Stefan Sagmeister is a designer who has been following his instinct and intuition to the fullest, having gained recognition for his unique, and often provocative, visual explorations. It’s possibly his very personal and almost self-centric way to design that leads to his original approach. On May 31, 19 years after starting his NYC studio he once again surprised the crowds with renaming to Sagmeister & Walsh in a ‘trademark’ Sagmeister fashion – naked in the studio. A bit of history. When the Austrian-born Sagmeister moved to New York, he made it his mission to work for the legendary designer Tibor Kalman (1949-1999), at M&Co before starting his own studio in 1994. Sagmeister inc. Kalman, one of the two names that changed graphic design in the 80’s—as AIGA proclaims—was well respected for his social responsibility polemic and then as the editor-in-chief of Colors magazine. Sagmeister earned Grammys for his iconic music packaging art (see his David Byrne CD covers). With his poster designs for the AIGA, as well as a slew of heralded personal projects, it’s safe to say that his status as a design superstar has been cemented. He also obtained a Lucky Strike Designer Award in 2009. There are two published monographs on his work, “Things i have learned in my life so far” (2008) and “Sagmeister, Made You Look” (2001) that are often found on designer’s bookshelves. He’s also known for taking yearlong sabbaticals every seven years out of studio, which is obviously good for creativity and well being (if one can afford it).
For the 1999 poster for his AIGA detroit lecture Stefan asked his intern Martin to cut out the lettering on his skin. If you want to be original you must be able to take the pain. Photography: Tom Schierlitz
The Grammy award-winning design of this album features happy, angry, sad and content David Byrne dolls. He advocates keeping it simple, which he believes has huge benefits and routinely takes a sabbatical break every seven years to recharge and reflect creatively. This is yet another timeless and in English previously unpublished interview conducted by Spyros Zevelakis, when he met with Sagmeister at TypoBerlin ‘Image’ in 2008.
Stefan_Sagmeister © gerhardkassner.de.
Q: Do we have to gather in the economical centres of the world in order to do better graphic design? Design by its own definition, not only communication design but also product design—from a broader point of view, they’re about the interaction of humans. Now, you have more interactions of humans in cities. Bigger concentration, much higher density than you’d have in the countryside. Consequently, as a designer, I’m invited a lot to different places around the world, and they’re almost without exception cities. So, there is now just much higher usage of design and products, but also in the making of them, and in the thinking about them. At the same time though, technology allows us to do fantastic work anywhere. And this is true for young designers. I’ve seen colleges outside of cities. They do amazing work that uses the remoteness, as part of their limitations [as designers], and turn it to their advantage. I’ve also seen design companies, being in provincial areas, who do brilliant work. Q: So, in the years to come, will designers be more able to live anywhere and do work anywhere? In a sense, I would say, because you can technically do it. But, obviously, the density of information and the experiences will be probably more for the cities than the countryside. So, I could see this working beautifully for a limited period of time, and I’m actually going to move for a year to the countryside to do exactly that—try a different style of working. I will be in Indonesia, quite far away from any urban centre. I’d have to fly to Jakarta or Singapore. That’ll be for a year, but I don’t think that I’d want to do this for the rest of my life.
Illustrated by Monika Aichele in Germany and built by Sportogo in California, each monkey held...
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