As an illustrator ︎ graphic designer ︎ typeface designer ︎ digital designer ︎ executive creative director, Stefán wrestles complex ideas into form, making people feel delighted, inspired, and slightly uncomfortable.

Photo by 장윤화. 2019.

Born and bred in Iceland, Stefán graduated with a BA in Design from Iceland Arts in 1993. After a start in illustrating children’s books and comics, he expanded his range to other mediums: graphic design, art direction, and eventually digital design.

As soon as the internet reached the shores of Reykjavík (circa 1995), Stefán joined the newly launched CNN.com and became the creative director. 

In 2000, Stefán co-founded the design firm Armchair (acquired by digital agency IfThen in 2017) and has directed projects for a wide range of clients from Dolby to The University of Chicago to Coca-Cola.

Stefán is currently executive creative director for IfThen. He continues teaching, public speaking and designing typefaces. The latest releases have been widely used and include Black Slabbath, Cumulus & Foam, and Cinderblock.

CNN.com logo, 1998.

Armchair Tshirt, 2015.

Twenty eight guidelines (and counting):

  1. Think by doing, not by thinking.
  2. You have three seconds. 
  3. What would Lubalin do? 
  4. Exaggerate.
  5. Silences shape the music.
  6. Maximize contast.
  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 irrationally, work practically.
  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 good one.
  21. Everything you create is a footprint.
  22. Recycle rejected work.
  23. Trust your gut.
  24. If you don’t sell the great idea, a lesser one wins.
  25. Everything you create is a part of a system.
  26. Don’t design for your client, design with them.
  27. Never met a great answer, only a great question.
  28. Own your work.

Retrospective at the Atlanta Design Festival. 2015.

© 2019 Stefán Kjartansson. All rights reserved.