We've seen some pretty spectacular thesis projects by up and coming designers over the years, but never before have any of those projects involved a 6+ month-long road trip through small towns all across Sweden. Erik Olovsson, who recently completed his Master's Degree in Graphic Design - Storytelling at Konstfack, noted how easy it is "to be sitting in the office and surf design blogs instead of finding inspiration from reality... It's rare that a designer gets a deeper insight into the client's business." With that in mind he bought an old motorhome, cleaned it up, gave it a bright new graphic paint job and hit the road seeking face-to-face interactions with small business across the country.
The crux of his mission is his strict no-fee policy. Instead of money, he takes payment for his design work in trade, with a preference for goods or services that will help him on his way. "Perhaps something to eat? Gasoline? New tires? A new hairdo? A hot shower?" he suggests. So far he's traded a t-shirt design for a massage and web advice for cinnamon rolls. Overall he's found that when no money changes hands the client/designer relationship is much more collaborative and equanimous.
He recently held a concert on the roof of his van, did the brand identity for a Swedish-owned mango factory in Burkina Faso and completed a poster for a letter writing group (check his blog for images of the group's founders' Wes Anderson-esque vintage letter writing suitcase). It's too bad that his thesis didn't include plans for a Designjet, as we'd gladly cook him a hot meal in exchange for some modern Scandinavian design. Currently, he's in Östersund, and you follow his journey on Instagram at #eriksdesignbuss or on his blog, where he posts images of his travels as well as his work in process.