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 six approaches that guide my work:

  1. Think by doing, not by thinking.
  2. You have three seconds. You’ve lost your audience by the fourth.
  3. What would Lubalin do? 
  4. Exaggerate.
  5. Silences are as important as the music. (Negative space shapes the positive.)
  6. Extreme contrast is power.
  7. Design is 70% tradition and 30% innovation. This also applies to your life.
  8. People treat brands as they do friends.
  9. Don’t be afraid to steal. (Let vigor, synthesizing and remixing render it original.)
  10. Don’t fear ugly. Beauty is dogma.
  11. Design for all senses. Image, words, sound, motion.
  12. Good is lazy. Great takes effort.
  13. Make grids. Dance inside.
  14. Dream irrationally, work practically.
  15. Keep the process open. Don’t commit to an idea until you’re forced to.
  16. Choose trusted friends to help shape, and critics to sharpen.
  17. Creativity is a two-phased process, the closed, and the open.
  18. Simplify, then doll it up.
  19. Think like a chess player. There’s a great move behind the obvious good one.
  20. Everything you create is a footprint.
  21. Recycle rejected work for later.
  22. Trust your gut. Always.
  23. Sell the hell out of a great idea. If not, you’ll end up with a lesser one.
  24. Everything you create is a part of a larger whole.
  25. Design for your client, but more importantly with them.
  26. There are no great answers, only great questions.

Retrospective at the Atlanta Design Festival. 2015.

© 2019 Stefán Kjartansson. All rights reserved.