Nordisen – Tales From The North (Interview)

The woman behind Nordisen is called Jannicke Sætre, a graphic designer from Oslo. About two years ago I accidentally found her on instagram. I liked her style and was impressed by her idea to build an own brand for unique Norwegian souvenirs inspired by norse mythology. I asked Jannicke for an interview for my former blog to find out more about her and her project. She was very kind and helpful and till now we are still in a loose contact. Her business developed a lot during these last years, but her answers are nevertheless still up-to-date.

This is our interview from November 4th, 2015:


Hei Jannicke. Just a short introduction: Where are you from and how and where are you living right now?

I am from Porsgrunn, Telemark and now live in an old wooden house in Rodeløkka, Oslo.

You quit your job as a design teacher and also probably lost the security of a steady job. Do you miss it?

I still work as a teacher but not as a steady job. Probably 50% is more accurate. This is a perfect balance for me as I get paid a bit every month, spend time with the students but also get time to work on Nordisen.

Your style is based on clean and strict vector illustrations. How does your working process look like? Are you scribbling by hand or do you start directly at the computer? What inspires you?

I always use my sketchbook. I often use pictures of objects to help me get proportions right, but that is usually just a guide. I sometimes use my light table to get the lines and sizesprecise before I take it into Illustrator. There I first work with form and composition and getting the elements to sit well on the page. Then I usually spend a lot of time with colours. I like a small colour palette that give off energy but still harmonizes. Lately, I have started working with a different style. I realized that by using colours and gradients, the production cost is a lot more than I can afford right now. So this new lineart style is a mix between a necessity and the fact that I like a challenge. I do get a bit tired of working on the same type of design for a long period of time, so it was refreshing to change up the style.

What inspires me is knowledge. Researching and learningnew things is so empowering and exciting! For this new series on Norse Mythology for example, I have spent hours and days at the library to learn all that I can on the subject. I bring my sketchbook and read and draw until an idea manifests’ itself. The most exciting projects are the ones where you don’t always know the outcome or the whole process. The fear of failure will keep you fresh on your toes.

It’s very important fo you to strictly pay attention to ethically and ecologically produced products. What does that mean in detail?

My products will not be made in China or Bangladesh for example, and then sent back to Norway. I have decided that the tagline “Made in Norway” is something I will work by, not just a catchphrase. It is not possible to get every product made here, but in those cases I want to be sure that the people that made them get a fair wage and that the product is made from eco-friendly materials. We get quite a lot of Chinese tourists in Norway, and I assume they find it annoying to buy souvenirs from Norway only to find out it was made in their backyard.


// The phrase “Think globally, act locally” is always in the back of my mind. //


The idea for Nordisen arised from your passion for travelling. Where have you already been? And do you have a favourite place?

I went to the USA for a year to studyat the age of 15. It was culture shock to say the least, but it also made me realize that there is so much more to this world than what we grow up with. After I finished school in Norway, I spun a globe and my finger landed on Australia. I studied film in Brisbane forthree years and then returned home. I missed Australia terribly, and hadfound a passion for graphic design, so I went back to do a masters in Communication Design a year later.

On my way to and from Australia, I made sure to stop by places on the way, so I managed to see a lot of the world in those five years “down under”. Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong, New Caledonia and the USA are some of the places I visited. Since moving back to Norway after my studies, I have been around Europe. This summer, my husband, son and I took a tent and camped around south and west Norway for a couple of weeks. One of the better holiday’s we´ve had!

My favourite place is hard to say. It has a lot to do with whom you travel with and what you experience. I think Australia, Japan, Russia and Norway are the ones I would pick. They are all very different from each other, but these journeys have been filled with a sense of adventure, which is important to me when I travel.

Where can people buy your products?

It’s between tourist seasons at the moment, but I think there are still some of my products at Folkemuseet. I’ve been focusing a lot on the new Norse mythology range lately so the sales aspect has taken a back seat unfortunately. I am collaborating with a guy who makes leather products, and we are both pretty excited by the results. The Viking ship museum has expressed interest, with hopefully more shops to come. By summer there will be a lot more places selling Nordisen products – I promise! My web shop will be updated with the new range soon. Check soon to order.

Do you have larger plans for the future?

Oh yes – what are we without dreams? I have an organic process with my work with Nordisen and sometimes that makes it harder to plan. My long-term goal is to live of and eventually expand Nordisen. The initial idea was to give tourists in Norway an alternative to the existing souvenir products, but as the ideas evolve so do the opportunities. I want Norwegians to want my products as well, so finding the balance between national identity and an inspiring designer productis important.


Tusen takk, Jannicke!


NOTE: In the meantime her products are not only available in her beautiful webshop, but also at the Viking Ship Museum and the National Gallery, both in OSLO, as well as in the Stiklestad Nasjonale Kultursenter in VERDAL and at E. Merok Turisthandel in GEIRANGER. – For more infos and interested retailers check out her website.