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Art of


Typography is often seen as the practice of arranging letters to make written language clear and visually appealing. However, this view overlooks a rich tradition of decorative elements like printer’s flowers, flourishes, and ornaments that have been part of typography for centuries. While these elements don’t convey written language per se, they are a part of the broader field of typography, which is concerned with the artful presentation of type in various forms. If we broaden our understanding of typography and view it as a comprehensive field serving multiple purposes, that includes these decorative practices, we can start appreciating typography as a form of art full of expressive potential.

My aim is to highlight this expanded view of typography, found especially in the often joyous pictorial typography—a form of art arranging printing type into decorative patterns or pictorial compositions. This approach challenges conventional rules of typography and pushes the boundaries of what is thought possible with letterpress, transforming it into an artistic tool. I begin with Valto Malmiola, a Finnish typographer from the early 20th century, as he is the only Finnish typographer I know who has extensively experimented with pictorial typography.

There have been others across the globe and through the ages who have experimented with similar unconventional techniques, but their contributions have often been marginalized in typographic history. By writing about these artists and showcasing their work, I hope to offer a new, more playful perspective on what we consider as typography, and to encourage a more inclusive approach to design.

Typographic Portrait of Jean Sibelius Composed Entirely of Brass Rule

In the dimly lit “printing cellar” of Media Museum and Archives Merkki is a remarkable and curious object. It’s a mosaic of tightly arranged brass rule and spacing material, made by Valto Malmiola in 1937. Note, it’s not a single piece of metal, and it’s neither engraved nor etched… it’s thousands of individual metal bits, pieced together by hand, and locked tightly into a frame for printing.

Photo of brass rule and spacers arranged to form a portrait of Jean Sibelius, in a letterpress frame
Figure 1. Forme for the Jean Sibelius print at the Media Museum and Archives Merkki.

When inked and pressed onto paper, it creates an image of the famous Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.

Graphic print of Jean Sibelius' portrait, composed entirely of brass rule
Figure 2. Portrait of Jean Sibelius, composed entirely of brass rule.

But, to me at least, the resulting image itself is not what’s interesting here. After all, it’s a fairly conventional portrait of Sibelius. What’s interesting and what makes the whole thing remarkable is how it’s made and how it came to be. It’s essentially a form of proto-ASCII art: intentionally (mis)using techniques and materials originally intended for printing text to craft complex visual art. What led to its creation? What is it anyway? Where did Malmiola get the idea to use letterpress in such an unconventional way?

The Use of Rules

Malmiola writes about the inspiration for the picture in the Finnish printing arts periodical Kirjapainotaito:

“When our renowned master composer Jean Sibelius turned 70 in 1935, [...] I was struck with a strange dream of trying to replicate his image using impractical typographic methods. I had previously seen pictures "set" with Monotype fonts and decorations in foreign graphic design trade journals, particularly "The Inland Printer", so I decided to try, but not with type and ornament, but with rule.[1]

To give a bit of context, in letterpress printing, rules are strips of metal, often brass or type-cast metal, used for printing lines. They’ve been an integral part of printing since the early 1500’s.

Varying rule styles and thicknesses
Figure 3. Varying rule styles and thicknesses.

Rules are typically used for decoration, as a border around the edges of pages, or to form an eye-catching motif on a book jacket or brochure. By combining rules of different widths, interesting striped borders can be built up, forming a wide variety of tones from pale grey to solid black. Rules also have a functional use as dividers in tables, catalogues, or other printed utilities, adding structure and visual hierarchy.

Yearly wool exports in a table layout, divided by black lines
Figure 4. A common use for brass rule. This is very familiar to us even today: think of spreadsheets.

Instead of using brass rules conventionally, Malmiola used them like building blocks. By carefully arranging rules of varying thicknesses in horizontal and vertical lines, he transformed these simple metal strips into a complex yet coherent picture.

Closeup of the Jean Sibelius forme
Figure 5a. Closeup of the forme shows the individual elements and their positioning.
Closeup of the Jean Sibelius print
Figure 5b. Closeup of the print shows how the picture is formed after printing.

For those unfamiliar with letterpress techniques, or those who have never attempted to do a complex arrangement, the magnitude and complexity of Malmiola’s task might not be immediately apparent.

Each element is carefully chosen or cut neatly into precise lengths and arranged in a way that leaves no air-gaps; the slightest space left unfilled could lead to an unstable structure, making the whole thing unprintable. The level of precision, patience and skill needed is a feat in the world of letterpress printing. How was it made?

The Construction of the Print

To plan the construction, Malmiola experimented with several approaches. He writes that the first attempt was a complete failure which elicited a mix of pity and amusement among his peers. The second attempt fared better. He devised a coding system to classify different types of lines and spaces according to tonal values by measuring the lights and shadows of the reference picture, and marked each line with the resulting string of code. He found the process too strenuous though, abandoning the idea. He also experimented with a “square system”, but doesn’t elaborate further. [2] My guess is that he tried using grid paper to map tonal values.

Unfortunately Malmiola doesn’t reveal his final method, but according to Paavo Haavi, who worked with Malmiola at K. K. Printing, a one-to-one photographic enlargement of the reference picture was used as an aid in the typesetting process[3]. Malmiola likely based his picture on a photo of Jean Sibelius that appeared on the cover of Suomen Kuvalehti -magazine in 1925.

Cover of Suomen Kuvalehti magazine has a portrait of Jean Sibelius
Figure 7. Cover of Suomen Kuvalehti -magazine which Malmiola used as a reference.

What’s clear though, just by observing the picture, is that Malmiola used what’s essentially a manual half-toning process by plotting the reference picture into tonal values, which he then painstakingly constructed with brass rule, piece by piece; a process that is typically done by a photographic screen or some automated system. Where the model picture required a black area, Malmiola used a thick rule stacked tightly next to each other, and where a gray tone was required, he alternated between fine rules and spacers, creating illusions of various gray tones.

Closeup of the Jean Sibelius print
Figure 6. Closeup of the face shows how the various tones are constructed

The final print measures just 28 × 37,5 cm (~11" × 14.7" in.) but is crafted using a staggering 30 000 ciceros of brass rule [4] (which equals to around 135 meters or ~442 feet) as well as some spacers and quadrants for the white space.

Haavi also recounts that Malmiola went to present the print to Sibelius, who reportedly exclaimed, “Tehän se vasta taiteilija olette!”[5], translating roughly to “You are truly the artist here!” Whether this was sincere or said tongue-in-cheek is not clear, but Sibelius signed the picture and gave permission to include his signature in the prints, suggesting at least some level of validation and recognition for Malmiola.

Malmiola announced the finished piece in Kirjapainotaito and sold the prints for 10 mk (equivalent to about 4 € today, adjusted for inflation). Given the relatively small size of the Finnish typography scene at the time, there weren’t many who would truly appreciate such a print. The potential for profit was likely limited, and as an incentive, Malmiola sold the prints “for the benefit of war orphans”[6]. Furthermore, during wartime in Finland, Malmiola was penniless and faced ongoing challenges in selling his prints. As Haavi notes, he resorted to selling them on the streets of Helsinki and through newspaper ads, a misfortune that continued for years.

After Malmiola’s death, the original letterpress forme of the Sibelius-print was donated to the hand typesetters guild, and subsequently to the printing industry workers’ trade division, the Helsinki Print Workers’ Association (HKY). HKY sold prints, and the proceeds were used for the benefit of enhancing the professional skills of young people working in printing. In 2015, HKY loaned the Sibelius forme to the Media museum and archive Merkki’s printing cellar, where it remains on public display.

Malmiola’s Other Prints

In addition to the Sibelius-print, Malmiola made at least four others.

1. Bullfinches pecking at rowan tree berries, print on the cover of Kirjapainotaito in 1938

In 1938, Malmiola created a print featuring bullfinches pecking at rowan tree berries for the 30th anniversary cover of the Kirjapainotaito magazine. Malmiola explained that the tree represents “the tree of professional knowledge”, while the birds symbolize the friends and readers associated with the Kirjapainotaito magazine. [7]

Cover of Kirjapainotaito -magazine is a graphic print of a birds eating berries, composed of brass rule
Figure 8. Cover of Kirjapainotaito for February 1938

He writes about the making of it as follows:

“In this context, we dare to say a few words about the construction of this issue’s cover. Firstly, such a practice should not be pursued by anyone, but since people in the world have so many hobbies… The rowan berries are monotype ornaments the size of cicero em, turned upside down and vaguely shaped with a file to intentionally create a ragged feel. In nature, the birds’ backs are blue-gray, but by using semi-bold lines, the illusion of a third color is evident. […] The slightly incorrect alignment of colors is intentional and enhances the image’s ‘atmospheric content,’ and poor printing, if one generally knows how to print poorly, gives the picture a piquant effect. It remains for the reader to make the final judgment on the validity of the moods elicited by the ‘image’. [8]

To me, whereas the Sibelius print is almost dull in its precise imitation of the reference image, this artwork manages to play up the strengths of the technique. The inherent limitations in the material qualities of the letterpress, result in the sharp and square angles that make up the twigs, giving the print a viscerally digital — almost pixelated — look. What at the time was probably perceived as clumsy, now seems almost strikingly contemporary. There is a nice balance between the rigid mechanical precision of typographic forms and the organic natural forms of the tree and birds, giving it a certain charm that’s lacking in the Sibelius-print.

According to Haavi, the forme for this print was disassembled after printing to release the material back into use.[9]

Cover of Kirjapainotaito -magazine is a graphic print of a birds eating berries, composed of brass rule
Figure 9. An original print can be found at the offices of Helsingin Kirjatyöntekijäin Yhdistys ry.

2. Lighthouse, print on the cover of Kirjapainotaito in 1939

At this moment in 1939, Malmiola’s pictorial typography had become well known among the readers of Kirjapainotaito. However, this print, as it appeared on the cover of the November 1939 issue, is a lot simpler than the others, using only horizontal rules.

Cover of Kirjapainotaito -magazine is a graphic print of a lighthouse and a ship far in the horizon
Figure 10. Cover of Kirjapainotaito for February 1938

The magazine includes a short description of the cover:

“The composer of the structure explains that the image was derived from the theme ‘the waves of time strike harshly.’ The line material used is from monotype casting, which explains why the image surface could be modified by even breaking the material, something that, of course, would not be acceptable or even permissible with ordinary lines. [10]

It’s worth noting here, that for creating this image, Malmiola used a Monotype machine, instead of composing the image with pre-made brass rules, like in the Sibelius-print. He programmed the machine to cast custom-sized rules from type metal, an alloy comprising lead, antimony, and tin. Unlike brass, type metal was bulk material and reusable. This meant that any errors could be rectified by melting the metal down for reuse, making it a more cost-effective option than the expensive brass. The process, however, still demanded a lof of manual effort in hand-setting type and trimming the rules to the exact needed lengths.

3. Carradale-print, 1942

In 1942 Malmiola finished another piece to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Finnish printing art.

A black and white print of a 3 masted ship, composed with various horizontal rules
Figure 11. Carradale, composed with 325 meters of Monotype rule

As far as I know, this is Malmiola’s largest print, measuring 45 × 53 cm (~18" × 21" in.) and uses an astonishing 72 000 ciceros of rule (around 325 meters or ~1 065 feet), and took Malmiola 140 hours to complete.[11]

Recently, an original copy of the Carradale -print appeared at an auction, which had an added text printed at the bottom of the print. This text, absent in later copies, reveals that the original was composed using Monotype rules. Like the earlier lighthouse print, this was also made out of only horizontal lines; possibly making the construction much faster than the Sibelius-print, which mixed both horizontal and vertical rules.

Closeup of the print, showing the top of the ship’s mast
Figure 13. Close-up of the print
Closeup of the print, showing various tones of the ocean
Figure 14. Close-up of the print

Even though the print was made with a Monotype machine, allowing for the possible reuse of the material, Malmiola’s intention was to preserve the layout, not to melt it down. This is evidenced by the fact that the type metal needed for the construction of the print was provided by the Valtioneuvoston kirjapaino (Government Printing Office), and not by Malmiola’s own employer, K. K. Printing, who probably lacked the required lead material (or the will to give it). Unfortunately, an unforeseen accident resulted in its melting: according to Haavi, the forme was destroyed when an apprentice at the printing house dropped it on the floor.[12]

Photograph of the Carradale -ship
Figure 12. The original photograph

The print is based on a photo by Allan C. Green of a four-masted steel barque named Carradale (which Malmiola incorrectly called a frigate), built in 1889. In 1914 the ship was sold to Finnish shipowner J. Tengström, and the photo appeared in various magazines at that time (see for example 1922 Nuori Voima № 48). [13]

4. Forest-print, 1943

I don’t know much about the creation of this print, but I saw it for the first time when I visited the offices of Helsingin Kirjatyöntekijäin Yhdistys ry in Helsinki. This print also uses only horizontal rules, but the construction is much less precise than any of the others, resulting in some charming raggedness, which works well with the gloomy moon-lit forest scene.

A framed print of a gloomy moon-lit forest, made with horizontal type rules
Figure 15. This print by Malmiola is displayed at the offices of Helsingin Kirjatyöntekijäin Yhdistys ry

Malmiola’s Inspiration for the Technique

Foreign typographic journals were read eagerly by many Finnish typographers, bringing new ideas and practices across borders. In the late 1920’s, pictorial typography had emerged as a new trend in Germany. This method of producing images quickly became a hot topic in typographic trade journals. One such instance of the broader conversation was Arthur Grams’ article “Das Buchdrucker als Architekt” (“The Printer as an Architect”) in Typographische Mitteilungen in July 1929. This article captures the ethos of pictorial typography, emphasizing the untapped potential of elementary forms in typesetting:

“Most colleagues are simply unaware of the wealth of forms, particularly elementary forms, concealed within the typesetting case. Yet, it is in these elementary forms that the full and grand allure of picture composition truly emerges; the elementary forms render it an expressive medium for the new demands of the era. They may occasionally appear somewhat grotesque; however, this should not discourage one from exploring their subtleties. We must endeavor to continuously uncover new facets in picture composition, because the elements it comprises are our elements: type! Type belongs to the printer! That is the essence and purpose of picture composition; it is from this perspective that one must consider the matter.[14]

Type specimen of geometric shapes, with blocky human figures as examples of its use
Figure 16. A 1923 German typographic trade journal showcasing the new Silhouette type ornament series by Ludwig Wagner Type Foundry. It was used primarily for pictorial typesetting.

This new style garnered attention beyond Germany, and inspired typographers like Valto Malmiola. As early as 1933, Malmiola experimented with this style, and advocated for it use in an article titled “Yritys ‘kujeilla’ asiallisesti” (“An Attempt to do ‘Trickery’ Earnestly”) in Kirjapainotaito for December 1933[15]. He agreed with the sentiment that typographic elements are not mere tools for text, but instruments of artistic expression. This early experiment with pictorial typesetting likely inspired Malmiola to attempt a more ambitious project later on, leading to the creation of the Sibelius-print.

A black and white page from a magazine including text and simple pictorial typesetting related to dusting carpets and interior decoration.
Figure 17. Malmiola’s early experimentations in pictorial typesetting.

In 1937, when Malmiola wrote about the creation of the Sibelius-print in Kirjapainotaito, he mentioned having seen pictures typeset with Monotype fonts and decorations in The Inland Printer.[16] This information sparked my curiosity to know what picture he might have seen. Fortunately, The Inland Printer’s archives are available online at the Internet Archive. There are not many pictures set with Monotype fonts that would match the year 1935 or 1934, but I found this portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt, composed of 17 000 monotype characters in the May 1935 edition:

A mail advertisement printed in black and white, with a portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt, composed of 17,000 monotype characters
Figure 18. Franklin D. Roosevelt, composed of 17 000 monotype characters in The Inland Printer for May, 1935

Take note that this image is not created with brass rule, but with dots and colons. The gray tones are not achieved by purely half-toning optical illusion, but by having a tinted background (originally green) in the shape of the head[17].

While this image aligns with Malmiola’s description, I suspect his actual inspiration might have been something else. In January 1936, Graafikko, another Finnish trade journal, featured work by a Viennese printer, Carl Fasol. Fasol had developed a method of printing he called “Stigmatype”, which resembles the style of Malmiola’s prints, already as early as 1860. The first products of this method were introduced to the public in 1867 in Paris through a floral piece and in Vienna through a depiction of Gutenberg. Both images, especially in typographic circles, attracted attention and recognition as an innovative art form.[18] Fasol turned this into a series of Album for Printing Art, and traveled around Europe, including Finland, to sell them.[19].

A print of Johannes Gutenberg’s house made with horizontal type rule
Figure 19. Carl Fasol’s print of Johannes Gutenber’s house, made almost 70 years before Malmiola’s Sibelius print.

As a side note: the article also mentions some of Fasol’s prints were donated to Suomen Kirjapainomuseo (Finnish Printing Press Museum), which never actually existed, but the material is currently in the archives of Tekniikan Museo (The Museum of Technology). I went to look for the prints, but sadly couldn’t find them.

Fasol’s art deserves an in-depth article in itself. Beyond Fasol, there are many other typographers who have used rules and other type elements to create pictorial typography in various delightful ways. Just to name a few, there’s Georg Wolffger in 1670, Monpied and Moulinet in ~1840’s and a whole trend of bending and twisting rules into all kinds of shapes in the 1870 – 1890’s. A comprehensive exploration of this phenomena would be required to put Malmiola’s work into proper context, but falls outside the scope of this post.

What’s interesting, is that these early practitioners of pictorial typography had recognized the potential of using small, modular, pixel-like elements in a sequence to construct an image. It laid the groundwork for how we understand and manipulate images today, showing that complex visuals can be made from simple, repeating parts. These early techniques were the building blocks for modern digital imaging, influencing everything from 4-color offset printing to bitmap graphics.

A print of Lenin made with horizontal type rule
Figure 20. Otto Ellandi’s rule portrait of Lenin, 1970

But... Why?

Experimenting with pictorial typesetting was not always met with enthusiasm. At the time, it was often dismissed as mere trickery or childish dabbling, not just by traditionalists, but also by the rising avantgarde of typography. Pictorial typesetting had become a typographic trend in 1930’s Germany, but Jan Tschichold’s hugely influential book The New Typography, published in 1928, strictly forbade the use of any decorative elements or pictorial compositions made with type elements.

“The New Typography has absolutely nothing to do with ‘pictorial’ typesetting (Bildsatz) which has become fashionable recently. In almost all its examples it is the opposite of what we are aiming for.
— Jan Tschichold in The New Typography [20]

Traditionalists, on the other hand, advocated for typography to follow the established norms and styles of classical printing, emphasizing clarity and readability. V. A. Vuorinen, an esteemed typographer and a member of the Kirjapainotaito editorial team, voiced his opinion in an article written in April 1934 titled “Latomisvälinen kuvittamisesta” (“Illustrating with typesetting tools”). In it, he stated that since typesetters usually lack formal artistic training, they should stick to what they know: simple typographic layouts.

“Finally, it should be mentioned that, in my opinion, a cobbler should stick to his last. Illustration is such a demanding task that not everyone is capable of it. At least I have come to the conviction that if a typesetter uses all his means and strength to produce good, proper typography, the value and artistry of the work becomes many times better than just dreaming of images. […] Let pictorial typesetting be seen as a pastime that can be indulged in between more important tasks, but when it’s necessary to produce something quickly, let’s work with letters and proper arrangements if there are no ready-made picture plates available, and most often leave the doomed-to-fail typesetting with illustrative means to the side. [21]

Both the avantgarde and traditionalists viewed typographic experimentation, like what Malmiola was doing, as frivolous or detracting from the primary purpose of type: clear communication.

Vuorio’s opinion piece might have been written as an indirect rebut to Malmiola’s article “Yritys ‘kujeilla‘ asiallisesti” (“An Attempt to do ‘Trickery‘ Earnestly”) in Kirjapainotaito for December 1933[22]. In it, Malmiola suggests that the method of creating pictorial images from type elements should be taken seriously by his peers. But I wonder if dismissive writings and opinions, like that of Vuorio’s, affected Malmiola, as he often downplayed his art, referring to his practice as merely a “hobby”. Did he do so to shield himself and his work from being harshly judged as unprofessional by the standards of the typographical community?

Malmiola emphasized that this kind of work “ought to be executed using straightforward methods; the design should be presented with just a few outlines, and importantly, there needs to be a hint of humor, as too serious an attempt might end up being inadvertently comical.” These thoughts seem somewhat unexpected, especially when contrasted with Malmiola’s solemn portrayal of Sibelius. I suspect that Malmiola wanted to lend gravitas to the technique, by deliberately selecting a subject that radiates dignity: a portrait of the renowned composer Jean Sibelius on his 70th birthday, thereby proving that his method had real potential for serious and respectful artistic expression.

Whatever the case may be, Malmiola’s dedication appears to have been driven more by passion, curiosity, and enjoyment rather than by financial or other superficial motives. As noted by Haavi, at that time, many typesetters, including Malmiola, took great pride in their profession and were interested in the discourse happening on an international level[23]. Trade journals, such as Kirjapainotaito, were full of lively discussions of typographic style, and foreign journals were read keenly. Malmiola was a frequent contributor to Kirjapainotaito, writing short articles and essays, especially about pictorial typesetting. In April 1933 Malmiola wrote an article titled “Mielikuvitus latojan apuna” (“Imagination as an Aid to a Typesetter’s Skills”) where he argued that typesetting, while not a traditional art, requires imagination and creativity to produce exceptional work, and most importantly, to find joy in the work[24]. This seems to have been the case for Malmiola, as he worked on his “hobby” during his free time and quieter work periods.

However, I get a sense that he wanted to share his artistic achievement with a wider audience, to demonstrate (his) capabilities of letterpress printing beyond traditional bounds, and to contribute to the field he was evidently passionate about. The Sibelius-print was showcased at the 1938 International Handicraft Exhibition in Berlin [25], and was featured in the Printing Art Quarterly -magazine [26], alongside the works of A. M. Cassandre, J. C. Leyendecker and László Moholy-Nagy.

It is likely that Malmiola’s art would not have materialized without the backing of his foreman Atte Syvänne, the technical director of the K. K. Printing, and member of Kirjapainotaito editorial staff. Under his leadership, the K. K. Printing had evolved into a prominent and well known general printing house in Finland. The workers there were accomplished professionals who excelled in typesetting and printing competitions. Syvänne was known for encouraging his employees, and it’s apparent, that in his role as Malmiola’s supervisor (or as the overseer of Malmiola’s own supervisors), he actively supported Malmiola’s interest in pictorial typesetting.[27]

It’s also worth noting that not many foremen in the printing industry would have allowed the use of valuable resources, such as 30 000 ciceros worth of brass rule, for personal “hobby” projects. Syvänne’s willingness to permit Malmiola to use these resources for his artistic experiments demonstrates a level of support that would be rare in any commercial business, and shows just how passionate Syvänne was about the art of printing.

Syvänne also had a go at it, as exemplified by his work on the cover of Kirjapainotaito in June 1936, a year before Malmiola’s Sibelius-print. This might have influenced and inspired Malmiola in his own typographic experiments.

Cover of Kirjapainotaito -magazine is a graphic print of a sunset, composed of brass rule
Figure 21. Atte Syvänne’s cover for Kirjapainotaito -magazine is made with brass rule

Valto Malmiola’s Short Biography

As a morbid anthithesis to the playfulness of his work, during my research of Malmiola I found out that he was a supporter for Nazi ideology as evidenced in his article “Työn aateluus,” (source available on request). This of course casts a shadow on his legacy and I debated for a long time if I should even write about him. But, because I already sunk a lot of time into this research, his art is unique in the context of (Finnish) typography, and his work is part of a bigger typographic phenomena, I decided to go ahead anyway. While his work in pictorial typesetting remains a fascinating subject, it’s important to view his person with a critical understanding of this context. That said, fuck nazis and fuck Malmiola, may he rot in hell.

Figure 22. A portrait of Valto Malmiola, painted by Topi Valkonen in 1948. The Sibelius-print hangs in the background. Displayed at the offices of HKY.

Valto Malmiola (1893–1950) was a Finnish typographer and made a long career at K.K. printing house.

1893: Born in Hämeenlinna 25. 10. 1893. Originally known as Johan Waldemar Malmberg.
1914–1917: Moved to Helsinki in his youth, learned typesetting at K. F. Puromiehen’s printing house.
1917-1918: Briefly worked at Huvudstadsbladets nya tryckeri.
1918: Sentenced to four years in a penal colony for “aiding in treason.”
1930: Participated in a study trip and acted as secretary with the Taideteollisuuskoulu’s (School of Art and Design) graphic evening course.
1931: Won both first and second places in a typesetting competition hosted by Kirjapainotaito magazine.
1933: Published multiple articles in Kirjapainotaito,“Mielikuvitus latojan työtaidon apuna”, “Ne latojattarien ohjelmat”, ‘Eräs puoli “ohjelma” -kysymyksestä’, ‘Yritys “kujeilla” asiallisesti’
1933: Involved in establishing a café-restaurant for graphic artists, featuring international magazines and books.
1935: Legally changed his name to Valto Malmiola.
1937: Created the Sibelius portrait.
1938: Displayed the Sibelius portrait at the International Handicraft Exhibition in Berlin.
1938–1943: Produced various prints including the Bird print (1938), Lighthouse print (1939), Carradale print (1942), and Forest print (1943).
1950: Passed away in Helsinki on October 11, 1950, after a long illness.

His son Orla Valdemar Malmiola (1919 -1995) worked as a printing house foreman.


I want to thank Markku Kuusela, a researcher at the Media Museum and Archives Merkki, and typesetter Juhani “Jussi” Lahtinen for their invaluable assistance in my research. Thanks also to Grafia ry for awarding me a grant that made this research possible. Additionally, I am thankful to Emilia Västi, the Collection Manager at The Museum of Technology, for her help in searching for the elusive Carl Fasol print in their archives. Lastly, special thanks to Gladys Camilo for proofreading the article.

Image sources

  • Figure 1. Malmiola, Valto. Sibelius. 1937. Letterpress forme of brass rule and spacing material. Photograph by Heikki Lotvonen, January 2023.
  • Figure 2. Malmiola, Valto. Sibelius. 1937. Letterpress print, 28 × 37,5 cm. Photograph by Heikki Lotvonen, December 2023.
  • Figure 3. Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 2, Issue 22 (27 October 1888), Design in typography. — Rules | NZETC. (n.d.).
  • Figure 4. Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 2, Issue 22 (27 October 1888), Design in typography. — Rules | NZETC. (n.d.).
  • Figure 5a. Malmiola, Valto. Sibelius. 1937. Letterpress forme of brass rule and spacing material. Photograph by Heikki Lotvonen, January 2023.
  • Figure 5b. Malmiola, Valto. Sibelius. 1937. Letterpress print, 28 × 37,5 cm. Photograph by Heikki Lotvonen, December 2023.
  • Figure 6. Malmiola, Valto. Sibelius. 1937. Letterpress print, 28 × 37,5 cm. Photograph by Heikki Lotvonen, December 2023.
  • Figure 7. Helander, Ivar Rafael. Portrait of Jean Sibelius on his 60th birthday. Cover of Suomen Kuvalehti, 05.12.1925, nro 49, Kansalliskirjaston digitaaliset aineistot
  • Figure 8. Malmiola, Valto. Bullfinches. 1938. Cover of Kirjapainotaito : graafillinen aikakauslehti, 01.02.1938, nro 2,Kansalliskirjaston digitaaliset aineistot
  • Figure 9. Malmiola, Valto. Bullfinches. 1938. Letterpress print. Photograph by Heikki Lotvonen, December 2023.
  • Figure 10. Malmiola, Valto. Lighthouse. 1939. Cover of Kirjapainotaito : graafillinen aikakauslehti, 01.11.1939, nro 11, Kansalliskirjaston digitaaliset aineistot
  • Figure 11. Malmiola, Valto. Carradale. 1942. Letterpress print, 45 × 53 cm. Photograph by Heikki Lotvonen, December 2023.
  • Figure 12. Carradale (ship). (n.d.). John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.
  • Figure 13. Malmiola, Valto. Carradale. 1942. Letterpress print, 45 × 53 cm. Photograph by Heikki Lotvonen, December 2023.
  • Figure 14. Malmiola, Valto. Carradale. 1942. Letterpress print, 45 × 53 cm. Photograph by Heikki Lotvonen, December 2023.
  • Figure 15. Malmiola, Valto. Untitled. 1943. Letterpress print. Photograph by Heikki Lotvonen, December 2023.
  • Figure 16. Malmiola, Valto. Yritys "kujeilla" asiallisesti.. Illustrations in Kirjapainotaito : graafillinen aikakauslehti, 01.11.1933, nro 11, s. 18, Kansalliskirjaston digitaaliset aineistot
  • Figure 16. Dresden, S. (n.d.). Typographische Mitteilungen, 20.1923, p. 90,
  • Figure 18. Inland Printer/American Lithographer. 1935-05: Volume 95, Issue 2.
  • Figure 19. Fasol, Karl. Das Gutenberg-Haus in Mainz. In Diesem Hause Errichtete Johann Gutenberg Mit Fust Im Jahre 1450 Eine Gemeinschaftliche Druckerei, Welche Später von Gutenberg Allein Betrieben Wurde 1860,
  • Figure 20. Otto Ellandi Отто Элланди. Ellandi, Otto. 1985. Small book. Photograph by Heikki Lotvonen, December 2023.
  • Figure 21. Syvänne, Atte. 1936. Cover of Kirjapainotaito : graafillinen aikakauslehti, 01.06.1936, nro 6, s. 1,, Kansalliskirjaston digitaaliset aineistot
  • Figure 22. Valkonen, Topi. Malmiola työn äärellä. 1948. Oil on canvas. HKY offices, Helsinki. Photograph by Heikki Lotvonen, December 2023.

  1. Kirjapainotaito : graafillinen aikakauslehti, 01.11.1937, nro 11, s. 38 Kansalliskirjaston digitaaliset aineistot ↩︎

  2. Kirjapainotaito : graafillinen aikakauslehti, 01.11.1937, nro 11, s. 38 Kansalliskirjaston digitaaliset aineistot ↩︎

  3. Haavi, Paavo. Interview by Jussi Lahtinen. Notes provided by Markku Kuusela and communicated via email to Heikki Lotvonen. March 28, 2022. ↩︎

  4. Haavi, Paavo. Interview by Jussi Lahtinen. Notes provided by Markku Kuusela and communicated via email to Heikki Lotvonen. March 28, 2022. ↩︎

  5. Haavi, Paavo. Interview by Jussi Lahtinen. Notes provided by Markku Kuusela and communicated via email to Heikki Lotvonen. March 28, 2022. ↩︎

  6. Grafiskt blad, Walto Malmiola, Jean Sibelius, tryckt signatur, 37x27,5. Ej signerad - 1342 9028 - Metropol Auktioner. (n.d.). ↩︎

  7. Kirjapainotaito : graafillinen aikakauslehti, 01.02.1938, nro 2, s. 15 Kansalliskirjaston digitaaliset aineistot ↩︎

  8. Kirjapainotaito : graafillinen aikakauslehti, 01.02.1938, nro 2, s. 16, Kansalliskirjaston digitaaliset aineistot ↩︎

  9. Haavi, Paavo. Interview by Jussi Lahtinen. Notes provided by Markku Kuusela and communicated via email to Heikki Lotvonen. March 28, 2022. ↩︎

  10. Kirjapainotaito : graafillinen aikakauslehti, 01.11.1939, nro 11, s. 27, Kansalliskirjaston digitaaliset aineistot ↩︎

  11. Lahtinen, Juhani. Käsinlatoja: Kadonnut Ammattikunta : Muistoja Ja Muistelmia Helsingissä., 2006. ↩︎

  12. Haavi, Paavo. Interview by Jussi Lahtinen. Notes provided by Markku Kuusela and communicated via email to Heikki Lotvonen. March 28, 2022. ↩︎

  13. Frank Hellsten, Flickr — Accessed 02.01.2024 ↩︎

  14. Dresden, S. (n.d.-b). Typographische Mitteilungen. July 1929. ↩︎

  15. Kirjapainotaito : graafillinen aikakauslehti, 01.11.1933, nro 11, s. 12, Kansalliskirjaston digitaaliset aineistot ↩︎

  16. Kirjapainotaito : graafillinen aikakauslehti, 01.11.1937, nro 11, s. 38 Kansalliskirjaston digitaaliset aineistot ↩︎

  17. Inland Printer/American Lithographer. 1935-05: Volume 95, Issue 2. ↩︎

  18. Österreichische Buchdrucker-Zeitung : Wochenblatt für sämmtliche graphische Zweige ; Organ des Graphischen Club in Wien, F. Jasper, 1873, ↩︎

  19. Graafikko, 01.01.1936, nro 1, s. 16, Kansalliskirjaston digitaaliset aineistot ↩︎

  20. The new typography : a handbook for modern designers : Tschichold, Jan, p. 70, Internet Archive ↩︎

  21. Kirjapainotaito : graafillinen aikakauslehti, 01.04.1934, nro 4, s. 16 Kansalliskirjaston digitaaliset aineistot ↩︎

  22. Kirjapainotaito : graafillinen aikakauslehti, 01.11.1933, nro 11, s. 12, Kansalliskirjaston digitaaliset aineistot ↩︎

  23. Haavi, Paavo. Interview by Jussi Lahtinen. Notes provided by Markku Kuusela and communicated via email to Heikki Lotvonen. March 28, 2022. ↩︎

  24. Kirjapainotaito : graafillinen aikakauslehti, 01.04.1933, nro 4, s. 13, Kansalliskirjaston digitaaliset aineistot ↩︎

  25. Helsingin Sanomat, 15.03.1938, nro 72, s. 9, Kansalliskirjaston digitaaliset aineistot ↩︎

  26. PRINTING ART QUARTERLY. Chicago: Dartnell, 1938 [Volume 67, Number 3], ↩︎

  27. Haavi, Paavo. Interview by Jussi Lahtinen. Notes provided by Markku Kuusela and communicated via email to Heikki Lotvonen. March 28, 2022. ↩︎