Sveinn Davidsson

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Spread from Skinfaxi, a 2007 student annual for Reykjavík Junior College. Designers: Sveinn Davíðsson, Sigurður Oddsson, Jónas Valtýsson.

The evolving interests of Reykjavík-based designer Sveinn Þorri Davíðsson seem guided by two elemental forces: typography and demolished automobiles. Davíðsson’s font design ranges from the austere Grindavík, a face that would dignify any contemporary monument in Iceland, to the bubblicious Aryan Thugs, which would feel right at home in a wet T-shirt contest. Ryksug is based on silhouettes from vacuum cleaner parts, and Times New Rope looks familiar, even bland, until a second glance reveals that it’s made of illustrated ropes.

Davíðsson’s common themes go back to his friendships with three peers who studied with him at the Iceland Academy of Arts. “We were always trying to do something better than the others on type, to know more about typefaces than the others,” says Davíðsson. “Eric Spiekermann calls it ‘typomania.’ ”

Davíðsson and his friends still collaborate informally, creating work such as Skinfaxi, an annual book for the Reykjavík Junior College, and the identity for Sequences, a yearly arts festival. Davíðsson grew up in Akureyri, Iceland’s second-largest town and the hometown of his oldest friend, illustrator Siggi Eggertsson (a 2006 New Visual Artist). “Sveinn’s the most curious guy I’ve ever met,” says Eggertsson. “He sucks in information, like a walking Wikipedia.”

Last year, Eggertsson and Davíðsson nearly struck up a design partnership in Berlin, where Eggertsson lives. But with Iceland’s economy collapsing—all three national banks failed last fall— Davíðsson returned to Reykjavík, the site of one of his more spectacular successes: Cargate, an installation of 30 crushed cars, assembled by crane into an arch built over a main road near Reykjavík. It attracted front-page coverage for its 2007 unveiling—and was covered again two weeks later when unknown arsonists torched it. “I thought it was kind of cool,” Davíðsson says.