Beauty is commonly defined as the characteristic of an animal, idea, object, person, or place that provides a perceptual experience of pleasure or satisfaction. But what role does it actually play within our lives? For West Michigan Design Week, renowned creative, Stegan Sagmeister, will talk to Grand Rapidians about
Beauty is commonly defined as the characteristic of an animal, idea, object, person, or place that provides a perceptual experience of pleasure or satisfaction. But what role does it actually play within our lives? For West Michigan Design Week, renowned creative, Stegan Sagmeister, will talk to Grand Rapidians about Why Beauty Matters, and more.
Rapid Growth: What brings you to West Michigan Design Week
Stefan Sagmeister: Basically, I was invited.
RG: What is your talk Why Beauty Matters
SS: Most design centric professions, be it architecture, product, or digital design don’t take beauty very seriously, with many practitioners seeing it as superfluous, while concentrating on function. I very strongly believe that the sole pursuit of functionality often leads to work that does not function at all. The public housing projects of the '50s and '60s being a prime example. The goal was to house as many people as effectively as possible, resulting in projects that were not fit for human habitation; they needed to be torn down again 20 years later.
RG: How did you first get your start in design?
SS: I started to write for a small magazine called Alphorn
when I was 15, and quickly discovered that I loved doing the layout more than the writing.
RG: When did you decide to start your own creative firm, Sagmeister & Walsh
SS: We opened the studio in 1993 to create designs for the music industry.
RG: What is your favorite project you’ve ever worked on?
SS: Likely the whole Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far
series. The individual projects were a pleasure to design and create, lecturing, and exhibiting them was a pleasure. I was pleased with how the book came out and even now, 10 years after we started the series, I have a good time talking about it. We also got a lot of positive and steady feedback about it.
RG: The TED Talks
you've given revolve around the idea of happiness within design. How does this personally resonate with you?
SS: Right now, over 50 percent of the world population live in cities. For this part of the population, everything surrounding them has been designed, from the contact lens, to the cloth, the chair, the room, the house, the street, the park, the city. These designed surroundings play exactly the same role to a city dweller as nature does to an indigenous person living in a rainforest.
They can be designed well or badly. They will make a difference. There are of course many products out there that do make our life easier, but we tend to only notice them when they fail badly. I can be in a plane going up and completely ignore the fact what an incredible piece of design that really is. I'll only really notice it when it crashes.
RG: What do you think design and creative careers will look like within the next five to 10 years?
SS: The still image will continue to lose its importance. Everything that can be animated will be animated.
RG: What are some of the hurdles you’ve had to jump over to get to where you are today?
SS: They were too few and too low to mention.
RG: You’ve been known to take year-long sabbaticals. What inspired this “tradition” of yours?
SS: I think the time frame itself is less important than the commitment to spend a certain part of my time doing what I am truly interested in. Every designer whose work I admire conducts a version of this. Every late afternoon, one day a week, a couple of days every month, I've seen almost every version out there conducted in companies tiny and large.
RG: For young designers, what is your best piece of advice?
SS: Select three pieces of design that you think are good, and then copy them exactly and painstakingly—typography and all.
This of course is for training only, not for your portfolio. Then pick three new pieces, things that contain a lot of information. Copy them again. Then create three pieces on your own: a poster, a website, a brand system.
RG: What do you hope to have people get out of your Why Beauty Matters
SS: An answer to the question of why it matters. That beauty is part of who we are as humans, that we feel and behave differently in a beautiful environment.
Jenna Morton is the RapidChat correspondent for Rapid Growth Media.