Stefán Kjartansson

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“I charge my batteries with the 1950s–’60s golden era of design — the Swiss style and guys like Herb Lubalin, Paul Rand, Charles and Ray Eames, etc.,” says Stefán Kjartansson. Well it’s safe to say that one day other artists will be charging their batteries with Kjartansson. Born and raised in Iceland, the graphic/communications designer relocated to the States back in ’95 to become creative director of before co-founding the Atlanta-based agency Armchair. In addition to creating websites and logos for the likes of Coca-Cola and Tin Drum, he also designs typefaces, such as Armchair Modern, Black Sabbath, and an ode to his motherland, Reykjavik.

Medium: Supergraphic
Location: San Francisco
Date: 2015


His newest typeface, Cinderblock, was perfect for creating a type-covered wall for the new Dolby headquarters. The font derives from the “You don’t do heavy metal in Dolby” scene in the mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap. Designed to achieve maximum vertical coverage (it’s available in eight different heights, each version growing approximately 25 percent taller than the previous), Cinderblock was ideal for covering the 60-foot-wide wall. The piece is simple — painted in a graduated rainbow of color — yet striking. “I’m constantly aware of developing an inner voice that lives outside of current trends. It’s always some variation of geometry, white space, contrast, and simplifying the complicated,” Kjartansson says, explaining his aesthetic. And as far as this project goes, he happens to be a big Spinal Tap fan. “It’s one of few movies where I can quote whole passages.”

Stefán Kjartansson

This particular quote has become an internal Dolby engineering term for anyone talking a lot, but not actually knowing what they’re doing. Even as a designer, Kjartansson says he can relate. “Design can be subjective, inviting very visceral opinions from clients.... But, graphic design does not have an inside joke that brilliant. Way to go sound engineers!”