The Designers: Bleed’s Halvor Nordrum on design as a career, smart software tools and life in Oslo
Many designers face the all-too-common struggle of achieving the perfect work-life balance, and Bleed’s Halvor Nordrum is no exception. From a young age, design has been a core component of the Oslo-based designer’s life, which led to the organic progression as both a career and a hobby. He spoke to us about his creative evolution, working at Bleed, and why interests outside of design are important, for the twenty-sixth entry into our series, The Designers.
PT Hi Halvor! How are you finding 2022 so far?
HN Hey! I find it good, thanks. Every year since I started working professionally, my New Year’s resolution has been to figure out the all-holy work-life balance. I think I’m slowly starting to balance it better this year.
Starting off with design, it’s kind of an all-consuming hobby – turned into work. And I’m really lucky to have my hobby as my source of income. But it can also be a bit vulnerable – if every part of my life is revolving around design, and I feel uninspired or lacking motivation for design, then my life is uninspired and in lack of motivation. Kind of. So, the last couple of years I’ve tried to incorporate more hobbies and routines into my life. Like frisbee or baking.
I still try to explain what a designer does to my family.
PT What led you to design as a career path?
HN It’s a series of events. I still try to explain what a designer does to my family, so it’s definitely not a genetic thing. Chronologically, it kind of goes like this: Lego; drawing; Pokémon; skateboard culture (not skating, just the brands); PowerPoint as a design tool; Piratebay; Photoshop as a design tool, and so on. After I started learning Illustrator I became the go-to guy for really awful illustrations, and from there it just escalated.
All events led me to study design at Westerdals Oslo, where I met a really talented class. Turned out to be three great years where we exchanged and combined ideas, methods and tools from our previous experiences which made the universe of design so much bigger, more compelling and interesting for me. Steep learning curve and heavy imposter syndrome.
PT How did you start working at Bleed? What about the studio appealed to you?
HN Bleed was one of those agencies that I had my eyes on in the years before I even started studying design. The projects they had were different, visually strong and executed with confidence. At Bleed, they worked (or, we work) very independently, so you get many strong and individual signatures in the works, and that variety attracted me.
During my BA, we had the opportunity to do a (very brief) internship. I was lucky to spend those six weeks at Bleed. Six weeks is way too short – at least for me – to both loosen up, understand the mechanics of the studio, and produce nice stuff. Luckily they had faith in me, and gave me a job offer before my BA was over. As a newly graduated designer, you need – or at least I did – to rediscover yourself a couple of times in order to adapt to the reality of a workplace, versus the freedom of a classroom. At Bleed, I've been able to reinvent myself several times, and that's part of what makes the studio continue to be an interesting place for me.
PT Since you first joined Bleed, what project has been the most rewarding to work on?
HN I generally think that if you treat every project uniquely, and allow the brief, research and methods to take you to new places, it hopefully ends up with a mutually rewarding outcome for both you/me, the client and the user. For the sake of choosing one, Historisk museum I found really rewarding. It’s both an institution I liked from before, the project group were eager and it was mostly completed during home office which also was a first for me. The museum wanted to feel more like a contemporary storyteller, and that we were able to do this by wiping dust off their original logo from 1902 was a nice surprise.
PT What is Oslo like as a city to live and work in, as a creative?
HN I love Oslo. I’m originally from a small place in the outbacks, so for me, Oslo is just big enough to keep me excited, but also intimate enough to bump into friends randomly on the street. Also, Oslo has a really talented, yet small and inclusive, design industry.
PT What does your setup look like?
I try growing up and spending my weekends wisely. And sometimes I do.
PT What tools and software have you found useful in aiding your creativity and organisation?
HN Mostly I spend my days creating identities, design systems and templates for clients. For those of us who do relatively little printing, it’s seldom that we are the ones who put the finishing touches on the work – either it being the client, the developer or another production studio. I, therefore, believe that platforms such as Webflow (not sponsored) and the like are creating spaces where the designer once again can complete their vision through, from start to finish. At least I hope so.
Otherwise, I have found Glyphs superior for drawing vectors, Are.na for collecting and Notion for structuring.
PT What is your journey to the studio like?
HN Oslo is very seasonal. Right now the sun is up from 04:30 to 22:00 and people are awake early and looking optimistic. In the winter it’s quite the contrary. The sun has vanished, people are deeply depressed and I can pretty much slide on ice all the way down to the office. I like these drastic changes of scenery, it keeps it interesting.
PT How do you like to recharge after a busy week?
HN I try growing up and spending my weekends wisely. And sometimes I do. But often recharging equals getting hammered and then spending the rest of the weekend recharging from that again.
PT For you, what is the work you ‘would like to do more of?’
HN Similar to my answer to the question regarding software – I want to create better tools and solutions that make design systems easier to use for the client, so they can be better and more coherent. The holy grail is to remove any design decision from the client, and make tools and systems that are strong, flexible and smart. Otherwise, I want to make more of what I haven’t yet made (cliché but true) and continue being curious about methods, formats and tools.
PT Can you tell us your favourite 1. Typeface 2. Colour and 3. Format to design with?
HN 1) Ever since my BA years I’ve been drooling over Folio by Baum and Bauer. Released the same year – and both modelled after Akzidenz Grotesk – Folio is kind of the odd brother of Helvetica. I’ve still not found a project for it, but maybe the new and redrawn Fold Grotesque by Colophon will find its way to a project one day. 2) I like colours that are hard to reproduce in CMYK. 3) I mostly work digitally, so it’s always fun to see when work is actually being printed.