The 2020 Diploma made by Matilda Ruta and Maja Zetterberg

Creating the 2020 Diploma

The diploma for this year’s ALMA laureate, Baek Heena, was created by the illustrators Matilda Ruta and Maja Zetterberg. Here, they talk about their artistic process and how they approached the assignment.

As an illustrator, Matilda Ruta has worked on all kinds of projects, and she is set to release her fourth picture book in August. But this was her first ALMA diploma. By contrast, it was the sixth diploma for illustrator Maja Zetterberg, who creates the text and other elements that accompany the diploma picture. Maja is also the one who letters the laureate name and the jury citation.

How did you approach the assignment?

Matilda: “The moment I learned it was Baek Heena, and saw her fantastic universes, I knew I wanted to do watercolor collage. It’s a method I was familiar with, because I’ve used it on sculptures in the past. And it occurred to me that paper cutouts might suit her, because they are slow and painstaking and require a lot of craftsmanship. Coming up with the subject was harder. I got artist’s block. But I ran an idea past some artists who had done diplomas in past years and that got the wheels turning. The image I came up with is my own interpretation of characters from several of Baek Heena’s books. They’re flying out of the picture toward the viewer. I wanted lots of depth and movement, since that is such a big part of her visual language. To emphasize the three-dimensionality I lifted the characters slightly from the page.

Maja: Working on the ALMA diploma is one of my absolute favorite assignments. I always read and look at the laureate’s books and I try to design the text in a way that conveys the feeling of their work. I suggested that we write Baek Heena’s name using the Korean alphabet, since Korean is her native language. I watched YouTube tutorials about how to form the Korean letters and how the writing system works. Then I looked at various typefaces and saw how her name looked. I think different systems of writing are really exciting.

Creating the diploma was a two-step process. First, Matilda completed the picture. This set the frame for the rest of the design. Then it was Maja’s turn to create typography that worked with the Picture.

“I sent over scraps of the painted paper I used, and some of the ‘leftover’ visual elements. Then Maja did the typography, in a way I would never have thought of. She came up with something really wonderful,” says Matilda.

“Matilda chose to use a collage technique, so I continued that theme and did Baek Heena’s name in the same technique. The rest of the text is written in chalk, which is something Baek Heena actually uses in several of her books,” says Maja.

What is your impression of Baek Heena’s books?

Maja: Most of all, I like the way that her imagination runs free, even as she pays such close attention to things that are very human, like loneliness and vulnerability.

Matilda: I think she seems brave and true. Loyal to children. My sense is that when she creates, she enters into her own world completely, with no compromises. That’s a beautiful thing.

The diploma will be presented to Baek Heena at the ALMA award ceremony in May 2021.

® Matilda Ruta
® Matilda Ruta


® Matilda Ruta

® Matilda Ruta
® Matilda Ruta


® Maja Zetterberg


® Maja Zetterberg