As a designer that primarily works in one genre, Iâ€™ve always had great admiration for those designers that break away into multiple field. Earlier this week I came across the work of Swedish graphic designer, Olle Eksell. Olle was an influential figure for Swedish graphic design in the 1950s. He worked as an illustrator, a writer, a branding expert, an editorial designer, a fabric and textile designer..You can still find his illustrations on pillows, wallpaper, and bags.
Iâ€™m so glad I spotted the comprehensive book on his work by Pie Books.
Here is an obituary for Olle Eksell written by Ben Boss, for the AGI (Alliance Graphique Internationale):
Olle Eksell 1918-2007
Olle Eksell became a member of AGI in 1952. That means that he was the oldest among us, according to the year in which he entered the AGI ranks.
Ruthel Eksell, his wife, wanted us to wait with the announcement till his funeral had been settled. It will now take place on May 31.
Graphic design had a troublesome â€˜birthâ€™ in Sweden. For a very long time the applied arts were there just concentrated on furniture, textile and industrial design. Although Sweden had escaped from immediate involvement in WW2, the Swedish development of our profession in that period cannot possibly be compared with that in also â€˜neutralâ€™ Switzerland. You couldnâ€™t study graphics properly.
So young Olle Eksell, Ruthel (his later wife) and a few other students tried and succeeded to find their professional education soon after the war in Los Angeles. Coming back to their homeland, they remained quite isolated in a graphic world that was in the hands of advertising agencies.
Olle pioneered in corporate identity projects, which were still a novelty when he started his career. He designed the well-known identity for Mazetti, made excellent logotypes, such as for a bank and a carpet industry. He designed and illustrated magazines, reports, etc.
The underdeveloped position of graphic design in Sweden was the reason why real recognition â€“ such as becoming an honorary Professor â€“ only came at the time he was an elderly gentleman. Then his work was discovered, he got the exhibitions he should have had so much earlier, he got visits from Japanese television teams and numerous students who all wanted to interview him for their thesis.
Olle was a very true and sympathetic AGI member. Ruthel and he came often to the congresses, which they really enjoyed.
For the new AGI book we â€˜interviewedâ€™ him on paper, with the assistance of Dan Jonsson and his wife Ã…se Marstrander. â€˜Olle Eksell, in a way the oldest AGI memberâ€™. Soon you can read it all.
Weâ€™ll miss him dearly and wish Ruthel and her family all strength.