About me:

Born and bred in Iceland — I graduated BA in Graphic Design from Iceland University of the Arts in 1993.

An early start in illustrating children’s books and magazine comics led to an internship with Kristín Þorkelsdóttir and expanded my range to graphic design, art direction, advertising. As soon as I got my hands on a 14.4 kbit modem — digital design. I moved to the USA and joined the newly launched CNN.com to become its first Creative Director.

In 2000, I co-founded the design firm Armchair (acquired by IfThen in 2018) and have partnered with a wide range of clients from Dolby to Markforged to Coca-Cola.

Armchair Tshirt, 2015.

My always changing design rules:

  1. Think by doing, not by thinking.
  2. Steal from your heroes. They stole from theirs.
  3. Don’t fear ugly.
  4. You have three seconds to wow!
  5. What would Lubalin do?
  6. Truth can ruin a great story.
  7. Extreme contrast is power.
  8. 70% tradition and 30% innovation.
  9. Humans experience brands as humans.
  10. Design is for all senses.
  11. Good is dull.
  12. A winning move can be hidden behind the obvious one— think like a chess player.
  13. Silence and sound have equal importance.
  14. Concept playfully, execute thoughtfully.
  15. Keep your mind open, and a notebook in your pocket.
  16. Don’t design for your client, design with them.
  17. True originality doesn’t come from the outside.
  18. Creativity is two-phased: closed and open.
  19. Friends help you shape, critics sharpen.
  20. Simplify. You can always doll it up.
  21. Make things from scratch. For what you don’t use, safe for later.
  22. Everyone’s opinion matters. You’re designing for everyone.
  23. Your instinct. Trust it.
  24. Don’t write. Design words.
  25. Everything was designed.
  26. Sell the hell out of your great ideas (or the lesser win).
  27. Don’t die on tiny hills.
  28. Everything you make is your who you are.
  29. Make grids, but color outside the lines.
  30. Your creations will always exist in an ecosystem.
  31. There are no answers, only questions.
  32. Make things you can own.

“Retrospective” at the Atlanta Design Festival. 2015.

© 2022 Stefán Kjartansson.
All rights reserved.