Simen Røyseland fell into graphic design a bit later than most, finishing his BA after he’d turned 30. What began as a passion for doodling on high school textbooks became something more, and now the self-professed “easily-bored guy” is producing work that is witty, profound and comical.
Inspired by late night conversations with his wife, Simen’s favourite themes are philosophy, politics, anthropology, linguistics and other “stuff like that”. It’s Nice That previously spoke to the designer about his zine Enchiridion, inspired by the ancient Greek philosophy, stoicism. Here, words of wisdom are mixed with quotes like, “well, you know, that’s just like, uh, your opinion, man”.
Often concerned that his interest in these themes might make him seem pretentious, his comical take on the subjects prevents that opinion. “Irreverence inspires me”, he tells us. “Not in a way that is meant as impudent and lacking in respect, but that implies that most things are not nearly as important as people make them out to be”.
Making philosophy lighthearted is not an easy feat, as anyone who’s slogged through Kant will tell you, but Simen manages to make it seem like a doddle. His is a world where Greek statues are adorned in sunglasses, and links are made between phenomenon (the object of a person’s perception) and the touching of nipples. However, as witty as the work is, it still eludes to important topics.
“I am particular to the idea of doing away with anything unnecessary”, Simen tells us. “I feel that there might be a lack of subtlety in my work that’s usually associated with this idea”. Fascinated with how graphic design immediately conveys an emotion or impression, his work elicits an empathetic response in the viewer. It is these clear and simple links that make his work so brilliant. In a poster entitled “Volvo — I Roll”, an image of the car is paired with the text, “Volvo 240”, underneath a spliff is paralleled with the words, “Volvo 420”. Instant gratification.
“I don’t really try to be funny”, he explains. “Any humour present in my work is mostly for my own amusement”. Simen’s work is personal; he deals with topics he wants to address and handles them brilliantly in his own unique style. About a project he writes, “my son wanted to make a book about blood. I was like ‘ohgodyes!’”. The vibrant, red-covered book, with bold, beautiful gothic font mixes his own graphic design with the drawings of his 4-year-old. Even his website is wittily wonderful.
“There’s a folder on my computer where I put all my unfinished work”, the designer tells us. “It is my primary antagonist in life”. All we can say Simen is, please finish them!