I’ve partnered with global brands, grown start-ups, self-published, lectured, and been lucky to collaborate with brilliant people along the way.

Photo by 장윤화. 2019.

Born and bred in Iceland, I graduated BA in Design from Iceland Arts in 1993. After illustrating children’s books and comics, I expanded my range to graphic design, art direction — and as soon as I got my hands on a 14.4 kbit modem — digital design. I moved to the USA, joined the newly launched CNN.com, and became their first creative director.

In 2000, I co-founded the brand design firm Armchair (recently acquired by digital agency IfThen) and have partnered with a wide range of clients from Dolby to Markforged to Coca-Cola.

I'm currently enjoying working as SVP Creative for IfThen. I continue teaching, public speaking, and designing typefaces — the most recent releases include Black Slabbath, Cumulus & Foam, and Cinderblock.

CNN.com logo, 1998.

Armchair Tshirt, 2015.

My twenty-eight guidelines:

  1. Think by doing, not by thinking.
  2. You got three seconds.
  3. What would Lubalin do?
  4. Exaggerate.
  5. Silence is music.
  6. Create an extreme contrast.
  7. 70% tradition and 30% innovation.
  8. Brands are friends.
  9. Start by stealing.
  10. Don’t fear ugly. Beauty is dogma.
  11. Design for all senses.
  12. Good is lazy.
  13. Make grids. Dance inside.
  14. Concept foolishly, execute thoughtfully.
  15. Keep the process open.
  16. Seek innovation from inside.
  17. Friends help shape, critics sharpen.
  18. Creativity is two-phased — closed and open.
  19. Simplify, then doll it up.
  20. Think like a chess player. There’s a great move behind the obvious one.
  21. Everything you make is your footprint.
  22. If a client rejects work, recycle it.
  23. Trust your gut, always.
  24. Sell the hell out of your great ideas (or the lesser win).
  25. Everything you create is a part of a larger whole.
  26. Don’t design for your client, design with them.
  27. There are no answers, only questions.
  28. Make things you can own.

Retrospective at the Atlanta Design Festival. 2015.

© 2019 Stefán Kjartansson. All rights reserved.