If it wasn’t evident by his stylish and functional portfolio (characteristics of Scandi design), Eivind Holum is from Norway. A small-ish and cold country of about 5 million people, it’s a place where some folks grow up wanting to get away. Eivind happens to be one of them and says it’s common for Scandinavians to leave the area. “You will find a surprisingly high number of Norwegians out in the world,” he told us. “No matter where you go, it’s pretty typical to meet Norwegians.”
At the time of our interview, Eivind was working from Bali. In a few days, he’d arrive in Jakarta and set up camp in a different cafe with just his laptop. Despite being a designer who truly does it all—from crisp logos to SEO strategy—he travels light.
Considering the careful structures of the brands he’s brought to life, it’s hard to imagine that his lifestyle ended up being so fluid. But perhaps it’s a reaction, a pendulum swing in the opposite direction from where he started in agency land. A place where expectations and processes rule, and where creativity can sometimes be stifled. Luckily, he’s been able to take the framework of that time and bring it not only on the road, but to his thriving freelance graphic and web design practice.
We caught up with Eivind to learn more about his journey, how he works and his advice for multidisciplinary designers like himself.
Hey, Eivind! Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself and where you’re from?
I’m Eivind Holum (he/his), and I’m a designer from Oslo. It’s a buzzing city, hot in the summer but ice-cold and pitch black in the winter.
Listen to Eivind’s Scandi Essentials
What’s your current set up?
I’m a digital nomad and have been one for some years now, traveling until I find a place to reside in. I’ve been through large parts of Europe and Southeast Asia. My favorites so far have been Budapest, Hungary and Thailand. Right now I’m in Bali with just a laptop and my suitcase.
My daily office is usually a cafe with a socket, strong wifi and excellent coffee. I prefer to sit in cafes all day long so I can focus on work rather than cooking.
A typical day looks like this:
🏊 I wake up in a hotel in Southeast Asia, then go for a quick swim and have a coffee.
☕ I head to a cafe to check my emails and make a quick list for the day.
👨💻 I eat breakfast, drink my second cappuccino and work until 3pm. That’s 9am in Europe, where many of my clients are.
🏋️ I take a few calls and then will head back to the hotel for a gym session.
🌴 I leave the laptop behind and explore a new restaurant, beach club or other interesting destination.
That sounds pretty dreamy. What were you doing before all this?
I started as a creative at a PR firm in Oslo for big clients like Microsoft Office and Samsung. During this time I worked hard to prove I could work with top level brands. It was a lot of fun, and I met tons of skilled, experienced and interesting people.
I was mainly involved with ideation and creating more conceptual projects. In one, we arranged an exhibition hosted by Microsoft Office, where we invited 10 artists to create art in the Office 365 package. The art was displayed on a two-meter-tall canvas in the hip neighborhood of Vulkan in Oslo.
It was a huge hit and actually ended up being shipped to the Microsoft headquarters.
Yes, but low pay and long hours are normal if you work for agencies in Oslo. I think that’s why I prefer to stay a nomad.
For sure. What do you think is a benefit of working at an agency?
An agency can teach you a lot about the professional process: the first meeting with clients, clarifying expectations, processes, timelines, charting potential success and measuring results.
It’s a highly-structured environment, which can be really helpful on the journey to turning pro. It definitely encourages you to operate at a very high level. As a creative, you sometimes lack the structure and tools to reach your full potential. Seeing 10 to 20 people dedicated to each part of the process in an agency teaches you a lot. There’s a project manager, a sales team and a marketing team. It’s like being part of a machine.
And freelancing is an entirely different beast.
It’s intense but just as rewarding. I’m happy that so many clients in the 99design ecosystem choose to work with me and provide me with an income. It’s how I can travel the world and enjoy the benefits on the road.
You design complete brands, both for individuals and for businesses. How do you adapt your approach for different clients?
For me it’s the same if I’m designing for a big company or for an entrepreneur. I try to focus on creation and quality. A brief introduction call with the client is usually enough to understand what they are trying to achieve. I’ve developed a certain style of working and the process is quite straightforward.
You work on the full spectrum of design, from brand to website and even strategy and SEO. What do you think sets you apart as a creative?
Finding inspiration has never been a problem for me. I have an endless amount of creative energy, and I can design 3 – 5 logo concepts for up to 10 clients a day.
I operate visually and like to look at different boards on Pinterest, select a direction to iterate from, and create uniquely-crafted results based on the remix method. Observe. Iterate. Create. I keep repeating the sequence until the results are there.
What else is unique about your process?
I will only present complete designs that are thought-through and finished. I don’t show sketches or processes, because I think sketches can confuse a client more than help them. I believe there’s no reason a small business can’t have the same great design and branding as a large corporation with an unlimited budget.
Sometimes I use famous brands to help stake out the position and direction the client wants for their project. Many marketers use these archetypes, based on Carl Jung. These are the timeless, iconic roles you’ll find in all stories and marketing cycles.
That’s really smart. References aren’t just for clients. They can be super useful for designers, as well.
Yes. I think it’s best not to rely too much on verbal language and long briefs, but rather to look at other brands for solutions. I often ask my clients, “which of these 3 categories fits best for you and your business brand identity?”, using my projects as examples.
Then when it comes to designing, I know what color palette, font combinations and logotypes will be a good fit.
Your freelance brand is about more than just being a designer. What do you hope to achieve in the future?
I’m currently teaching myself Figma and yoga, but…having been a guest spending most of my days in cafes, clubs and restaurants around the world, I’d love to expand into interior design. It would be so cool.
Name three things that are inspiring you at the moment.
- Artist and interior designer Ashley Sutton is amazing at creating some of the most unique bars, clubs and restaurants designs in the world.
- Salvador Dali. Always been a fan.
- Stefan Sagmeister. He’s a true graphic design rockstar and one of a kind.
What’s something you hope designers take away from your feature?
If you can design one thing, you can design anything.