Stefan Sagmeister seeks happiness

Stefan Sagmeister (1962-) is among today's most important graphic designers. Born in Austria, he now lives and works in New York. His long-standing collaborators include the AIGA and the musicians David Byrne and Lou Reed. His New York-based graphic design firm is called Sagmeister Inc. At noon on Thursday, December 8, 2011, Sagmeister visited the Kelly Writers House and was interviewed before a live audience by Claudia Gould, former director of the Institute of Contemporary Art and currently director of the Jewish Museum. Here is an audio recording of the same event. From April through August 2012, the ICA features a Sagmeister exhibit called “The Happy Show.”  During that visit to Philadelphia, Sagmeister also met with the fifteen undergraduates in Kenneth Goldsmith's year-long seminar on contemporary writing/contemporary art, a collaboration of the ICA and the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing. Goldsmith asked the students to write ten happy, upbeat truisms during the first day of class and then, on day two, to narrow them down to one. “Do what you want.” “Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can today.” “Always mean what you say.” This emphasis on trite wisdom is tied to the ICA's Sagmeister show, an investigation of Sagmeister’s imaginative implementation of typography and ten-year exploration of happiness. A series of works follow a (non)narrative of truisms, or rules to live by, that run through the museum’s second-floor galleries, the ICA’s “ramp” space, and in-between spaces. Social data gathered from psychologists Daniel Gilbert, Steven Pinker, Jonathan Haidt, and anthropologist Donald Symons contextualize these maxims, originally culled from Sagmeister’s diary. At ICA, “The Happy Show” examines the ideology of self-improvement via constructed dicta.