From Iceland — Rewiring Design: Döðlur

Rewiring Design: Döðlur

Rewiring Design: Döðlur

Published August 23, 2017

Photo by
Art Bicnick
Courtesy of Döðlur

Whether they know it or not, most Icelanders will have, at some point, encountered the work of the Döðlur creative studio. Founded in 2012 by partners Daniíel Atlason and Hörður Kristbjörnsson, their clients, in various capacities, have included everyone from Harpa to Kex Hostel, KronKron, The Farmers Association of Iceland, and (full disclosure, folks) The Reykjavík Grapevine, too.

The main function of Döðlur is hard to pin down—and intentionally so. “I don’t like to say we’re an ad agency,” says Hörður, “but it’s been our core function for the last ten or fifteen years. Myself and my business partner Danny had been working at different ad agencies, and decided that starting our own company would be the best route to realise the projects we wanted to do.”

Constant evolution

He’s right to resist the label—the definition of “ad agency” doesn’t cover the breadth of Döðlur’s activities. Their range of projects is free-flowing and ever evolving, including everything from logos and branding to graphic design, video work, television advertising, and, more recently, interior design, architecture, and clothing.

“We’re not fashion designers, but we’re used to getting things going, and just doing it.”

“We’ve moved into designing interiors for spaces like hotels and shops,” says Hörður. “We worked on the interior of the Oddsson hotel—from that, we started working a lot with furniture design. And then it evolved into clothing.”

The company’s first clothing line, “Döðlur by Döðlur”, consists of branded sweaters, t-shirts and sweatpants. “We start with an idea of the look we want to do,” says Hörður. “Then we get a lot of help and input. We have a 3D artist in the office who can visualise things, so we can see how it looks and works, and we have different manufacturers around Reykjavík who do things for us.”

Peculiar characters

Döðlur has produced clothes before, in a less formal way—in the past, they made short-run designs for themselves, and for friends. “People started to get interested, and messaging us to ask if they could get clothing for themselves,” says Hörður. “But we only had a few, and we tended to give them away.” When the opportunity arose to develop a new downtown design store with their friend Sigrún Guðný Markúsdóttir—the recently opened Akkúrat, located at Aðalstræti 2—the time was right to expand. “We decided to go all-in with a clothing line, just to find out if it would work,” says Hörður. “And, well—we want to wear the clothes, so that’s good enough for us.”

Döðlur’s approach to design revolves a creative cross-pollination of design practises, and a wiring together of disciplines. For example, whilst designing the interior of Oddsson, they became interested in the geometric wooden cladding used on the bar, and decided to build a prototype summer house they’ve dubbed “The Hedgehog” from the same material; when they addressed the idea of a clothing brand, they reworked their logo into a new spin on Icelandic letters.

“The design is based on the logo of the company,” says Hörður. “It combines the characters ‘Ð’ and and ‘ö’. We’re an Icelandic brand, and that’s given away by this quite peculiar character. It’s not an actual letter, but it’s made up of Icelandic letters.”

And while Döðlur By Döðlur is only a first step, it could just be the beginning. “We’re not fashion designers, but we’re used to getting things going, and just doing it,” says Hörður. “We didn’t want to get into designing patterns, we thought let’s make a sweater, and brand it in a way that’s interesting. And if this works out, we’ll go further into fashion and get collaborators who know what they’re doing and work together. We want to design things of a certain quality, and it has to be thought out. From a fashion standpoint, the clothing should be a little bit interesting, including to foreigners who visit. Sure, you can buy a stuffed puffin—but why not a nice sweater as well, made and designed in Iceland?”

Editor’s note: Hörður Kristbjörnsson is one of the founders and owners of the Reykjavík Grapevine.

The Döðlur by Döðlur clothing line is available in the Akkúrat store at
Aðalstræti 2

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