About me:

Born and bred in Iceland — I graduated BA in Graphic Design from Iceland University of the Arts.

An early start in illustrating children’s books and comics landed me an internship with Kristín Þorkelsdóttir, expanding my toolbox to art direction, advertising and branding. Armed with a new 14.4 kbit modem the web became my canvas; I relocated to the USA and became CNN.com’s first Executive Creative Director.

In 2000 I co-founded the design firm Armchair — acquired by IfThen in 2018 — and have worked with marketing teams at a wide range of companies, from Dolby to Markforged to Coca-Cola.

Armchair Tshirt, 2015.

My design principles:

  1. Think by doing, not by thinking.
  2. Steal from your heroes. They stole from theirs.
  3. Don’t fear ugly.
  4. Your audience has three seconds.
  5. What would Lubalin do?
  6. Stories have more power than facts.
  7. Push ideas to their limit.
  8. 70% tradition, 20% innovation, 10% experimentation.
  9. People comprehend brands as other people.
  10. Design for more than one sense.
  11. Good is boring.
  12. Ask why, then ask why again, and again.
  13. Design like a chess player.
  14. Silence is equally to the music.
  15. Ideate rapidly. Build with intention.
  16. The best ideas when you’re not trying.
  17. Don’t design for a client. Design with them.
  18. Real innovation comes from inside.
  19. The creative process has two-phases. The closed and the open.
  20. Friends help you shape. Critics sharpen.
  21. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Doll up later.
  22. Build everything from scratch.
  23. Listen to opinions. Trust your instinct.
  24. Don’t simply write words. Design them.
  25. Fight for great ideas but don’t die on hills.
  26. You are what you design.
  27. Make grids but color outside the lines.
  28. Never met a good answer. Only great questions.
  29. Self-publish.

“Retrospective” at the Atlanta Design Festival. 2015.

© 2017-2022 Stefán Kjartansson.
All rights reserved.