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From graphic design and fashion to architecture and life-improving inventions, the young Icelandic design scene has found its footing on the world stage.
As is the case for Scandinavian and Nordic design, the core elements of Icelandic design are minimalism and clean compositions inspired by local culture and the country's unique natural landscapes.
Although one would do well not to generalise the many different individuals and companies that make up the scene, Icelandic designers are known to have an extremely strong sense of their origins and surroundings.
So read ahead and discover a myriad of Icelandic items, inventions and artistic endeavours in our top fourteen list of Icelandic design projects.
14. Puzzled by Iceland
Puzzled by Iceland is a classically Icelandic design company. Family-run and sustainability-minded, they produce a wide range of practical clothes and accessories from reusable materials that all feature beautiful images of this country’s wildlife and natural phenomenon.
Looking for a raincoat depicting the dramatic intensity of a volcanic eruption? A scarf swirling with the colours of the aurora borealis? A cosmetics bag with an image of a puffin taking flight, or a travel pillow with a photo of Iceland’s stunning snowscapes? Puzzled by Iceland provides such gifts, allowing you to obtain an authentic souvenir that will always serve as a reminder of your time here.
The specific product range is dependent on the season, but regardless of when you shop with Puzzled by Iceland, you are sure to have beautifully conceived and executed garment or accessory that is well-made, ethically sourced, and a true reflection of Icelandic design.
The couple who run the company are called Guðrún and Höskuldur. Guðrún is a founder, the CEO, and the designer behind the beautiful products, while her partner is COO.
13. Vik Prjonsdottir
Vík Prjónsdóttir represents a collection of fun and quirky accessories that take practicality and comfort to the next level.
Designers Brynhildur Pálsdóttir, Guðfinna Mjöll Magnúsdóttir and Þuríður Sigurþórsdóttir work almost entirely with Icelandic free range wool—a sustainable material that has evolved for more than a millennia—resulting in clothing items that perfectly adapt to Icelandic weather patterns and the harsh environment.
The partnering of traditional wool and contemporary designs makes for comfy and eye-catching pieces, such as bearded hats, winged scarfs and seal shaped pelts. Get ready to turn heads while staying snug and warm, by supporting the original Icelandic wool industry and adding a touch of magic to your everyday outerwear.
Icelandic nature doesn’t solely consist of stark, volcanic terrain. Look closer and find it dotted with mountain flowers and fair feathered birds. The jewellery label Aurum seeks to replicate these delicate, irregular shapes of nature, and it manages to do so in a manner that's never repetitive.
Each of their original designs is handcrafted from sterling silver in a Reykjavík located workshop. The resulting pieces are both minimal and intricate, modern and timeless; having received multiple international awards and recognitions since the company's establishment in 1999.
Guðbjörg Kristín Ingvarsdóttir is the label's head designer, known for her creative and nature-inspired vision. From a silver snowflake around your neck (Drífa) to rusty and detailed earrings representing raven feathers, Aurum provides you with treasures and trinkets you’ll want to wear forever.
11. As We Grow
As all parents know, kids grow fast. As We Grow is a children's clothing brand designed from a sustainable approach, inspired by the Icelandic family tradition of handing down pieces of clothing between siblings.
This beautiful collection seeks to create durable attire that grows along with the children and can be passed on through generations—referencing the country’s simpler times of a rural past.
The creators behind the project are Guðrún Ragna Sigurjónsdóttir, María Th. Ólafsdóttir and Gréta Hlöðversdóttir. As We Grow was the winner of the 2016 Icelandic Design Award, in large fact due to the environmental values of the enterprise. The yarns and biodegradable fabrics are made to last your household a lifetime, providing for quality products designed with timeless simplicity.
10. Farmers Market
Farmers Market is an Icelandic design enterprise that seeks to combine elements of the past and the present, the national and the international, the rural and the urban. This is where country romance meets modern minimalism, inspired by Icelandic heritage, nature and culture.
It seems only fitting that the store is located in the harbour area Grandi, where chic boutiques and modern galleries play house with fish packing factories and old warehouses.
The store is run by husband and wife team Bergþóra Guðnadóttir and Jóel Pálsson, who together create garments fit for city and country, winter and summer, outdoor activities and fashionable occasions.
They take inspirations from their everyday lives, as can be seen in the men’s trousers that were designed to keep the musician Pálsson comfortable while he sat and played his instruments.
9. Teiknistofan Trod
When it comes to architecture in Iceland, functionalism is an essential aspect. The practice is determined by minimalist Scandinavian design, tailored to the landscape and nature’s stark elements.
The company behind Teiknistofan Tröð tackles each of their projects with such properties in mind; where each setting determines the design at hand.
One of their more notable works would be the pedestrian bridges in Elliðaárdalur Valley, supported by red steel pyramids. The design both stands out and minimises the use of material needed. Because the Elliðaár River is a favourite angling spot, the LED lighting of the bridges was even made to be as non-disruptive as possible.
Teiknistofan Tröð is an architecture firm that cares—creating one innovative structure after another.
8. Hanna Whitehead
Photo courtesy of Hanna Whitehead
Bridging the gap between product design and art, Hanna Whitehead has produced an innovative array of objects in which each item has a story to tell. Her unconventional products are designed not so much for practical purposes, but rather to bring joy to people’s homes and everyday lives.
From stone-age inspired ceramics to polka dot tea towels, Whitehead’s designs represent an explosion of new-wave creativity. Ever since 2010, she has expanded within Iceland's art and design world, often collaborating with international labels to create her unique items of fragmentary and dream-like patterns.
Fill your home with these works and expect every piece to be a conversation starter.
Head of her own label since 2006, Eygló creates fashion wear that is edgy, smart and current, designed for those with attitude to spare. These are items fit for the Parisian runway, including sleek dresses that show off bold prints of everything from paper clips and dinosaurs to outlined revolvers and dead bodies.
Eygló was the winner of Fashion Design of the Year in 2016, as well as being the co-owner of local design shop Kiosk, which is where you’ll find her items along with an array of top shelf Icelandic design. A true “it” girl of the Icelandic fashion world, Eygló has made quite the name for herself, and it doesn’t look like she’ll be slowing down anytime soon.
6. Siggi Eggertsson
A self-made graphic designer born and bred in Akureyri, the “Capital of the North,” Siggi Eggertsson creates stunning works of art from his base in Berlin, Germany. His inventory includes psychedelic portraits, digital paintings, mosaic murals, clothes patterns, book covers; the list goes on. He even designed a pattern for Unnur Valdís’s Float Cap, which is also included on our list.
Eggertsson is a true, original artist of the modern age and his work represents both his Icelandic heritage and his international field of study. With a background in web design, poster design, typography and fine arts, there doesn’t seem to be anything this visual artist can’t do. Be careful when starting to look through his multifaceted portfolio—it’s incredibly addictive.
Who says chocolate can’t be stylish as well as delicious? Established in 2013, Omnom is an Icelandic confectionery maker with a passion for its produce. Kjartan Gíslason, Óskar Þórðarson, Karl Viggó Vigfússon and André Úlfur Visage are four close friends that have made it their life work to create organic and unique chocolate bars—sure to satisfy anyone with the slightest inkling of a sweet tooth.
The packaging of the bars was very important to Gíslason; so he got graphic designer and digital artist Visage to create the brand’s vibrant and playful candy wrappings, that catch the eye whilst promising high-quality interiors to the buyers.
Each batch produced is different, as the lot receives varying beans from different cocoa bean regions around the world each season. It’s safe to say that inconsistency never tasted as good.
When you think of chic and fashionable men’s streetwear, worn by celebrities around the world, the last place of origin one has in mind would be the port town Hafnarfjörður on the southwest coast of Iceland. The guys at Inklaw have disproved that notion many times over, as they grew up with limited availability of current men’s clothing in their area, but set out to be the change.
The small-town boys that made it big are Guðjón Geir Geirsson, Anton Birkir Sigfússon and Róbert Ómar Elmarsson, a collage of young, self-taught entrepreneurs, wise beyond their years.
Everything on their selection is made-to-order; handmade and spray-painted on demand. The label offers statement pieces for those into that hip hop look that’s been taking the men’s fashion world by storm, with personal fans of the label including Will.I.Am, Nick Jonas and Justin Bieber.
An Icelandic company turned global leader, the inquisitive orthopaedic designs of Össur have for decades represented new frontiers in bionic technology.
“Life without limitations” is the company’s maxim, having provided millions of people with increased mobility and confidence. The developers are known to embrace innovation and push the boundaries of available technology, always striving for improvement by listening to the people’s needs.
The company was named after its founder, Icelandic pioneer and prosthetist Össur Kristinsson. He is the original developer behind the Iceross liner; a breakthrough interface for prosthetic sockets.
The company has since its establishment in 1971 done nothing but grow and rake in international awards and recognitions, showcasing how design can be utilised to build a better society.
If there’s one activity that's favoured across Iceland above all others, it’s probably swimming. From Reykjavík City to every rural municipality imaginable, you’ll find geothermal swimming pools that people of all ages and from every level of society flock to on a daily basis to soak, relax and renew.
The Flothetta, or Float Cap, is an ingenious invention based around water therapy and designed to allow whoever wears it to relax in the water on a whole new level.
A true offspring of Icelandic culture, the float cap enables its user to experience complete weightlessness and freedom from all external distractions. The health benefits of such floating are endless; the heart rate drops, stress-related chemicals leave the body and the brain relaxes into a meditative state.
The cap was designed by Unnur Valdís, to wrap its user in the comforts of the water providing for total bliss.
- See also: The Best Swimming Pools in Reykjavík and Iceland
- Get to know the healing powers of the Blue Lagoon and the Secret Lagoon
1. Lulla Doll
The Lulla Doll is a darling product of independent company Róró, run by Eyrún Eggertsdóttir, Helga María Helgadóttir, Sólveig Gunnarsdóttir and Sunna Ósk Ómarsdóttir; Icelandic women and mothers dedicated to helping babies and their carers along the road of calmness and tranquillity.
Scientific studies have proven that closeness improves a child's well-being by stabilising its breathing and heart rate. The Lulla Doll, made out of a natural cotton blend, is designed to do just that.
Before leaving the doll with the child, the parent or caregiver holds it close to their skin, making the item absorb the person’s smell. The doll then functions as a surrogate during the hours one has to leave their child alone.
From the colour palette to the installed sound of a calming heartbeat, this sweet innovation is designed with one noble and needed objective in mind; to help babies sleep.
With such an array of different design enterprises available, it is impossible to fit all that Icelandic design has to offer in one listing. If you feel thirsty for more, online shops such as Reykjavík Corner Store are excellent places to start browsing.
Another option would be to take a stroll through Reykjavík’s main shopping street Laugavegur, where you’ll find treasure troves such as Hrím Hönnunarhús, Kron, My Concept Store and Hringa, which all offer varied collections from different Icelandic designers.
Be it fashion, food, trinkets or infrastructure, Icelandic design has proven itself many times over. With nature as their guide, these inventors and entrepreneurs provide their country and the rest of the world with a myriad of products made with integrity and adhering to the environmental values that remain important to the nation as a whole.
Did you enjoy our list of the best of what Icelandic design has to offer? What are your favourite shops and collections? Let us know in the comments box below.
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