Design, both consciously and subconsciously, penetrates our minds. Good design augments innate appreciation of an object, while bad design can easily become an annoying vexation. The Grapevine’s annual Design Awards seek to recognise and reward the best of Icelandic design—the little details that make the small things sweeter. Our painstakingly-picked panel carefully combed through this year’s standouts to select a number of extremely worthy winners, runner-ups, and those we are excited to see more from. All are uniquely spectacular and deserve to be celebrated.
So, without further fanfare, we present The 2019 Reykjavík Grapevine Design Awards.
Product Of The Year
Flétta Design Studio
With Mínútustjakar, Flétta Design Studio blurred the boundaries between hand-made and mass producted by creating a series of candlesticks, each made in one minute by the designers themselves. In bright colours, the very texture of these chunky three prong candelabras reveal the quick and unusual nature of their production. No two are exactly alike. Instead, each is riddled with its own distinct fingerprints and impresses—proof of their physical creation by real designers. The panel praised the playfulness of the product and also its insightful critique on modern industrial society, calling it, “unique and cost-effective,” and, “bullseye when it comes to what people will pay for things.” In a country without a substantial home market or access to proper tooling, Flétta’s alternative method of production is provocative. “Making things by hand, fast, is a winning combination,” they agreed. Flétta Design Studio is composed of product designers Birta Rós Brynjólfsdóttir and Hrefna Sigurðardóttir.
First Lady by Lady Brewery
Ragnheiður “Raxel” Axel and Þórey Björk Halldórsdóttir’s signature IPA is a delicious blend of fresh citrus and mellow floral notes all in a heady, hoppy brew. The panel praised the taste of their beers and also the fresh and sophisticated packing they come in. Inspired by “beer witches”—medieval female brewers who eventually became the archetypal witches (a very interesting thing to research one a rainy day)—the brewery’s designs and logo are strongly feminine, referencing the historic legacy of women in the beer making world. “Two female fashion designers start making beer that both looks and tastes great?” one panel member posited. “What is not to love about this?”
Looking Forward To:
A small family-run business in Sauðárkrókur, Gagn’s furniture is characterised by craftsmanship, elegance, and a deft use of classical materials. No doubt minimalist in the most Nordic sense, the brand manages to take the usual tropes of Nordic design, play with them, and turn them into something wholly unexpected. While their elegant flower stands initially grabbed attention, their sturdy but delicate desk and shelves have since shown the brand has something to say. “It’s so refreshing to see local design in furniture again,” the panel determined, calling Gagn one of Iceland’s most promising furniture design companies. All are heavily anticipating Gagn’s next move. “There is more to come!” one exclaimed.
Project Of The Year
Catch Of The Day
“Getting drunk and saving the environment at the same time? Give this kid a Nobel Prize!” one panel member said of Björn Steinar’s spirit ‘Catch Of The Day.’ It’s a liquor, made in collaboration with local food importers, that exclusively uses leftover and discarded fruits. This, as Björn explains on the bottle, prolongs the ‘best before’ date into infinity, since alcohol over 23% can never go bad. The panel praised how the project tackles the issues of our time in an innovative way using design as its tool. “To raise awareness of such a serious problem in such a fun and pragmatic way is both inspiring and uplifting,” the panel agreed. “It’s a brilliant way to reduce food waste.” One member was more blunt, “Make way: Björn Steinar has created the win/win/win situation. Cheers!”
Nordic Angan is a fragrance library for Icelandic herbs. Created by Sonja Bent and Elín Hrund, who spend time travelling into the Icelandic wilderness to pick herbs, wildflowers, plants, bark, and tree trimmings, which they then make essential oils and extract fragrance from, our panel calls the project, “a romantic yet practical way for people to connect with nature.” Each essential oil, upon first sniff, is a melange of Icelandic nature, creating a visceral pathway into the depths of the countryside. “Beautiful, ambitious, and full of wonderful aroma,” the panel concluded. “What’s not to like here?”
Looking Forward To:
Non Flowers by Thomas Pausz
In collaboration with the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India, Thomas Pausz created a new type of pollen carrier, which seeks to improve the interspecies relationship between bees and flowers to spur on future food production. Visually somewhere between a synthetic flower and piece of coral, the feeders are based on fractal geometries, which gives them a ridged and bulbous appearance. The panel called it, “a fascinating and complicated task, but one that is vital for our survival.” They also praised how Thomas intertwined design with science in his project. “And to do it with style, also,” one panel member said. “Well, it can’t hurt!”
Product Line Of The Year
Treading the line between gallery and shop, Fischer—which only last month won the ‘Best Goddamn Store’ category at the Grapevine’s 2019 Best Of Reykjavík awards—has created a new type of boutique in Reykjavík. From art openings, to a curated perfume selection, to sustainable bath products, it serves up a sensory, highly aesthetic shopping adventure, one where the goal isn’t necessarily to have the consumer buy something, but rather to trigger their senses. One panel member referred to it as, “a tightly woven universe that refers to Iceland’s nature and past, but is still very relevant in our lives today.” Another called it, “a world to visit–with beautiful, conscious and environmentally friendly products.” The last said but this, “Art, installations, products? Fischer makes us feel good in so many different ways. Takk!” Without a doubt, the future looks bright for Fischer.
Hanna Dís Whitehead
“An experimental and curious approach to everyday objects,” the panel said about Hannah Dís Whitehead’s ‘Another Dialogue,’ which presents an enthralling take on household objects. “It’s witty and refined at the same time.” Thick, utilitarian handles took centre stage in the line, becoming an emblematic figure of the role and utility of a household product. Handles are, of course, an indicator of functionality and disclose just what an object is used for. It’s therefore striking to reevaluate them in these unusual circumstances. “These are interesting objects that stand out and stay in your memory once you have seen them,” one panel member said.
Looking Forward To:
An interesting approach to production and the cycle of things was what drew the panel’s eye to Theodóra Alfreðsdóttir’s ‘Mould.’ The product line sought to create subtle alterations in moulds to extend their life, as mould-making is a practise fundamental to manufacturing. In doing so, ‘Mould’ questions given understandings of materiality and value. Large, muted colour-blocking mixes with geometry into works that are well thought out and oddly calming. But the line is not only, as the panel said, “a beautiful reminder of how things are made,” it is also one that aims to reduce the footprint of design. “We are glad someone is searching for beautiful solutions to both,” the panel concluded.
Fashion Design Of The Year
“They are vibrant, artistic, and expressive,” the panel said of fashion designer Anita Hirlekar’s works. Seamlessly combining textile art and wearable fashion, “in that perfect way only a great designer can,” Anita’s pieces manage to be at once distinctly modern while also completely timeless. “Anita’s use of colour and texture and beautiful and personal,” a panel member explains. “Something to have and hold for a long time.” In her lines, flowing, brashly-patterned dresses show a sophisticated knowledge of proportion, while handmade embroidery keeps things playful and fun. “It is like wearing a piece of art,” the panel concluded.
Natalia Sushchenko, the panel gathered, is, “a fresh wind into the Icelandic fashion design scene.” Praising the young, cool and unconstrained aura of her works, they admired the attitude she’s brought into the Icelandic community. Natalia’s pieces are known for mixing texture and prints into a highly aesthetic whole, often with light references to the past but, without a doubt, a fixation on the future. Along with being a fashion designer, Natalia is also the head of new boutique Kvartýra №49, “a shop no fashion enthusiast should miss.”
Looking Forward To:
Helga Lára mixes intellect and humour into her works, her most recent inspired by the qualities of awkwardness. The panel praised not only her beautiful collection, which uses rods and flowing fabric to transform models into living sculptures, but also the unique inspiration behind it.
Looking Forward To:
Ýrúraí, created by Ýr Jóhannsdóttir, forms brightly-knitted works containing vivid tongues, cartoonish eyeballs, long multi-coloured weaving and much more. “If you don’t feel instantly great after looking through this collection, it might be a sign of some serious issues,” said one panel member.
Thanks To Our Panel:
Valur Grettison, Editor-in-chief, panel director on behalf of Reykjavík Grapevine
Rúnar Ómarsson, CCC “Consultant For Creative Companies”, chairman of the panel
Katrín María Káradóttir, Programme Director in Fashion Design at Iceland Academy Of The Arts
Borghildur Gunnarsdóttir, Fashion designer
María Kristín Jónsdóttir, Editor-in-chief of HA design magazine on behalf of Iceland Design Centre
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