Ste­fan Sag­meis­ter – The Happy Show

Posted on Nov 15, 2015 in Design, Event, Grafikdesign

The Happy Show

An inter­view with Ste­fan Sagmeister

Novem­ber 17, 2015 | Cate­gory: Gra­phic­de­sign & Event

Stefan Sag­meis­ter is an aus­trian desi­gner, who lives in New York. His work is inspi­ring people from all over the world. We had the oppor­tu­nity to ask him a few ques­ti­ons about The happy show, his cur­rent exhi­bi­tion at the Aus­trian Museum of Applied Arts (MAK).

How did the idea of an exhi­bi­tion about hap­pi­ness deve­lop? Did the TED-Talk The sur­pri­sing sci­ence of hap­pi­ness by Dan Gil­bert have an impact?
At the very same TED where Dan Gil­bert tal­ked about The sur­pri­sing sci­ence of hap­pi­ness in 2004, I tal­ked about Design and Hap­pi­ness. It was the good feed­back to this talk that made me revi­sit the sub­ject 5 years later while on sab­ba­ti­cal and made me decide to start a docu­men­tary film on hap­pi­ness. Dan Gilbert’s and my ways cros­sed many times since and he has cer­tainly been an enor­mous influence.

I laug­hed when I read the fol­lo­wing sen­tence in the exhibition’s book­let: If you regu­larly weep into your pil­low at night, visit­ing [this show at] the MAK won’t keep you from doing so. You say, that the goal behind this sen­tence was to lower expec­ta­ti­ons, so it would be easier to excite the visi­tors. I guess you have to meet great expec­ta­ti­ons con­side­ring your pro­mi­nence. What stra­te­gies do you use to handle that expec­ta­ti­ons?
I do think that low expec­ta­ti­ons are a good stra­tegy. I do tend to enjoy films I dis­co­ver by chance by mys­elf much more, than films that were recom­men­ded by all my fri­ends as must-sees. It is dif­fi­cult for me to deve­lop a stra­tegy for this, as I can’t arti­fi­ci­ally lower my expec­ta­ti­ons. For example, in rela­ti­onships, it is silly of me to expect my part­ner to be beau­ti­ful, kind, smart, sophisti­ca­ted and adven­turous, and even though I know this, its dif­fi­cult to accept when it is not so.

One of your pie­ces of advice at the show is, that com­plai­ning is silly, eit­her act or for­get. Do you think about that often? In what situa­ti­ons?
I might catch mys­elf star­ting to com­plain in my head about a cli­ent, and when I’m in good shape, I can stop it: Eit­her I can do some­thing about it and try to change the situa­tion, or I accept the situa­tion and move on.

Stefan Sagmeister – The Happy Show Exhibition Photo 15

MAK Exhi­bi­tion View, 2015 – STEFAN SAGMEISTER: The Happy Show, Ever­y­body Always Thinks They Are Right, 2007. In col­la­bo­ra­tion with Monika Aichele, Mat­thias Ernst­ber­ger, and Spor­togo. MAK Colum­ned Main Hall | © MAK/Aslan Kudrnofsky

Stefan Sagmeister – The Happy Show Exhibition Photo 2

MAK Exhi­bi­tion View, 2015 – STEFAN SAGMEISTER: The Happy Show, Actually Doing the Things I Set Out to Do Increa­ses My Over­all Level of Satis­fac­tion, 2012. Exe­cu­tion: Kevin O’Callahan. MAK Per­ma­nent Collec­tion Con­tem­porary Art | © MAK/Aslan Kudrnofsky

In the exhi­bi­tion visi­tors are asked about their level of hap­pi­ness. What about yours?
Right now, truly fan­tas­tic. Last week I had a (very rare) num­ber 10 day, right now likely an 8.

A lot of your work has a con­nec­tion to music. Fur­ther­more music seems to influ­ence emo­ti­ons. Can you name a par­ti­cu­lar song that makes you happy?
Music rou­ti­nely asserts a big­ger influ­ence on my mood than any of the other arts. One song that just ran in the stu­dio had per­ked me up nume­rous times: Glass Ani­mals – Black Mambo.

Visit­ing your show made me feel like I could pro­fit from your life les­sons. Which par­ti­cu­lar les­son is espe­cially import­ant for desi­gners?
Having guts always works out for me. Its the one les­son I know well, but still have not inter­na­li­zed com­ple­tely, I still have to talk mys­elf into it time after time again. My self-censorship keeps me from not try­ing out things I should.

If you take a look at the latest pro­jects at Design made in Aus­tria, which ones do you like and why?
Of course, the Alm­dud­ler iden­tity. Because I love the pro­duct. And it is very appro­pria­tely desi­gned. The Land­jae­ger Maga­zin, because it con­tains strong ideas well exe­cu­ted (pretty much a defi­ni­tion of good design) and the Good Forks pho­to­gra­phy of Marion Lut­ten­ber­ger, because she is lovely, won­der­ful, pro­fes­sio­nal and we work with her a lot.

Thank you for your time. It was a pleasure!


Opening: Tues­day, 27 Octo­ber 2015, 7 p.m.
Exhi­bi­tion Venue: MAK, Stu­ben­ring 5, 1010 Vienna
Exhi­bi­tion Dates: 28 Octo­ber 2015 – 28 March 2016
Opening Hours: Tue 10 a.m.–10 p.m., Wed–Sun 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
Free admis­sion on Tues­days from 6–10 p.m.

More about the MAK

Ste­fan Sagmeister

Stefan Sagmeister
Ste­fan Sag­meis­ter has worked for the Rol­ling Sto­nes, The Tal­king Heads, Lou Reed, and The Gug­gen­heim Museum. Exhi­bi­ti­ons on Sagmeister’s work have been moun­ted in New York, Phil­adel­phia, Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, Paris, Lau­sanne, Zurich, Vienna, Pra­gue, Colo­gne & Berlin.


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