Japanese designer creates illustration for Finland’s baby boxes

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Aya Iwaya shows a Finnish baby box featuring her design in Tokyo.

An illustration created by a Japanese designer adorns Finland’s maternity packages, which expectant mothers can receive for free from the Finnish government.

The starter kits for families with newborns contain items such as clothes, a picture book and a thermometer, and the items come in a box that can also be used as a baby bed.

The illustration on the box changes from time to time. A design by Aya Iwaya, 30, was selected in 2017 and her illustration adorns the box from 2022, marking the first time a Japanese designer has created an illustration for the Finnish innovation.

The baby boxes marked their 85th anniversary in 2022 as the municipal maternity grant law was established in 1937.

Baby boxes with Iwaya’s design feature bears, horses and swans.

“I imagined a Finnish society where any family can live without being isolated in the country’s beautiful nature and the four seasons,” said Iwaya. “I expressed the joy of life by depicting various animals.”

After graduating from a high school in Tokyo, Iwaya entered an art university in Finland in 2010 and studied design there for eight years. She won the gold prize for young creatives at The Best of Finnish Advertising and Design competition in 2015.

Iwaya’s parents divorced when she was young and she was raised in a single-parent household. Finland’s generous social security policies, including free education through university impressed Iwaya because of her background.

“The maternity package program symbolizes efforts that celebrate the birth of children. I’m honored that my design was selected,” said Iwaya, who currently works in Japan.

The maternity package can be traced back to the efforts of a volunteer organization that provided hand-sewn baby clothes and other items to needy families in 1922, according to Kela, Finland’s social insurance institution.

In Finland, mothers can receive a baby box or €170 (about ¥24,000) when they give birth. About 95% of first-time mothers choose the maternity package over the cash handout.