Designer Sagmeister talks about Italy as muse
Award-winning graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister, famed for his work with the Rolling Stones, Lou Reed and Aerosmith, says the concept of beauty in design is back.
The New-York based Austrian tipped Amsterdam, London and Zurich as the hottest places for young designers right now, but in an interview in Rome he said a creative shift has given the Italian capital the opportunity to steal the show.
“Worldwide, beauty is really coming back into design, no other city in the world has so much beauty. Designers who success- fully translate Italy’s Baroque or Renaissance for the 21st century will have found a pot of gold,” he said.
Born in 1962, Sagmeister, inspired by the punk aesthetic, forged his name designing graphics and branding for clients including HBO, Time Warner and the Guggenheim Museum, picking up a Grammy in 2005 for the design of a box set of works by 1980s indie giants Talking Heads.
The designer takes a yearlong sabbatical every seven years — the last one in Indonesia, the next a closely- guarded secret — and for the past few years has staged talks and exhibitions on his philosophy,
dubbed “the happy show.”
The Importance of Surprise
Tall and angular with a raucous laugh, Sagmeister — who has documented his struggles with alcohol, drugs, weight gain and depression — has an infectious playfulness about him.
“I very much embrace humor. By definition every punchline has a surprise in it, and I think a surprise is super important when you are dealing with clients,” he told AFP ahead of a show in Rome called “Road to Creativity.”
Inspired by a breakfast chat this week with Helmut Leder, a German expert in psychology of the arts, he describes his thrill at discovering surprises “can open you up for beauty, scientifically.”
“When you look surprised your eyes are wider ... so from a physical point of view you see more. If you first deliver a surprise and then follow up with something beautiful you will engage the viewer more,” he said.
Sagmeister was also in the Italian capital to judge a contest at Rome’s Rufa University of Fine Arts, in which students had to design works under the theme, “Things I have learned in my life so far.”
The idea came from his “desire to use what I’ve learned as a language, the graphic design language, in something that’s much more personal, more direct.”