Olle Ekesell : Patron Saint of the Ikea School of Graphic Design


Olle Ekesell 3

In celebration of this weekends football and also my family’s Scandinavian background I bring you Olle Ekesell

Olle Eksell

Olle Eksell was born in 1918 in Ål, Kopparberg. Already as a 14 year old Olle decided to become advertising illustrator. He trained as an illustrator and graphic designer with Professor Hugo Steiner-Prague in Stockholm 1939-41. Olle Eksell was the creator who was ahead of his time and he is perhaps best known for the famous cocoa eyes for Mazettis.


Olle Ekesell 2Olle Ekesell

FROM ÅL TO LA. | Olle Eksell was born in 1918 in Kopparberg. Sweden. When Olle was 14 years old, he decided that he wanted to become an advertising illustrator. During WW II from 1930 to 1941, Olle studied illustration and graphic art in Stockholm where his main teacher was Professor Hugo Steiner-Prag. He later worked at the Ervaco advertising agency in Sweden and that is where he met his future wife and life companion, Ruthel Eksell. Ruthel, who worked as a fashion designer had come to Stockholm from Gothenburg for a quick visit and it was love at first sight. In 1946, the newly married couple sailed with the Drottningholm ship to USA to continue their studies at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. This was the year right after the war when the borders had newly opened up for travelling. After the isolation imposed by WW II, they were both keen to see the world.

PAUL RAND | In the US, Olle came in contact with contemporary designers among who were Paul Rand, Alvig Lustig, and Lester Bell. A close friendship developed between Paul Rand and Olle that lasted throughout their lives. They visited each other frequently and often discussed new ideas, innovations, and design processes.

ÖGON CACAO – 1956 | Olle Eksell was the creative designer ahead of his time. This could be seen in the famous eyes of cacao, which was part of Sweden’ s first design program that Olle designed for Mazetti. The Eksell couple lived in their apartment in Gärdet, Stockholm for more than 40 years. It was here, in a five square meter studio, that Olle created and designed Sweden’s well-known programs for Mazetti and Nessim. While working, Olle would think things out in every detail, having the ideas clear in his mind, before he put the designs down on paper. He always maintained a focused attitude, even while dressed casually in pajama bottoms and a t-shirt.

DESIGN = ECONOMY | Besides being an excellent designer and writer, Olle Eksell was a great visionary. This can be seen in his book Design = Ekonomi (1964) where he in a clear and elegant discussion brought forth the important relationship between design and economy. ¨Good design is not just aesthetic – it is also good economy. Good design is not just cool – it is bloody serious!

HONORS PROFESSOR. | Olle Eksell participated in international exhibitions such as at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Louvre in Paris, and the Biennale in Venice. He was a member of the world jury of typography – the International Center for Graphic Arts in New York. In Sweden, Olle was nominated to the advertising world’s Platinum Academy in 1985. In 2001, the Swedish Government bestowed Olle with the title of Honorary Professor for his significant contribution to the field of design.

CLOSED EYES | Olle Eksell’s career has not yet been parallelled in Swedish advertising history. His illustrations range between the crazy, the fanatasy filled, and abstract geometry. Olle was the creator/designer who loved his work and who never stopped creating. He continuted to work until his death in 2007.


Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top