From Iceland — Get It Twisted: Graphic Designers Loki and Elsa

Get It Twisted: Graphic Designers Loki and Elsa

Published September 19, 2016

Get It Twisted: Graphic Designers Loki and Elsa
Parker Yamasaki
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Loki Björnsson and Elsa Jónsdóttir were walking by Pósthússtræti 13 when they noticed the empty space on the ground floor. It took a couple of phone calls. The first went to a lady that once lived in the building, the second to the building’s landlord; and then they had Studio Kleina. At least, they had somewhere to throw the opening party: Studio Kleina is more than just a room, a two-week exhibit, or some typefaces. But type is one dish that these two really know how to pour themselves into, so that’s where we’ll start.

We be cooking some trouble

A photo posted by Kleina (@studiokleina) on

What’s been simmering

The exhibit opens on September 30 and features nine fonts developed over the past two years. “It’s really just a way of getting it out there,” Elsa says, pushing a load of invisible letters off of her chest. “Then we’ll just keep working on them.” Because there’s no fun in perfection; not at age 24.

For Loki and Elsa, it’s as much about the process as anything else. “It usually starts with a drawing,” Loki says. “A hand drawing,” Elsa continues, “The computer programs kind of lead you on, they don’t allow for accidents like a beautiful curve” she says, haphazardly swooshing her wrist off to one side.


A photo posted by Kleina (@studiokleina) on

Rather than focus on what their font will be, Loki and Elsa want to figure out what it is—piece by piece. More architects than archeologists. With widened access to more streamlined design programs, it’s easier for newer type designers to strangle themselves with technical aspects and classifications, they say. “We build our fonts without these technical distinctions in mind,” Loki says. “We want them to have their own private existences,” Elsa finishes.

Of course the easier something is to obtain, the more prolific it becomes. “There are so many fonts out there now, so it is more fun for us to work with a concept—and then try to express that through a typeface,” Elsa says.

We be cookin’ up some greasy fonts #leturdýr

A photo posted by Kleina (@studiokleina) on

Easy to digest

A concept like “food,” for instance. “We used ‘Kleina’ for the studio name because it is about taking a product and giving it a new twist,” Elsa explains. “And also because it fits the character of what we make,” Loki says. “A kleina is just this little donut pastry. It’s like showing that we don’t take everything so seriously.” Elsa continues: “Yeah, and a lot of people don’t know just how much work goes into producing a font. They aren’t looking at the details that we are—or don’t know that they are looking at them—so having a fun thread like food gives them something to bite onto.”

So maybe it took more than a couple of clicks and a couple of phone calls to bring Studio Kleina to fruition. But the best craftsmen are those that can put in the elbow grease and still make it look like a party. At the end of the day we can all only hope to find a way to convert work into play—and vice-versa: infuse play into our work.

Studio Kleina opens on September 30 at 20:00. Check the Facebook event for opening hours. 

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