Iceland takes contemporary cues from its handicraft history

Steeped in a long and quiet artistic history, Iceland is relatively new to the graphic design scene. But with the country’s recent influx in interest and talent, the burgeoning industry is showing great promise.

Similar in technique to their Scandinavian contemporaries, Icelandic design emphasizes simplicity and functionality. Utilizing traditional methods and materials, new artisans are transforming time-honored handicrafts into contemporary products. Naturally, these products need to be packaged and sold – and a great partnership has developed between artisans and designers.

Wandering through Reykjavík’s streets, you’re constantly bombarded with locally produced goods outfitted in beautiful packaging. Take a look through some of my favorites below:

Wool Toys by Iceland Memories

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Iceland memories uses a clever sticker placement to create a cute logo on an otherwise simple packaging design. They play off of the image of a sheep, an animal that drives huge parts of the Icelandic economy. Every Icelander knows about sheep, which are used for anything from their famous lamb dishes to the Lopi sweaters – and in this case a little souvenir.

omNom Hand Crafted Chocolates

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omNom’s Hand Crafted Chocolates put a lot of thought and focus into their packaging design — just as they do with their bean-to-bar chocolates, which contain only cocoa beans, milk and maybe a little raw cane sugar. Each bar is supposed to be a fun little treasure chest to share with a friend, rather than a piece of paper to throw away.

It’s also functional, protecting the leftover chocolate in the packaging. Each bar has its own pattern, images based off of real and mythical Icelandic creatures inspired by the designer’s travels around the country.

Notknot pillows

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Packaging a product as complex as a giant knot made out of pillows means you have to stick with something simple. And that’s what Umemi did. Their packaging design uses a bold single color on a traditional hang tag to stand out against the color and complexity of the pillow.

Salt blends by urta.islandica

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urta.islandica produces teas, syrups, jams and (of course) salts made from local herbs and minerals. The packaging is kept simple, a long and clear pouch with a small label at the base. The minimal design allows the brilliant color and texture of the actual product to grab the consumer’s eye. It’s very effective when the different varieties are lined up in a row for customers to choose from.

Wall decals by Mosi

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Mosi, meaning moss, is a small Icelandic company that produces wall decals. While many similar businesses find it easy to package them in a simple clear sleeve, Mosi takes their decals to another level. They roll each decal into a pack of corrugated cardboard, making it easy on the eyes and even easier to transport.

Volki’s blankets

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Like many of our featured companies, Volki employs the hang tag in their packaging. Yet they distinguish themselves from the crowd by avoiding the neutral look. By nature their blankets are pretty bright. The hang tags emphasize this even with their contrasting bold colors. It’s a look that definitely captures your attention in a room full of neutral Scandinavian shapes and colors.

Nordur sea salt flakes

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Nordur salt is crafted from the Geothermal energy that runs through Iceland and the sea that surrounds it. Inspired by the beauty and purity of the product they were creating, the design team created an environmentally friendly and sustainable packaging design.

The team is truly inspired by their product and by their country. Watch them talk about it more in this great video highlighting the design inspiration and process for this box.

Gigur tea light holders

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Gudrun Vald is a product designer who knows how to use materials and color to her advantage. She creates geometrically inspired products with a splash of color, which in turn brings the customer’s attention to her work. She emphasizes this effect even more by creating small, but vibrant, brochures to shelve with the products. This gives the shoppers something to pick up and play with – as well as teaching them more about her and her work.

Do you know any other areas with a unified aesthetic? Let us know in the comments!

The author

Kaitlyn Ellison
Kaitlyn Ellison

Kaitlyn is part of the Community Team at 99designs.com. She grew up in Boulder, CO and went to school at Northwestern University in Chicago. When she's not blogging, she spends her time having adventures and being generally creative. She's all about having new experiences as often as possible!

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