Kerning from the best — 5 minutes with Simon Dagfinrud

Luis Ouriach
8px Magazine
Published in
5 min readOct 29, 2020

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Kerning From the Best is an article series where I’m having quick chats with remote and freelance designers from around the world to learn more about what makes them tick.

This month’s edition features Simon Riisnæs Dagfinrud, a designer who works remotely from Amsterdam for usertesting.com.

Enjoy!

What does a typical morning look like for you?

It kind of depends on my mood. Some days I need some inspiration to get started. On those days I like reading some sci-fi, or do some work on a side project first (iconography work is perfect for some “zen”!)

Other days I feel like getting into it right away. Not wasting any time, sort of. That essentially means I get out of bed and head right to my home office space. The work day usually begins around 8am with going through emails or high priority to-dos.

Regardless of mood, I need coffee first. Recently I got this cheap “smart” plug thing that lets me start brewing coffee with a tap from the bed, so I can have a cup right away. I love it.

What has been your design journey?

I might be a digital design nomad. My interest for design started all the way back in primary school, when I discovered the magical lands of GeoCities. Eventually I realized you could build websites through just writing text too. I was pretty fascinated, and after a while I started using Photoshop to design sites and code them myself after.

At the end of (the Norwegian equivalent of) high school, I was somewhat restless with getting into design professionally, so along with two talented friends of mine I co-founded an agency. Completely ignorant to all the challenges we would come across, we ended up having a lot of fun and gaining a lot of incredibly valuable experience.

Although we worked mostly on graphic design, I also did a lot of frontend work, so after a few years I ended up getting a job as a frontend developer at another agency.

I worked there for a while before going to uni to study interaction design. Interaction design is my main profession now, officially, even though I still do a bit of frontend and take on branding/graphic design projects on the side.

What do you find yourself having to repeatedly convince others of?

If anything — and this is usually to people outside of the design industry, but sometimes within it too — it is that design is more than just visuals. And that visuals have more impact than being “just visuals”.

Graphic design, user experience, frontend — and so forth — are just sides of the same multi-sided coin (if you’ll allow me to really stretch that metaphor), so it strikes me as really artificial when people try to undermine the value of either one of them.

Do you have a mantra?

I don’t, really, but two things I often think about are:

1) You shouldn’t feel like you always have to produce something. It’s okay to take breaks and do nothing. In design especially you see people working on super cool ideas and projects all the time, and I think it’s easy to feel bad because you feel like you should be doing the same thing.

2) Try not to label everyone and everything. I could be way better at this myself, but I think things generally just get easier when you accept things for what they are, and not what they “should” be. For life in general and the design industry alike. It’s okay to be somewhere “in between”.

Where do you want to go?

First, a quick disclaimer that clichés are coming up!

My dream, I think, would have to be to create something that makes a real positive difference in someone’s life. If I can do that, even on a smaller scale, that would be really awesome.

Other than that, I think I’d be happy if I just get to continue making a living by working with my hobbies. Getting to come up with ideas and then turn them into really cool things, is really really rewarding to me.

Who do you look up to?

I might need another cliché disclaimer, but Dieter Rams and Massimo Vignelli are two of my idols. Rams for the simplicity and functionalism he’s helped popularize, Vignelli for iconic projects like the New York subway, and both of them for working across disciplines and ignoring the labels we tend to put on designers and disciplines these days.

Someone else who’s been key to my career choice is Meagan Fisher Couldwell who essentially inspired me to get started with web design. Sarah Drasner is another constant inspiration.

On a slightly more personal level — and all my friends are gonna laugh when they read this — is a person called Ivar Aasen who in the 1800s essentially single-handedly documented and created the variant of written Norwegian I’m a native user of. I think it’s super inspiring.

What’s your remote setup?

I moved from Norway to Amsterdam just around two months ago, so I’m still working on my WFH setup. My girlfriend and I were super lucky to get an unreasonably large apartment, so I actually have my own office space. In it I keep my favorite books, plants, pens and markers, and a desk.

My desk usually stays quite tidy. I’ve got my monitor, a stand for my headphones and laptop, a mouse, and my Planck keyboard. Other than books and equipment, there’s usually only a coffee cup and a bottle of water.

I keep the coffee can in the kitchen to force myself to get up and walk a few steps every now and then.

I’d like to have lots of art on the walls for inspiration, but just haven’t gotten around to it yet!

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P.s. we’ve teamed up with DesignLab to offer out their courses to 8px readers. Want to learn UX from some of the industry masters? They offer both short and long courses, where you’re teamed up with mentors from Github, Dropbox and the BBC.

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Luis Ouriach
8px Magazine

Design and community @FigmaDesign, newsletter writer, co-host @thenoisepod, creator of @8pxmag. Sarcastic.