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TED2008

Stefan Sagmeister: Designing with slogans

February 2, 2008

Rockstar designer Stefan Sagmeister delivers a short, witty talk on life lessons, expressed through surprising modes of design (including ... inflatable monkeys?).

Stefan Sagmeister - Graphic designer
Renowned for album covers, posters and his recent book of life lessons, designer Stefan Sagmeister invariably has a slightly different way of looking at things. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
I was here about four years ago,
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talking about the relationship of design and happiness.
00:14
At the very end of it, I showed a list under that title.
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I learned very few things in addition since
00:26
(Laughter) --
00:32
but made a whole number of them into projects since.
00:33
These are inflatable monkeys in every city in Scotland:
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"Everybody always thinks they are right."
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They were combined in the media.
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"Drugs are fun in the beginning but become a drag later on."
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We're doing changing media.
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This is a projection that can see the viewer
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as the viewer walks by.
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You can't help but actually ripping that spider web apart.
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All of these things are pieces of graphic design.
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We do them for our clients.
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They are commissioned.
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I would never have the money to actually pay for the installment
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or pay for all the billboards or the production of these,
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so there's always a client attached to them.
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These are 65,000 coat hangers in a street
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that's lined with fashion stores.
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"Worrying solves nothing."
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"Money does not make me happy"
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appeared first as double-page spreads in a magazine.
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The printer lost the file, didn't tell us.
02:06
When the magazine -- actually, when I got the subscription --
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it was 12 following pages.
02:11
It said, "Money does does make me happy."
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And a friend of mine in Austria felt so sorry for me
02:16
that he talked the largest casino owner in Linz
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into letting us wrap his building.
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So this is the big pedestrian zone in Linz.
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It just says "Money," and if you look down the side street,
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it says, "does not make me happy."
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We had a show that just came down last week in New York.
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We steamed up the windows permanently,
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and every hour we had a different designer come in
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and write these things that they've learned into the steam in the window.
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Everybody participated -- Milton Glaser,
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Massimo Vignelli.
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Singapore was quite in discussion.
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This is a little spot that we filmed there
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that's to be displayed on the large JumboTrons in Singapore.
03:11
And, of course, it's one that's dear to my heart,
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because all of these sentiments --
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some banal, some a bit more profound --
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all originally had come out of my diary.
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And I do go often into the diary
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and check if I wanted to change something about the situation.
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If it's -- see it for a long enough time,
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I actually do something about it.
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And the very last one is a billboard.
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This is our roof in New York, the roof of the studio.
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This is newsprint plus stencils that lie on the newsprint.
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We let that lie around in the sun.
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As you all know, newsprint yellows significantly in the sun.
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After a week, we took the stencils and the leaves off,
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shipped the newsprints to Lisbon to a very sunny spot,
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so on day one the billboard said,
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"Complaining is silly. Either act or forget."
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Three days later it faded, and a week later,
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no more complaining anywhere.
04:34
(Laughter)
04:37
Thank you so much.
04:38
(Applause)
04:39

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Stefan Sagmeister - Graphic designer
Renowned for album covers, posters and his recent book of life lessons, designer Stefan Sagmeister invariably has a slightly different way of looking at things.

Why you should listen

Stefan Sagmeister is no mere commercial gun for hire. Sure, he's created eye-catching graphics for clients including the Rolling Stones and Lou Reed, but he pours his heart and soul into every piece of work. His design work is at once timeless and of the moment, and his painstaking attention to the smallest details creates work that offers something new every time you look at it.

While a sense of humor invariably surfaces in his designs, Sagmeister is nonetheless very serious about his work; his intimate approach and sincere thoughtfulness elevate his design. A genuine maverick, Sagmeister achieved notoriety in the 1990s as the designer who self-harmed in the name of craft: He created a poster advertising a speaking engagement by carving the salient details onto his torso.

The original video is available on TED.com
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