What Stefan Sagmeister Learned on His Year-Long Vacation

(Ron Hogan).jpg

Looking to rationalize your next vacation? Just pick up a copy of Stefan Sagmeister‘s new book, Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far, a collection of projects inspired by sentences the designer penned during a year-long sabbatical. It all started when Sagmeister declared 2000 a “client-free year.” After he pondered leaving the world of graphic design to become a filmmaker, Sagmeister decided to use the time to better understand the strengths and limitations of graphic design through a number of design experiments.

“We rearranged the whole trajectory of the studio. Before that we used to do mostly work for the music industry and have reduced that down quite significantly,” Sagmeister told Ron Hogan in a interview just posted to mediabistro.com’s Galleycat blog. “And a number of other things came out of it. For one, the thinking, or at least the initial idea, behind the book we’ve just published…as well as probably most importantly, we found the joy of being a designer within that year.”


The project “Everything I do always comes back to me” ended up being the first in a series of illustrated life lessons. “The idea of a series only came out when we received a lot of feedback,” said Sagmeister. “And then we immediately had a second client asking for a very free project [billboards commissioned by a Parisian suburb], so it continued.” And it keeps expanding through contributions to the “Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far” website. When the inevitable design or art? question comes up, Sagmeister is clear that he considers this work to be design. “Because it’s done by a design company, published in media that are clearly design media…and they have a purpose besides self-expression.”

(A special thanks to Ron Hogan for the above photo of Sagmeister beside an impressive collection of Empire State Building models. “Sagmeister told me he isn’t usually much of a collector,” Hogan tells us. “But if you look through that penthouse window [just above his main studio], you get a northeastern view that puts the Empire State Building right in the center, and that was his inspiration.” Plus, if you look really closely, you can see Debbie Millman at work on the building’s 17th floor!)