Brilliant, Engaging, But Modest It’s Not

Stefan Sagmeister’s latest book may reveal as much about the state of graphic design as it does about its compelling author.

By Rick Poynor
Posted June 18, 2008

Stefan Sagmeister is one of the best known and most popular graphic designers working today. He hasn’t yet reached the level of international renown and influence on design that David Carson achieved in the 1990s, but Sagmeister’s fame is of a different kind. His main contribution has been his emphasis on the handmade, in reaction to the slickness and unreality of so much digital design, and his willingness to treat any kind of material as a suitable component. Still, there are many equally accomplished designers at work around the world today who are nowhere near as famous. The crucial factor in Sagmeister’s success is the way that he publicly performs the role of designer, just as Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst publicly perform the role of artist. Even before Sagmeister made the unlikely though hugely effective career move of cutting the details of a lecture into his own flesh for a poster, his presence and personality was a feature of his work. Since that painful moment nine years ago, his most highly publicized and emblematic projects have tended to be about himself.

It’s there again in the title of his latest book, Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far, which takes it for granted that his fans won’t be able to resist a proposition that sounds like a fusion of autobiography and self-help manual. The project—a collection of loose pamphlets in a slipcase to be read in any order—is based on 20 personal maxims that Sagmeister has been able to interpret in the last six years in the form of magazine spreads, billboards, light boxes, annual reports, and fashion brochures. The cover is an image of his own face die-cut with apertures that encourage you to play with and pattern his features in different ways by shuffling the pamphlets. It’s a typically brilliant and engaging piece of design, but it sure ain’t modest. [Ler mais...]

Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far, BY Stefan Sagmeister
ESSAYS by Steven Heller, Daniel Nettle, and Nancy Spector
Courtesy Abrams