Sagmeister’s things he has learned

Graphic design is a language. So, of course, I can go and learn another language, like film or music (the two holding the biggest interest for me), and after some significant training I’ll be able to speak them in a way other people understand (and hopefully find interesting enough to watch and listen to).


Or, instead of learning a new language, can I refine the one that I do know how to speak—graphic design—and, much more importantly, figure out if I actually have something to say. It would be more maddening to spend ten years learning how to direct a film only to find out I have nothing to say. It might be more romantic to say “I love you” in French than it is in Cantonese; nevertheless, it is still possible to say it. It might be more touching to say it in a song than in design, but saying it in design should be achievable, too. And it is possible to say “I love you” even in architecture, as the Taj Mahal proves.


—Stefan Sagmeister

At long last, I finished The things I have learned in my life so far by Stefan Sagmeister. A book I have long wanted to read by a designer I have long-admire. I know I have brought him and the book up before. Katie and I went to go see his exhibition on happiness last year, in fact. The book features his various insights over the years beautifully illustrated in handmade type (either by him or other artists) and with a short essay about how he learned the lesson and how the typography was created.

Some of my favorites were:

Complaining is silly. Either act or forget. A billboard which fades over time.

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 9.16.02 PM

Everything I do always comes back to me.

I’m going to stop myself at two because I could really just republish the whole book.

What I like about Sagmeister is goes beyond the quality and creativity of his work, but its how he actively works at the being the person he wants to be. Even if that means struggle and changing direction. He makes time for his passions and, as Charles Eames professes he “Takes his pleasures seriously.” For example, on the second quote (“Everything I do always comes back to me”), Sagmeister talks about how he’s not naturally a nice person and at one point he assigned himself one hour of being nice. He even picked up nice debt and would have to work off 50 hours of nice some other time.

Many of his lessons are things I struggle with myself. Lessons I’ve learned in theory, but not in practice. One of my life philosophies is working towards positive change (however you define it) and taking a break from my schoolwork to read about his book helped remind me of that.

And, I guess I just wanted to share that with you.

Two more lessons:

Your Turn:

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