Often provocative, always creative: meet graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister
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DESIGN Below: Sagmeister
DESIGN Below: Sagmeister with Jaguar’s director of design Ian Callum at the former’s new exhibition, Beauty penchant runs in the family – Sagmeister recalls that his grandfather was taught sign-painting, and the family home was filled with words of wisdom, painstakingly lettered in gold leaf on carved wooden panels. “A lot of the wisdom of this world is old,” he says. “The best I can hope for is to find a way to express a little piece in a way that hasn’t been expressed before, so that somebody notices it again.” Walsh joined the studio in 2010 and became a partner, at the age of 25, in the renamed Sagmeister & Walsh two years later. They announced the new business with another naked picture, to much shock and delight. The duo have a knack for incorporating personal work into their design for clients; their advertising for fashion brand Milly, with its emphasis on skin, bodies and transformation, echoes the colourful viscerality of their Take It On posters for the School of Visual Arts. Yet when they need to be more restrained, as in the identity design for New York’s Jewish Museum, they are equally effective. Sagmeister’s next big self-initiated project took on the subject of happiness. The Happy Show was seen in museums across the US and Europe. The Happy Film, initially made in collaboration with the gifted designer and director Hillman Curtis, is in the tradition of films such as Super Size Me, but with added graphic flair. As a design project, Sagmeister ‘redesigns his personality’. He becomes a guinea pig, trying out meditation, therapy and drugs as ways to increase his happiness, with mixed results. “The Happy Film was a nightmare, production-wise,” admits Sagmeister. “When we started making it I was doing super well. But half a year into it, I broke up with my girlfriend of 11 years. A year into it, my mum died. And threeand-a-half years into it, Curtis died of cancer.” Sagmeister “ YOU’VE BEEN PESTERED AND SEDUCED INTO THINKING ABOUT BEAUTY” eventually finished the film, and the result is by turns funny, embarrassing and painfully honest. But he vows never to make a film again. “It was just so difficult to do and I was so bad at it,” he says. “Design is not the same as film-making.” He insists, too, that he is not an artist. In a public conversation at the MAK with Jaguar’s director of design Ian Callum, Sagmeister quoted Donald Judd’s definition: “Design has to work, art does not!” But you can’t avoid the personal – his body, his life – in Sagmeister’s work. That’s what makes his popular conference talks – like visually driven stand-ups – so compelling. “I try out many things to see how they work with an audience. It’s like a prototyping medium,” he says. But, despite his gift for narrative, he is notoriously sceptical of the fashionable claim that design is storytelling. He once said: “People in our space [design] took on the mantle of bullshit. Now everybody’s a storyteller.” Beauty, though a spectacular and polemical exhibition, is more conversation than story. By the time you leave, you have been pestered, hustled and seduced into thinking what ‘beauty’ means, whether that’s in a peacock’s tail; the museum’s ceiling pattern; a chandelier made from waste materials; or a car – the book of the show includes a doublepage spread photo of a Jaguar E-type, bearing Enzo Ferrari’s description of it as the most beautiful car ever made. Beauty, Sagmeister declares, is not merely in the eye of the beholder. And the show is like the man himself: to encounter Stefan Sagmeister is to be drawn into a world that’s more intense, more visually focused, more fun than the everyday. The ‘Beauty’ exhibition, which began at Vienna’s MAK, now continues in Frankfurt until 15 September 2019, with more locations to follow. PHOTOS: SAGMEISTER & WALSH (3); JAGUAR LAND ROVER; ALEXANDER SEGER 22 THEJAGUAR
XXXXXXXXXX Artist Rosa Kammermeier inscribed Sagmeister’s manifesto on beauty on a Jaguar E-Pace
JAGUAR MAGAZINE celebrates creativity in all its forms, with exclusive features that inspire sensory excitement, from seductive design to cutting-edge technology.
The latest issue features a range of inspiring people: from Luke Jennings, creator of Villanelle, one of the most interesting television characters in recent times, to Marcus Du Sautoy, who ponders whether artificial intelligence is on the brink of becoming creative. Out on the road, we visit the US to explore the foodie heaven of Portland in a Jaguar I-PACE, take a Jaguar XE to the south of France to get a photographer’s viewpoint of the charming town of Arles, and much more.