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Chairman Sagmeister Charms Again


We’ve definitely heard this story before, but somehow it never gets old. Five years ago, Sagmeister took a sabbatical–a year without clients, he calls it. It was 1999, things were good back then, and it was the kind of thing that world famous designers would do.

Sagmeister was complacent. He took his diary (one that he’d kept since he was 14) and drew out a few dozen “truths.” These maxims became the subject matter for a year of artistic explorations. So, if, perchance a client did call (and, of course, they did, this is Sagmeister), he’d trash the brief, and give them a piece of art.

It totally worked.

So instead of the standard French billboard or Japanese annual report or SVA poster, Sagmeister created images of his words to live by. His quotes are composed in the environment, Ed Ruscha or Jenny Holzer style, but made of cacti or electric tape, urine or hot dogs, or filmed in New York over the course of a day.

“Assuming is stifling” said one of his lines. And it’s true. When you think you can’t do something with a design project, it’s not the client constraints or budgetary constraints, it’s your own issues. Don’t assume you can’t deliver aluminum tubing, gracefully composed in an Arizona pool.

What Sagmeister did was subvert the graphic design process, both in theory and in execution. The fact that it worked? Well, we truly believe it’s not just because he’s a world famous designer. Don’t assume. Make something you believe in and people will see your passion it in.

Hey, like the man said: “Having guts always works out for me.”

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