25/10/12 - 03/03/13

About the Exhibition

Gísli B. is truly one of the most dynamic graphic designers in the history of 20th century Icelandic design. After returning from his studies in Germany in 1961, Gísli founded an advertising agency and a year later also founded a special department for advertising illustration at the Icelandic College of Art and Crafts—a faculty which today is the department of graphic design at the Iceland Academy of Arts.

Gísli has taught graphic design without leave for five decades and has been an unabating force in promoting awareness of his profession, a field that is today one of the biggest and most prominent branches of design in Iceland. Between 1973-1975, Gísli was the headmaster of the Icelandic College of Art and Crafts. In his long professional career he has also worked at brand creation and development for many companies and NGOs in Iceland, having designed—either by himself or in collaboration with colleagues—some of this country’s best-known logos. Notable mentions include the logo of the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, the Norden Association of Iceland and the Icelandic Heart Association. Gísli has also designed and layed out number of books and book covers, as well as advertisements in print as well as for television.

Gísli’s design bears influence from the modernism, a movement he became acquainted with in Germany during his studies. The first works Gísli completed after finishing his education are interesting for several reasons, not the least of which being the fact that at the time he was helping to establish a new professional sphere in Iceland for advertising illustrators, as the occupation was then called. His work and methods have had a large effect on the development of graphic design, as for example in his work with the magazine Iceland Review, which broke new ground in publishing in Iceland. All the graphic designers who have graduated in Iceland thus far have benefitted from Gísli’s training and guidance, but he retired from teaching this year.

The surveys of Gísli’s career features among other things work from his student days, magazines, book cover design and layout. Old video footage from his advertising agency are on display, wherein the technology of the day gives insight into the role of the illustrator and copywriter. A large collection of smaller magazine publications as well as various brochures and pamphlets will help to showcase the changing zeitgeist over Gísli’s five professional decades, as well as other material which sheds light on the diversity of Gísli’s profession, one which he worked tirelessly to help foster build up to what it is today. Diligence and self-criticism have invariably been essential components in all of Gísli’s work—and indeed they are the necessary starting point for the creation of good and responsible design.


The exhibition‘s curator is Ármann Agnarsson, graphic designer and Lecturer at the Iceland Academy of Arts.