The Platinum Egg 1985: Olle Eksell.

Olle Eksell (1918–2007) was born in Insjön in Dalarna. His father ran a vanilla factory there. Despite his origins in the Swedish heartland, however, Olle Eksell felt un-Swedish. Following his education at Hugo Steiner-Prag’s school of book and advertising art in Stockholm and several years at the Ervaco advertising agency, he headed off to Los Angeles to study at the Art Center School. When he came back home in 1947, he applied for a job as a book designer at Bonniers.... He had brought back many examples of work by titans such as Paul Rand and Alvin Lustig. When Bonniers asked what he had done himself, Olle answered, Not much – but he figured he’d do like the Americans. Soon, he was no longer satisfied with book covers and clever (crazy) illustrations. He became an agitator, an inspirational instigator. In 1957, chocolate manufacturer Mazetti held a press conference to present Sweden’s first modern design programme. The man behind it: Olle Eksell. “Mazetti has its eyes on quality.” So did Olle. In 1964, his book Design=Ekonomi was published by Bonniers. In it, he demonstrates how artistic design results in economic benefits, while inadequately managed design problems lead to all sorts of problems. He brings up good international examples, such as Westinghouse Electric, IBM and Olivetti, clearly laying out how all of them had succeeded by making a commitment to design in their organizations. He advocates for design labs and design centres and wonders why Swedes are afraid of the word “beauty”. Good design is crass. Its job is to sell by leading the product from the producer to the consumer, directly with no detours, clearly and distinctly presented. Sell by facilitating handling, distribution, advertising, selection! Good design is not just aesthetics. Good design is not just fun – it’s deadly serious! Olle Eksell was decades ahead of his time.

After the Platinum Egg: In a survey in a Swedish weekly magazine in the early 1960s, Olle Eksell was asked what “true misery” might be for him? He answered: “To be barred from leaving Sweden – and to be barred from returning to Sweden.” The anecdote has symbolic resonance in light of Swedish/global IKEA’s 2015 Olle Eksell project. They produced 22 products based on his illustrations and patterns, as well as a richly illustrated book that was translated into seven languages (designed by Henrik Nygren). The project would not have been possible without the participation of his wife, graphic artist Ruthel Eksell, who had an eagle-eyed overview of the contents of Olle’s enormous archive in their flat by Tessinparken in Stockholm. She was 94 years old at the time.


More projects that Olle Eksell contributed to.