SAGMEISTER AND EMOTION

October 29, 2009

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Picture 71Art Grandeur Nature, 2004, Stefan Sagmeister

This is a reading response to Stefan Sagmeister’s essay on emotion in graphic design.

I really liked this reading. I feel that designers, or at least design students, are always after Sagmeister’s secret–how does he make the amazing work he makes? It must be his sabbaticals. It must be his apt sculptural typography skills. It must be that he’s European. Wrong. This article smashes all of that. Like any other artist or designer, he is a living, breathing human being, and his strength comes in embracing that.

The secret to success? Make yourself feel your design. Really, really feel it. Inside, not with your fingers. If you don’t feel anything, maybe rethink the project.

This of course is only a certain kind of success, but a kind that I’m hoping to find.

I tried to choose a favorite part of this essay to focus on, but I couldn’t. Each section offered something new and refreshing. I appreciated the whole thing. The best part for me was that even though he listed a number of graphic design projects that touched him, a lot of them weren’t simply design. They were hybrid projects: art, graffiti, comics. I hold fast that what makes an interesting designer is a well-rounded interest in many things. As designers, we’re the mirrors of the world, in some sense. If we’re not actively watching, listening, feeling, our work will lack meaningful content.

“So ever since I got that black canvas bag at that conference in New Orleans, this touching thing has been on my mind, and  I’ve looked for design pieces that cut through to my heart.”

Picture 68I feel more when I look at this than when I look at most other things. Matokie Slaughter.

2852318316_4a0103619e_oThis moves me. More.

3017710596_569104d1d5_bSo does this. A global warming rug.

3023493753_5fef5e4d80And this: a homemade state seal for a rural secessionist movement. Two x’s=double crossed.

4029928066_23a21a1ab9_bAnd this. Elizabeth Jaeger took this in Berlin. Two bicycles at the same angle, two shopping carts at the same angle, two people wearing the exact same thing, two posters, there’s probably more.

“I suspect that in ten years time this touching kind of design is going to be the only kind of design that’s going to be done by actual designers.”

3926398482_9f822265fb_oThen there’s this kind of stuff. Hyper-meaningful graphic design. I try to love every piece of this I see, and for a long time I did. But it almost raises the bar on itself; now when I see this hyper-positivity I look at it way more critically, trying to decide if it does anything new, anything different, anything that elicits an emotional response.3671381510_2f5c913b21_o

4031333215_2d9f69edfa_oOlimpia Zagnoli

Picture 69Espo does it right. This makes me feel.  A Love Letter For You.

“I think it was Katherine McCoy who said that graphic design can never rise above its content. If I have nothing to say, the best design won’t help me.”

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