Stefan Sagmeister on Design and Happiness at the IMA

At the intersection of design, life lessons, and pop music, you’ll find Stefan Sagmeister. The Austrian born designer has been very prolific throughout his over thirty year career, designing for projects as diverse as record covers and independent installations. In an interview with Wallpaper* Magazine, Sagmeister says of his design philosophy: “I am still mostly concerned with design that has the ability to touch the viewers’ heart. We see so much professionally done and well-executed graphic design around us…Nevertheless, almost all of it leaves me (and I suspect many other viewers) cold…Our goal for the future will be to touch somebody’s heart with design.” This is a philosophy that is perhaps best embodied in his most recent project, “Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far,” which is also the focus of his new book and the subject of his upcoming appearance at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Students at the Herron School of Art and Design and other Indianapolis art schools should head to downtown Indianapolis on Thursday, June 16, 2011 to catch Stefan Sagmeister discussing design, bliss, and maxims for living.

Video of an interview with designer Stefan Sagmeister, who will be doing a book signing at the Indianapolis Museum of Art June 16, 2011

A graduate of the University of Applied Arts Vienna and the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship to the Pratt Institute, Sagmeister has been designing since the age of 15, when he worked for an Austrian magazine called Alphorn. After short stints at the Hong Kong Design Group and, later, at the M&Co design company in New York, he started his own company in 1993, Sagmeister, Inc. Since the founding of Sagmeister, Inc., Stefan has been doing marketing, branding, and packaging design work for a huge list of influential clients, from the Guggenheim Museum to the Rolling Stones. He has won two Grammy’s for his design work, one in 2005 for a Talking Heads box set, and a second in in 2010 for the Brian Eno/David Byrne collaboration, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. Sagmeister has also designed covers for Lou Reed (Ecstasy), Aerosmith (Nine Lives; described by Sagmeister as “awful, heartbreaking and stupid”), and OK Go (OK Go). The artist currently teaches in the graduate department of the School of Visual Arts in New York.

Video of Stefan Sagmeister giving a TEDTalk about his routine sabbaticals and how they help his creativity; Sagmeister will be presenting at the Indianapolis Museum of Art June 16, 2011

But through all his branding and commercial success, Stefan Sagmeister tries to stay true to his artistic roots. Every seven years, he goes on a year long sabbatical, where he isolates himself somewhere in the world (last time it was in Indonesia) and works on his individual design projects, declining new work from clients. During his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama’s staff contacted Sagmeister during one of his sabbaticals to create an Obama campaign poster; Sagmeister refused. This personal dedication extends to his most well known project, “Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far.” The project is a series of public art installations utilizing everything from light to sausages to ductwork to billboards, each one expounding one of twenty or so maxims Sagmeister has learned in his life, including “Trying to look good limits my life,” and “Complaining is silly…either act or forget.” The installations have been compiled into a book, Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far, which Sagmeister will be signing and selling at the Indianapolis art museum on Thursday. He also runs a website,, where users are invited to submit their own maxims and accompanying art projects.

Video of another TEDTalk with Stefan Sagmeister, in which he discusses Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far; Sagmeister will be speaking at the Indianapolis Museum of Art


Stefan Sagmeister
will be hosting a talk on “design and bliss” at the Indianapolis Museum of Art on Thursday, June 16 at 7:00 p.m, which Indianapolis art fans should definitely attend. Though tickets to this Indianapolis event aren’t available online any more, interested Indianapolis people can still purchase them from the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s ticketing desk. Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for students at Indianapolis schools, and $5 for IMA members. To hear a prolific designer and get inspiration for your own heart touching art in the process, come to the Indianapolis Museum of Art on Thursday, June 16 to hear Stefan Sagmeister discuss his book, Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far. Who knows, you might just learn a thing or two.

Stefan Sagmeister, Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far
Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets: $8/adults, $5/students and members
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Indianapolis Museum of Art

4000 Michigan Rd
Indianapolis, IN 46208

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