Icelandic design studio takes you back in time

The creatives behind Reykjavík Letterpress invite us into their studio, which was built in the 1940s – and hasn’t changed much since.

Built in the 1940s for industrial use, the graphic design and letterpress studio run by Hildur Sigurdardottir and Olof Birna Gardarsdottir still has a rather raw, workshop feel to it.

"Some people say that visiting us feels like going back a few decades in time," laughs Sigurdardottir. A nod to the building's original character, the machine shop run by her grandfather, comes in the form of a logo painted on the back wall.

Some people say that visiting us feels like going back a few decades in time

The letterpress printing machines dotted around the studio originally belonged to an ex-printer, who spent two months teaching Sigurdardottir and Gardarsdottir how to use them in the garage where they were then situated.

When the machines moved into their new home, a little bit of the owner's history came with them: "The yellow chair was included in the package and we simply love it!" smiles Sigurdardottir.

The Reykjavik Letterpress studio still has a raw, workshop feel to it

One wall holds a moveable type set, which Sigurdardottir thinks is essential for every letterpress printer. "It's just the originality of it," she explains. The pair still use it occasionally, but prefer to do most of their work with polymer plates. "That way we are not as limited to the fonts and graphics we can use," she explains.

There is also a range of smaller machines for adding interest - holes, perforations, rounded corners - sat on a desktop the duo refer to as the 'fun bar'.

A final flourish comes in the form of a wall-mounted Lego deer, the handiwork of Sigurdardottir ́s husband, Jens. "It's a reminder," she says, "of how creative one can be by using one form over and over until you don ́t see that form anymore, but something completely different."

This article originally appeared in Computer Arts issue 218.

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