Tonfisk Finland
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Tonfisk/Tuna fish

In a bilingual country like Finland, using a Swedish word as the name of a Finnish design company, was not out of the ordinary.

Perhaps Brian Keaney, the co-founder of Tonfisk, was on to something by choosing such a remarkable name for his company.  “Tonfisk means tuna fish in Swedish. Finland is a bilingual country. All food labels etc. are written in both Finnish and Swedish” says Brian.”The name was chosen late one Finnish winter night from a can of tuna fish because no other name seemed to fit the values of the company- innovative, personal, Finnish.”

Tonfisk Finland

Brian launched Tonfisk with his classmate Tony Alfstrom in Helsinki in 1999 but later moved the business to Turku in 2007, a city on the south west coast of Finland approximately two hours from Helsinki. The move not only allowed the growing company occupy a larger, more cost effective space, but as an added bonus, the company could be surrounded by Turku’s creative energy – the city jointly held the title of the European Capital of Culture with neighbouring Tallinn in 2011.

Brian, originally from Dublin, Ireland, moved to Finland in 1996 to pursue a master degree in ceramic and glass at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki (known as Aalto University). The WARM tea and coffee set, one of Tonfisk’s iconic items, was Brian’s graduation work.

Tonfisk Finland

INTERVIEW: Brian Keaney, Co-Founder, Tonfisk {Turku}

01 How would you describe the aesthetic of Tonfisk?
Pragmatic and simple with a little twist thrown in. We always try to create something different but which is functional as our slogan is ‘form follows function doesn’t mean all objects have to look the same’

02 Why tableware?
I like working on things which I use everyday

03 How often do you launch new products and what is involved in the design process?
We try to launch 2-3  products a year. Often we first try to assess what product we need and what characteristics are required. Then we begin the design process. As the design moves forward we also begin to take production, logistics,  sales, costs and marketing into account. Several prototypes are generally made. We develop the first prototypes ourselves before then giving the product to our producer for final production text etc. before the final production begins. Generally the whole process takes 9 months to 1.5 years.

Tonfisk Finland

04 Where do you look for inspiration when creating a new product or design? 
Sometimes the inspiration for a new product comes from a function issue which we find has been ignored. Sometimes it comes from a personal desire to fulfill an ambition. Other times a particular shape or effect might have caught our attention and we build a product around it. It can change a lot from product to product. Some products development are quite analytic others much more by feel.

05 Do you entertain at home?
We do a bit with friends.  If living in Finland, coffee always has to be offered. Thus usually the WARM tea & coffee range makes an appearance at some point. Otherwise it changes from occasion to occasion.

Tonfisk Finland

06 Where is Tonfisk sold?
We sell in roughly 20 countries in speciality design stores. We also from our own webshop to Europe and US and Canada.

07 Are there any unique or special traditions in Finland related to entertaining at home that you can share with us? 
In Finland you generally take your shoes off when you go into someone home. No point in bringing in all the snow with you. So you always have to check your socks before you go visiting!

Tonfisk Finland

08 What is next for you?
We are hoping to expand our range over the next couple of years and also expand our network of retailers that more people can have the opportunity to get familiar with our great brand.

Tonfisk Finland


Photo Source: Tonfisk

09 Whose work do you admire in the design world?
I must admit to following very little of what else is happening, as my time is taken up with Tonfisk, my two young children and beautiful wife. But over the years, I have gotten to know a German designer by the name of Olaf Schroeder. I like his work a lot and his analytic ability to unearth usability issues and produce practical solutions. He has done a number of interesting bags and furniture.

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