Academy of Art's Vilmundur Sveinsson designs award-winning portfolio

Vilmunder Sveinsson SAN FRANCISCO - Vilmundur “Vimmi” Sveinsson is living proof that a commitment to excellence can exist both on and off the soccer field.

An accomplished Academy of Art University men's soccer athlete and a pioneer of the athletics program, Sveinsson recently was bestowed the Academy of Art University School of Graphic Design BFA Award for Design Excellence sponsored by Hershey's Chocolates at the 2012 Winter Show Portfolio Review.

The honor, which is chosen annually by a team of leading national designers, places a $1,000 dollar scholarship toward the most outstanding portfolio from the School of Graphic Design for students pursing bachelor of fine arts and master of fine arts degrees.

“It is great to receive an award like this one and I really appreciate it,” Sveinsson said. “Whenever you work hard and someone notices it, it makes you want to work even harder. The same principles apply whether you are on or off the field; don't give up and give the best you can. No one can ask for anything more than that.”

The judges of the competition found Sveinsson's portfolio, that traces his unique journey from Reykjavik, Iceland, to San Francisco and displays 210 pages of his masterful work, simply stood above the rest.

Uniting the concepts of identity, typography, print design, and package design, some of Sveinsson's pieces included the dynamic branding system and campaign for the Academy of Art University's own 2011 Spring Show entitled Showcase, as well as an experimental typographical design called Design Through Light.

In addition, Sveinsson composed the design for a Monopoly board game with a soccer twist dubbed Manage Your Club, intriguingly blending his two passions.

True to the Academy of Art University's dedication to providing real-world experience for its students, this year's Winter Show Portfolio Review included a host of graphic design industry leaders. Among the judges deciding on the top portfolios were:

  • Michael Hodgson, Chair and Principal of PhD, Los Angeles
  • Maria Giudice, Founder and CEO of Hot Studio, San Francisco
  • Robert Valentine, Creative Director, Neue Amsterdam
  • Aki Shelton, Creative Director, Moving Brands, London/San Francisco/Zurich
  • Brian Singer, Design Manager, Facebook, Menlo Park

Through the five years Sveinsson spent building this extensive portfolio, he could be found meeting regularly with his mentor Mary Scott, chair of graphic design.

Scott recently completed her 13th year as chair of the department, dedicated to her mission of continuing to develop a curriculum that truly serves the needs of the design student in a rapidly evolving, dynamic profession.

Bringing vast experience from her time as vice-president and director of creative operations for Maddocks & Company, and having received numerous honors in her teaching career, Scott provided thorough guidance for Sveinsson during his undergraduate journey.

"There are not enough words to say about this outstanding young man, Vilmundur, both as a graphic designer and as a team player,” Scott said. “His heart is as big as all outdoors. He is always willing to help anyone whether it be advice or a much-needed push and encouragement. It is because of this, that he is loved by his fellow designers and teammates. Graphic Design and Sports (soccer) are a mighty challenge and he has proven that both can be done with a great deal of effort and commitment. I am sure that his talent and character will take him far. I will always remember Vimmi with great fondness.”

Sveinsson is greateful to his Art U professors.

“My professors have been very helpful and have taught me a lot,” Sveinsson said. “It is their enthusiasm that kept me motivated and wanting to always do better. I think Mary Scott is doing, and continues to do, a great job making the Graphic Design Department outstanding and one of the best in the country.”

This past 2012 fall season, when he was not assiduously working on his portfolio, Sveinsson was out on the soccer field serving as an assistant coach for Academy of Art University men's soccer team.

The experience was uniquely valuable as ART U competed for the first time as full-fledged NCAA members.

This role too was fostered by the hard work he had put in over the past four years as a star defender and team captain himself.

“Vilmundur was one of the first-ever potential student-athletes who emailed me in 2008 with his desire to play soccer and study graphic design at the Academy of Art University,” Colin Preston, associate athletics director for compliance, said. “Vilmundur winning the School of Graphic Design BFA Award for Design Excellence to end his academic career as well as being selected to the All-Pacific West Conference Team in his last year of eligibility proves why Academy of Art University belongs in the NCAA. As the program continues to move forward, I am certain that we will see many more student-athletes across all programs excel both on the field and in the classroom like Vilmundur Sveinsson did as a pioneer for the men's soccer program.”

Four years after becoming an Urban Knight in 2008, Sveinsson was emblazoned in Academy of Art University men's soccer history as one of the program's original athletes. He not only captained the team for all four seasons, but served as a powerful force in the ART U back line while offering several exciting highlights during his 64-match career.

As a defender, he took part in three game-winning goals, scoring two and assisting on one.

For all that he has experienced at Academy of Art University as an artist-athlete, Sveinsson's perspective and collegiate career are unlike any other.

Receiving this prestigious award in his grand finale simply serves as a true testament to his incredible dedication to his craft.

“Well, five years ago there wasn't much,” Sveinsson said. “All we had was a group of guys willing to do their best. We had a team. Since then, our family has grown a lot and is getting stronger every year. Being an Urban Knight is no walk in the park, but as long as you work hard and are motivated then it really will pay off.”

Find more samples of Sveinsson's work at his website: