating innovative ideas for the future, so personally I am excited about the now and the future.
10. Last question! We heard you are a chart topping electronic music producer in Finland, tell us more?
I’m very proud to be releasing my 3rd music album called ‘20’ on November 11th 2011 (Universal Music/Solaris Recordings). It’s called ‘20’ to celebrate my 20 years of DJing. During the years I’ve played around the world in over 20 countries at places like Pacha in Ibiza, Ministry of Sound in London and Tresor in Berlin. Feel free to check out my website if you are interested in learning more about me and hearing about the upcoming launch tour.
Thanks to Tapio for taking time out to talk to us!