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 University of the 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 as 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 and 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 design guidelines:

  1. Think by doing, not by thinking.
  2. Stealing is good, but steal from legends.
  3. Don’t fear ugly. Beauty is dogma.
  4. You have three seconds to wow!
  5. What would Lubalin do?
  6. Minutiae ruins a great story.
  7. Extreme contrast is power.
  8. 70% tradition and 30% innovation.
  9. Humans experience brands as humans.
  10. Design is multisensory.
  11. Good is lazy.
  12. Think like a chess player. The brilliant move is behind the obvious.
  13. Silence and sound have equal importance.
  14. Concept foolishly, execute thoughtfully.
  15. Keep an open mind.
  16. Don’t design for your client, design with them.
  17. Originality comes from the inside.
  18. Creativity is two-phased: closed and open.
  19. Friends help you shape, critics sharpen.
  20. Simplify, then doll it up.
  21. Make everything from scratch. For unused work, safe for later.
  22. Everyone’s opinion matters. You’re designing for everyone.
  23. Trust your gut, always.
  24. Sell the hell out of your great ideas (or the lesser win).
  25. Don’t die on a small hill.
  26. Every little thing was designed.
  27. Everything you make is your footprint.
  28. Make grids. Dance inside.
  29. Your creations will live in an ecosystem.
  30. There are no answers, only questions.
  31. Make things you can own.

Retrospective at the Atlanta Design Festival. 2015.

© 2019 Stefán Kjartansson. All rights reserved.