Iceland — A Retrospective

If you’ve ever disembarked a flight on Gatwick’s fold, knowing that you’ve a train to catch in the station below a mere 20 minutes after touch-down, you’ll know how overwhelmed I felt returning from a country where the entire population is 21 times smaller than London alone.

If you’ve ever experienced the aesthetic pleasure of taking a flight out of Iceland’s Keflavik airport, you’ll understand how bitterly disappointing returning to Gatwick is from a design perspective. It’s not that Blighty doesn’t care, it’s that Blighty doesn’t try.

For the entirety of my four day stay in Reykjavik I found myself drawing comparisons with my dear old motherland. They’re unfair comparisons, really, given the aforementioned disparity in population sizes, but I still couldn’t help making them.

Above all else, Iceland is a country that’s (at least outwardly) comfortable with its own culture. The people, the architecture, the art, and the respect of the natural surroundings are all head and shoulders above anywhere else I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. It’s almost disappointing to return home.

This isn’t to say that I could live in Iceland or even spend more than a few more weeks there, it’s more that I admire a place that’s comfortable in its own skin, that I respect a country that respects what makes it unique, that celebrates it’s environment, that doesn’t try too hard, that’s polite.

I know Iceland isn’t without its problems and that their much-lauded rejection of the rest of the world’s moves to bail out their national banks isn’t quite as simple as the do-gooders of social media would like it to be, but it’s still refreshing to be somewhere that does it right. Whatever it is.

Day three in Iceland looked a little like this. Today we drove the Golden Circle, which covers Þingvellir (a sweet national park where tectonic plates meet) Geysir and Stokkur (two geysers which erupt with hot water) and Gullfoss (a MASSIVE waterfall).

I was on driving duties, so I didn’t get quite the same chance to take in the views, but from what I did see, they were great. Bonus points: I also didn’t crash the car and only drove on the wrong side of the road once.

Reykjavik’s concert hall — Harpa — is probably one of the most beautiful spaces I’ve ever visited. It sticks out, literally and figuratively, from just about everything else in the city and looks just as great on the inside as it does out.

It’s home to both the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra and the Icelandic Opera, both of which aren’t on during my trip. Seeing either of these in the space is enough alone to make me want to come back.

Day one in Reykjavik looked a bit like this. Mainly a lot of travelling, arrival at a super-sweet hostel, a spot of dinner at an old Laundromat, a quick wonder around the city and a fleeting visit to the sea sculpture.

We also met a guy called Ollie who had hopped on the flight to Iceland purely off the back of seeing The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (the remake), which is sort-of ridiculous.

Nick is currently writing an article and I’m trying not to fall asleep. Apparently they do Whiskey Sours downstairs and that’s a good enough reason to stay awake.



I usually don’t reveal any parts of the line-up of a new issue before its release, but with No9 I’m gonna make an exception. The amazing Patrick Collison, co-founder of Stripe, is one of our six interviewees in this upcoming issue.

I thought it would be fun to show you guys a bit of the process of laying out a new interview in InDesign, so I made this time-lapse video, condensing roughly 70 minutes into 10. Note that further iterations of the design are likely. For the final (and legible) version, you’ll have to buy a copy when the issue is finally out. By the way, you can already subscribe for this and future issues to automatically be part of the first shipment when No9 goes out in early/mid September.

For a larger version, watch this video on YouTube.

This was a joy to watch. Thanks, brizk!