Sagmeister Visits Seattle

November 15, 2013

Last week, a few of our industrial, user experience and graphic designers attended a riveting talk by Stefan Sagmeister—the famed NYC–based Austrian designer—as part of the Design Lecture Series at the Seattle Public Library. The aloof designer stereotype definitely didn’t apply here: Stefan was animated and determined to keep the audience engaged. His current project is “The Happy Show,” and his little tricks—like having everyone sing coordinated karaoke at the top of their lungs—emerged from his self–experiments and research into the “user experience” of happiness. Another tip? Before bed, think of three things that “worked” today, rather than worrying, planning or letting your mind wander. As with gratitude, he’s decided that satisfaction is a key ingredient in happiness. Not revolutionary, but affirmation that it takes a little work to maintain a positive outlook.

We designers spend our days creating and actualizing products that are tangible, appropriate and well–suited to their critical functions. So it was particularly interesting to hear Stefan talk about his time away from day–to–day professional design, investigating discreet projects with purely artificial constraints. Each of his sabbatical exercises, everything from designing an entire CD package to drawing freehand, had to be completed in three hours. Not surprisingly, the lack of freedom and resources forced him to be more creative, focused, and even turned out a better product—a somewhat elementary lesson it never hurts to remember.

Sagmeister’s ideas are simple. It was the spirit of his talk, though, that was appealing: Stay engaged at all costs. Remember what’s working. Trick yourself into staying focused and keeping things fresh. Don’t let yourself become cynical or removed from the sheer creative joy of designing. And, most importantly, take time to find the silly little tricks that keep you happy each day.