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Stefan (Sage)meister

NB: This blog post is not overly philosophical and trite. (fail)

I am wholly aware that the title of this blog will subsequently not gain the meta tagging results i would so desire given that I am using a play on words rather than spelling his name correctly but this hopefully captures the essence of Stefan Sagmeister's recent seminar at Offset in Dublin. (attended by Al and myself...Ed)

For such a complex person he translated design and creativity in such a succinct and simple manner. When Al first told me about Stefan's year long sabbatical every 7 years as a vehicle to clear his mind and regain his creative spirit, I was incredibly cynical. However, having listened to his reasoning and seen the results I have changed my opinion. He also delivered in Dublin that he now sees this time gap as too much and is addressing it to be 3 months of every other year.

His design focus of the lecture was based on a filmed documentary of this afore mentioned sabbatical, which he spent most of in Bali, Indonesia. Having lost his father already, he very sadly  lost his mother during the year out. He described of his closeness to her and his ensuing sadness of her loss. Experiencing other negative events in the year it lead to him to question his own happiness, which became the raison d'etre of the documentary. It was incredible to experience such a 'baring of one's sole' to a live audience but through creativity and eloquence he had his listeners utterly engaged.

Stefan proceeded to divulge the quintessential methods he took try and search for his happiness:

  • Meditation - in Bali he sought a meditative guru to train him in the practice. He kept this short but the conclusion was that he found the 'inner calm' but not really the answer to 'was he happy?'.
  • Psychology - he took some therapy from a highly commended psychologist using the theories and structures of this practice. From this he discovered his mini epiphany of 'now is better'.
  • Drugs - he had yet to undertake this phase of the project, hence us only seeing a part finished documentary.

'Now is better' he described as being the natural state and awareness of the 'moment' and harnessing it to gain a context of feeling. He then realised this could be how to regain his happiness. Stefan explained a feeling one day in Bali where he simply jumped on his moped, turned on his music and just rode around.

He could not find a set of adjectives to describe his euphoria of freedom and excitement at this activity. There wasn't anything unique in this experience as he would do this daily but he would always do it with meaning ie going to the shops or visiting a friend.

Without meaning or reason, the sensation of zipping through the streets of Indonesia provided a contextless autonomy of physicality and mind, which made him discover a beauty in the concept of 'now'.

Ok so I have rambled about the intricacies of Sagmeister's psyche but how did he apply this to creativity and more importantly design? It was visualised through utterly breathtaking environmental typography, using various tools and mechanisms to generate poignant phraseology about sensations without any real purpose, drawing the parallels to his moped experience.

Leaves piled up in a disused basketball court to spell the word 'here' in a stunning slab typeface, tennis balls poked through the gaps in the very fence that surrounded the basketball court, perfectly placed to spell another word in a sans serif typeface. Sheets hanging from the branches of a forest at different depths that when perspectives change spells out another word.

Finally, using cups of tea arranged in a typeface and then banged from underneath so that all the liquid spills out in one uniform motion, all in in HD slow-mo. The varying hues of strength of tea generated the 3D nature of the typeface which eventually read all edited together 'Now is better'.

Clearly this described in text is rather uninteresting perhaps and loses the impact of its intention however to me it exercised the importance of creative thinking space and through complex thought comes simple but beautiful creativity and design. It's not about over thinking problems to a state of incoherence but harnessing the great things about a problem and applying a great solution for a beautifully designed result.

Anyway, there is no better time to end this blog than....'now'.

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