The young Icelandic designer Brynjar Sigurðarson received the Torsten and Wanja Söderberg Prize, the world’s largest design award, in 2018. His prize exhibition will open in Design Museum’s Gallery next Friday. The exhibition presents Sigurðarson’s original idiom of form and working method, which have achieved international recognition in a very short time. Design Museum asked Sigurðarson eight questions regarding his design.
What brought you into the design?
I’ve always been inclined towards creativity, and arts. My mother is a designer, my father an art enthusiast. I studied classical piano from 9-19 years old, and the last years of my piano studies I was more and more interested in improvising, or somehow the creative side of learning to play an instrument. There were moments in my teenage years that I thought I would like to become a musician, but somehow that didn’t happen.
My schoolbooks were all full of scribbles and sketches at the side of the page and the older I grew the more I got into drawing and making things. I would spend long times in my parent’s garage doing things, everything from painting to building or mixing nonfunctional objects. This drive kept on knocking on my doors until I finished high school and decided to apply at art school. At the time, I didn’t have a clue what product design was, I just somehow applied, it sounded interesting. Then when I learned that I got into the Iceland University of the Arts, I felt so thankful that I basically dedicated my first 3 years only to this. I didn’t do anything else.
After that I went to Switzerland and did my master’s in design at ECAL, Lausanne.
To you, the narrative of the design is as important as the final design product. Describe your creative process.
I believe that Iceland’s strong bond to storytelling origins from the darkness in Iceland that we have during winters. When you stop seeing, you start to imagine.
I also believe everything we do is equally important if it is to make a to-do list for the day or design an object or to create an exhibition. It’s maybe a bit of a cliche but if you nurture the process equally to the something final you arrive at a better place and you enjoy the process.
My process is a bit chaotic in the sense that I jump from one thing to another, I might get into drawing for a few days, where I just draw a similar motif repeatedly. Then the next day I’d be interested in making music, or to play in a 3d computer program. Lately, I’ve been allowing all these different things I do to be present in my work, so drawings, photos found objects, stories, sound, video, and objects can be a part of my work as such.
I also believe the practice is an important trait that I try to nurture, I think we don’t practice much enough. The violinist spends most of his time practicing, then a small part of the time he performs. The same goes for the footballer, their life is a lot about the practice. We must find joy in that, to give time and nurture exercising and practicing our qualities. E.g. I see photographing as an exercise in looking, drawing as a practice in sensitivity for shapes, colors, texture…
Working by myself has pushed me into constantly trying to balance the “creative me” and the “secretary me”, I could easily spend all my time doing management, replying to emails, communication, planning, organizing, etc. so I need to be a bit aware of that. You have to prioritize, which means for me to be a bit less responsible at times.
Where do you draw inspiration?
From everywhere. I try to connect to the environment I am in at each moment, to become one with a place and start making things from there. Often it comes from Iceland, the Icelandic harbor environment or Icelandic nature, but more and more I work with things that I see in my travels, small details, scenes and scenarios that I photograph and then translate into studies, ideas and objects.
How much your country of origin (Island) is present in your design?
I think that is up to others to decide. But I am under the influence of many things in Iceland, I am still drawn to the Icelandic fishing village and more and more dazzled by the nature and the geology in Iceland. However, now, it’s been 10 years since I moved away from Iceland, and I can see that in my work, there are more and more things that I am inspired by that come from elsewhere.
Your style is conceptual, narrative and refers a lot from nature. When people see your design, what do you hope they’ll take away from it?
I like to keep things ambiguous, anonymous, to leave things up to the viewer. I like to see my objects as initiators, or triggers rather than answers. Things are more intriguing when they are half explained.
In your work, you often collaborate with people from different disciplines such as fishermen, filmmakers, writers, musicians, archaeologists, and craftspeople. What does this collaboration bring into your work? Why you like to work with different disciplines?
Working with different disciplines widens my understanding of things.
I think it also brings more relevance to what I do, for example, our Circle Flute would never have become a reality if we had tried to make it by our self. However, by working closely with flutists, a composer and a flute maker it became a project that we value a lot.
You are currently living and working in France. How is it to work there as a designer?
It is nice, the weather is nice in the south of France, there are also production places that are interesting to work with.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
Living a happy life surrounded by beautiful people.
Brynjar Sigurðarson’s exhibition will be shown at the Design Museum’s Gallery from 7th June to 25th August 2019.
The interview was made by Head of Communications Päivi Balomenos
Published 5th June 2019.