The Fjällräven logo – as you know it today – wasn’t in place in 1960 when founder, Åke Nordin, started selling his first backpacks. At that point the ‘logo’ was more of an illustration: a drawing of a fox running down a hill. During one of Åke’s regular visits to Friluftsmagasinet (now Naturkompaniet) – the Stockholm store that sold Åke’s first products – a logo began taking shape.
Together with Erland Westerberg and Nils Hillman, Åke brainstormed and scribbled ideas on a wrinkled napkin in the store’s cramped staff kitchen. Those early sketches were sent to graphic designer Kjell Olsson, who developed the final design right before Friluftsmagasinet’s product catalogue went to print.
And the curled up Arctic Fox was born – a logo that would one day gain global recognition. They all agreed that a good logo should be clear and concise, usable in all formats and sizes, and tightly framed to avoid taking up unnecessary space. The more sketches they made, the more minimal the fox became. In the end, only the head and tail remained.
For the Fjällräven name, the trio settled on the Frankfurter font. Olsson felt that the round, soft block letters matched the logo “in a highly agreeable way”. But who was the brain behind the fox’s winking eye? On this matter, opinions differ.
Hillman claims it was his idea and is supported by Olsson. Åke, would insist it was he who gave the coiled fox its cunning look. Whatever the truth, the logo has enjoyed rare success.
In 2009, Fjällräven won the prestigious Signumpriset, an annual award made to the Nordic company judged to have best fostered its brand. Past winners include Volvo, Bang & Olufsen, Carlsberg and Absolut Vodka. The Signumpriset jury said Fjällräven had demonstrated how a strong brand identity can drive a company’s success over many years.
The curled-up Arctic fox, with a glint in its eye, is a logo that can now be seen on big city streets, as well as in the forest. Market research suggests that 95% of Swedes recognize it and relate to it. For graphic designer Kjell Olsson, the Arctic fox was just one of numerous assignments allied to the production of Friluftsmagasinet’s product catalogue. It never occurred to him that the Arctic fox would be the most successful logo he would design during his career.
Olsson’s and Hillman’s creation was so timeless that Åke never thought to modify or replace it. After 50 years of intensive use, the graphic identity needed to be carefully restored and updated. Font designer Göran Söderström at Letters of Sweden was commissioned to create a new unique Fjällräven typeface. The new font, Arctic Fox, protected the legacy of the Frankfurter font and the Arctic fox logo, while meeting new requirements for versatility and legibility.
These were just small tweaks. The same cunning fox, with its winking eye remains the same. And that’s something we’ll never change.