Studio Studio discusses its type-led approach to graphic design

Since we last covered the Icelandic studio five years ago, the graphic designers have found new ways of working, influenced by their time abroad.

27 February 2020
Reading Time
3 minute read


Studio Studio may be based in Reykjavik, but it is their time away from the Icelandic capital that has helped refine their practice. The duo, consisting of Arnar Freyr Guðmundsson and Birna Geirfinnsdóttir, have lived in both Amsterdam and Reading, where they were exposed to new approaches and concepts to inform their design practice.

“Your surroundings always shape you. These experiences abroad for instance are no exception, and of course influenced our method of working,” says Arnar. “Getting a bigger perspective and being introduced to different approaches inevitably affects your style and way of thinking, as does each new project and situation.” Birna wholeheartedly agrees: “One of the biggest reasons to pursue these experiences of course, is to gain new influences even if they're hard to pinpoint exactly.”

We last featured Studio Studio, here on It’s Nice That nearly five years ago, and in that time, their work has continuously developed. There has been no grand departure from their understated and pared back style, but a development is evident, seen through an increasingly refined version of their type-led approach.

“We’ve both had a great interest in typography since the early stages,” explains Arnar. “We often approach our projects from a typographic perspective, whether as illustrative elements in projects like the new identity for Kolibri or Húsavík öl, or more straight forward typographic solutions too.”

The pair do not rely overly on colour. Rather than building projects around a palette, the studio adds colour as the last piece of the puzzle. “Our work often has quite a lot of contrast, we usually try to make the concept work in black and white before introducing colour when possible and appropriate,” says Birna. “We try to analyse the material that we work with and, more often than not, this is the result; a typographic approach with clear contrast.”


Studio Studio

One thing that is clearly important to Studio Studio is collaboration. Whether it’s between themselves or their clients, the design duo speak of it as a central component in the creative process. When working on the cover for Sixty Kilos of Sunshine by Hallgrimur Helgason for example, they cite their partnership with the author as one reason for the project’s success: “We had a very good work flow with the author and were able to find a solution where colour and choice of type reflect Helgason’s playful words,” explains Birna.

One of the pieces of work the studio are most proud of, is a monograph for the Icelandic artist Ragna Róbertsdóttir, which Birna describes as “an excellent experience. We got a lot of freedom and trust to develop the project and structure the book,” she elaborates. It’s a perfect example of them deviating away from what is expected, as their unusual layout suggests: “The book contains a vast amount of images that consciously play the largest role in the design, as well as written articles used to frame Róbertsdóttir’s body of work at the beginning and the end of the book,” says Birna. “Therefore there are no captions accompanying the images, they are placed as an overview in the back instead.”

For larger studios, it may be less easy to decide on an overall creative direction, however, at Studio Studio both Birna and Arnar share similar views on how they like to work. It was something that initially brought them together, and is still a large factor in their success now.

“We realised we had the same work ethic and a similar vision towards what we consider good graphic design,” says Arnar. “Although our specific strengths aren’t necessarily identical.” It is this pooled skillset, as well as a willingness to embrace outside ideas that allows the duo to continue to deviate from the norm.

“Challenging a given format and discovering new ways of representation is very rewarding,” concludes Birna. “It can take you in unexpected directions.”

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About the Author

Charlie Filmer-Court

Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.

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