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), an opportunity in Atlanta led Stefán to join CNN.com as 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 continues designing widely used typefaces. The latest releases have been Black Slabbath, Cumulus & Foam, and Cinderblock.

CNN.com logo, 1998.

Armchair Tshirt, 2015.

Useful Strategies:

  1. Think by doing, not by thinking.

  2. Three seconds. That’s how long you have to capture attention.

  3. Exaggerate.

  4. What would Lubalin do? Have an inspiration and don’t fall short.

  5. Silences. They are as important as the music iteself. Without negative there is no positive.

  6. Extreme contrast helps with visual interest.

  7. Good design is 70% tradition and 30% innovation. This also applies to your life.

  8. People viscerally experience brands as if they were other people.

  9. Steal. Remix & combine genres for suprising results.

  10. Ugly, Don’t fear it. Beauty is trite; a socially conditioned commodity.

  11. Design for as many senses as your medium allows: Image, words, sound, motion.

  12. Good is boring. Don’t be boring.

  13. Make grids, but dance on them.

  14. Dream big, but work practically.

  15. Keep your process open, don’t commit until the 11th hour.

  16. Critics. Have friends shape your work, and critics to sharpen.

  17. Distill, don’t doll it up.

  18. Chess. Think like a chess player: See a good move, look for a better.

  19. Everything you create is a footprint.

  20. Never throw anything away, put it aside and use for later.

  21. Trust your intuition.

  22. If you don’t fight for a great idea, a bad one will take root.

  23. When you’ve created a piece, you’ve started or added to a visual ecosystem.

  24. Design for your clients, but also with them.

  25. There are no great answers, only great questions.

  26. Creativity is a two phased process: First closed, second open. 

Retrospective at the Atlanta Design Festival. 2015.

© 2019 Stefán Kjartansson. All rights reserved.