Stefan Sagmeister is one of the most well-known living graphic designers, currently based in New York and running his own small design agency. Sagmeister is a hybrid of designer and fine artist, rooted in the belief that graphic design can be just as powerful as a painting: “You can have an art experience in front of a Rembrandt… or in front of a piece of graphic design,” he said.
Sagmeister is famous for his photo-based work and typography. He often uses found objects to create typography, many of which can be found in his book“Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far.”
If you’re stuck on a project, Sagmeister suggests going to a busy cafe or restaurant and bringing only a piece of paper and pencil (a technique he picked up from film director Steven Soderbergh). Sitting there by yourself with nothing to do will automatically “shame” you into writing or drawing to look busy.
Censoring yourself, or assuming that a client won’t approve your idea, is “stifling.” Sagmeister also believes that taking a year-long sabbatical every 5 years is essential to the design–or any work–process. After doing a lecture at Cranbrook Academy, Sagmeister noticed the graduate students there experimenting with design — and realized he should experiment as well, for one “year without clients.” Sagmeister believes design is more than just selling work… It can educate, tell stories, and create an artistic experience.
During his TED talk, Sagmeister shared several tips on how he keeps his ideas fresh during the design process:
– Thinking about ideas and content freely – with the deadline far away.
– Working without interruption on a single project
– Using a wide variety of tools and techniques
– Traveling to new places
He also shared his list of things he has learned in his life:
– Complaining is silly. Either act or forget.
– Helping other people helps me.
– Organizing a charity group is surprisingly easy.
– Over time I get used to everything and start taking it for granted.
– Money does not make me happy.
– Traveling alone is helpful for a new perspective on life.
– Assuming is stifling.
– Keeping a diary supports my personal development.
– Trying to look good limits my life.
– Worrying solves nothing.
– Material luxuries are best enjoyed in small doses.
– Having guts always works out for me.