While in Reykjavík, we sat down with graphic designer Guðmundur Úlfarsson to find out what makes him tick…
By anyone’s standards, Icelandic graphic designer Guðmundur Úlfarsson is pretty busy these days. On top of his usual client work he’s also hard at work setting up the country’s first ever type foundry, Or, with fellow graphic designer Mads Freund Brunse. We took time out of our Inspired by Iceland tour to catch up with him at his home in Reykjavík…
Computer Arts: Please tell us who you are and what you do...
Guðmundur Úlfarsson: I'm a graphic designer. At the moment I mainly do type design together with Mads Freund Brunse as a part of a design duo called GUNMAD.
CA: You've spent a bit of time studying and working abroad – what brought you back to Iceland?
GU: First I went to Denmark for a preparatory course, it was mainly to learn Danish and sharpen my graphic design before applying for the Design School in Copenhagen. I then found out about Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, which I thought was a very interesting school. I decided to apply and got in. I'm very happy with that decision, mainly because I think the Dutch have an amazing attitude towards graphic design and art. They have such a big history, and I had amazing teachers and fellow students. Because of the school being very international, many of my fellow students moved back to their home country, so I decided to do that as well. I didn't have much connection to the scene in Iceland, but I felt a bit homesick so I went home. Iceland is slowly building its own design history and it's nice to be able to take part in that.
CA: So far, what’s your favourite project in your portfolio?
GU: My favourite project has got to be my 10-year anniversary book for the LungA art festival [held in Seyðisfjörður, a small Icelandic village]. I initiated the project myself, and then had total freedom with the design and editing of the book. I got the archive from the festival – 10 years worth of newspaper clippings and photos – and started editing and designing it pretty much at the same time. I also designed a special typeface for the book. I really liked the editing part and have been waiting for another project like this to land on my desk.
CA: You’re currently busy setting up Iceland's first type foundry – what does this entail?
GU: I'm working with Mads Freund Brunse to set up a mini type foundry. We have gathered the typefaces we've made (separately and together) and are slowly but surely setting up a website that will distribute them. It's a work in progress that we are very excited about. Meanwhile, we're trying to spread the word and applying our typefaces in projects that we do – many of them are low budget so we are happy to hear from some people with the big bucks!
CA: It's not a small undertaking – what inspired you?
GU: We were mainly interested in having other people using our type. It's a great feeling to see your type used by others.
CA: Once the foundry is up and running, what happens next? Do you plan to invite other type designers to participate in the project?
GU: We really want to keep it personal, at least that's the idea for now. What happens in the future is exciting and not for us to predict. You never know what happens, but we will definitely add new typefaces as we design them.
CA: How would you describe Icelandic’s graphic design scene? Is it an exciting place to be or are there too many creatives in a relatively small space?
GU: There are many graphic designers in Iceland and there are many advertising agencies as well. Many work at the agencies, but more and more designers are starting their own little studios. I think the crisis had a positive impact on the creative side of graphic design, but of course there's less money involved in the jobs that are available. Like I said before, Iceland is slowly building up its design history, and I think graphic design is stepping up together with fashion and product design.
CA: One thing that struck us throughout our visit was the ‘can do’ and highly creative attitude seemingly everywhere in Iceland. Where do you think this stems from?
GU: This is definitely a result of the small size of Iceland. If you want to do something, you can and you do.
CA: How closely have you worked with the Inspired by Iceland campaign, and in what capacity?
GU: I was featured in one part of the 'Design Inspired by Iceland' series the other day. Four students [Joe Mania, Dan Cooper, Philip Linnemann and Emma Noble] came to visit me at my home/studio and we went to my favourite secondhand bookstore to search for inspiration. We then went to the mobile design studio, which they parked outside of my house, and started drawing some type. It was great fun!
For more info on all the typefaces available and how to use them in your projects, head over to the Or website.