The honorary award for the Icelandic Design Awards 2020 goes to Kristín Þorkelsdóttir, graphic designer

29. janúar 2021

The Icelandic Design Awards 2020 took place digitally on the 29th of January. The recipient of the honorary award at the Icelandic Design Awards 2020 is Kristín Þorkelsdóttir, graphic designer by Lilja D. Alfreðsdóttir, minister of education, science and culture for her priceless pioneering work in the field of graphic design in Iceland. 

Kristín was born in 1936 and her design history begins when she was 15 years old and started studying in the fine arts department of the Icelandic arts and crafts college from where she graduated in 1955. Aside her studies she worked at the design studio of renowned Icelandic furniture designer Sveinn Kjarval and was also assistant teacher of painter Sverrir Haraldsson. 

Kristín then worked as a graphic designer and design director for decades. In 1967 she and her husband Hörður Daníelsson founded one of Iceland’s most popular advertising agencies, AUK (Auglýsingastofa Kristínar) which they operated until 1992. The agency  was so popular that companies and institutes had to be put on waiting lists to become their clients, which clearly shows how popular it was and furthermore underlines Kristín’s ambition to prefer quality over quantity. 

Kristín’s long career encompasses an extensive collection of works spanning very different subjects, from adverts to image campaigns, from book covers to monetary bills. Many of her works are still very much in use today and we know them well from our daily lives, whereas others were done for temporary publication and only live on in our archives and our memories. 

Kristín’s work methods, research, her interest and her sensitivity to the subject characterize her work methods. One example is the logo of the town of Mosfellsbær, a stylized version of shields that adorned the back of silver coins from an ancient treasure hid by Viking poet Egill Skallagrímsson’s daughter in the vicinity of Mosfell.  Kristín’s best known works are without a doubt Iceland’s banknotes, made in collaboration with Stephen Fairbairn. She has been in charge of the design of all the banknotes since the currency changeover in 1981. There are now eight different banknotes, each of them full of history, information and even secrets. 

In Kristín’s own words: 

“One does not endeavour on such an important project without absolute knowledge of the subject matter. A lot of work lies in each banknote. If you look at them more closely you will be able to find a deep meaning and a message from almost every part of the surface.”

Those who know or are acquainted with Kristín, or have enjoyed a meeting with her to converse about her work and her career all agree that what characterizes her is humility and sincere interest in her work, even decades after it was completed. She does not shy away from giving compliments to her coworkers, especially to her husband of 65 years,  Hörður, who has been her biggest partner throughout her career. 

Kristín has received several recognitions for her work, such as being chosen an honorary member of the Icelandic Graphic Design Association (FÍT) and as the Kópavogur city artist. In recent years Kristín has concentrated on her art and her works can be found on display at many institutions, companies and art galleries. She has exhibited her work regularly since 1985. 

It is with great pleasure that we give Kristín Þorkelsdóttir the Honorary Award of the Iceland Design Awards 2020.  We would like to offer our sincere congratulations and thank her for her priceless pioneering work in the field of graphic design in Iceland. 

Leikstjórn og framleiðsla: Blóð Stúdíó

Kristín Þorkelsdóttir, graphic designer and Lilja D. Alfreðsdóttir, minister of education, science and culture.

The Icelandic Design Award started in 2014 and honours the best Icelandic design and architecture annually. The importance of design in our society, culture and business has been growing steadily, and it is therefore vital to increase the understanding of good design and highlight the value of quality.

The jury of the Icelandic Design Awards 2020:
Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir, chairman of the jury, Museum of Design and Applied Art
Hildigunnur Sverrisdóttir, architect, IUA                                                     
Sigrún Unnarsdóttir, fashion designer, IDA                                                           
Þorleifur Gíslason, grapich designer, IDA                                 
Paul Bennett, chief creative officer IDEO, IDA                                             
Margrét Kristín Sigurðardóttir, SI                                                              
Hörður Lárusson, grapich designer IDA                                        
Sigrún Birgisdóttir, architect, IUA

The Icelandic Design Award is established by Iceland Design and Architecture in collaboration with the Iceland University of the Arts, the Museum of Design and Applied Art, Promote Iceland, Landsvirkjun and SI - the Federation of Icelandic Industries.

29. janúar 2021
Álfrún Pálsdóttir
Aldís Pálsdóttir


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