Stefan Sagmeister is an Austrian graphic designer who lives and works in New York. He is best know for his work with AIGA and musicians like David Byrne and Lou Reed.
Stefan was born in Bregenz, Austria. His parents own a retail fashion business. He went to an engineering school before an illustration project inspired him to study graphic design. He hoped to attend the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, but “just about everybody was better at drawing than I was.” So, he enrolled in a private art school and was accepted to the University on his second try. While there, he created posters for a local theatre and for a campaign to save a music hall from demolition. He graduated with a first class degree and a prize from the City of Vienna.
Sagmeister earned a Fulbright scholarship to study design at the Pratt Institute in New York. Humor emerged as a powerful strength in his work. When a friend from Austria came to visit, Sagmeister postered the neighbourhood with a picture of his friend under the words “Dear Girls! Please be nice to Reini.”
Sagmeister returned to Austria for its compulsory military service. As a conscientious objector, he was allowed to work in a refugee center. Upon completion of his service, he moved to Hong Kong to work for the Leo Burnett ad agency. Then back to New York to work for Tibor Kalman at M&Co. It was Stefan’s dream to work for Tibor. He called and wrote the designer persistently until Tibor sponsored his green card application. When M&Co. closed a few months later, Stefan used a pair of nude self-portraits to announce the launch of his own studio, Sagmeister Inc.
To pursue work that he enjoyed, Sagmeister followed Kalman’s advice and kept his firm very small: just himself, a designer, and an intern. His first clients were himself, his brother, and a girlfriend for whom he created one dollar business cards on one dollar bills. He earned his first Grammy nomination designing a CD cover for his friend’s album, Mountains of Madness. He was soon hired to design albums for Lou Reed, David Byrne, and the Rolling Stones. He also created powerful pro bono work like his posters for AIGA.
Throughout his career, Sagmeister has courted controversy with his use of sly, shocking images. For an award show in Hong Kong, he rankled conservative ad agencies with a traditional Cantonese image adapted to include four naked butts. For an AIGA poster, he carved the text for the ad into his own torso. When he partnered with Jessica Walsh, they announced their new company (Sagmeister & Walsh) with another pair of nude self-portraits. His response to controversy might be summed up by one of his beautiful visualized maxims: “Trying to look good limits my life.”
In 2000, Sagmeister took a year off to work on experimental projects and a book, Sagmeister: Made You Look: Another Self-Indulgent Design Monograph (practically everything we have ever designed including the bad stuff.) The bad stuff included some CD-ROMs for which he chided himself, “Don’t take any more bad jobs.”
Stefan Sagmeister’s first museum show, The Happy Show, can be seen now at the MOCA Design Center in Los Angeles. The show uses installations, infographics, sculpture, print, and film to communicate Sagmeister’s discoveries from his own compelling pursuit of happiness. He also shared his wisdom in a series of TED talks title “Happiness by Design,” “The Power of Time Off,” and “7 Rules for Making More Happiness.” They are viewable online at ted.com.
Stefan Sagmeister’s images are a little too racy for my conservative school, but I’m excited to share his work with YOU as our first master of the month of the summer. My wife introduced me to his videos after she heard him speak at Alt Summit. It turns out that she, he, me, and Illustration Friday founder, Penelope, are all included in the same book, An Illustrated Life. I like his work, but I didn’t LOVE it until I saw his Happy Show here in L.A. If the installations didn’t include so many sexy diagrams, I would certainly send all my students there. In lieu of that, I recommend it to you. The show promises NOT to make you happy, but that’s a calculated introduction “because low expectations are a good strategy.” If you have the opportunity, do enjoy.
Portrait of Stefan Sagmeister drawn by yours truly, Rama Hughes.
Quilling is a technique involving rolled, shaped and glued strips of paper. During the Renaissance monks and nuns embellished book covers with quilled images. Artists today are taking the art form to new levels, such as this delightful piece by Erin Casner. Casner’s work combines a joy for color and texture with typography.
Russian artist Yulia Brodskaya‘s is known for her intricate paper-based designs. Her clients have
included Neiman-Marcus and Starbucks. When not working on quilled illustrations for clients,
she creates artworks such as the one above titles “Babushka.” This detail of her art shows how
intricate quilling can be
Interested in trying quilling yourself? Here are some resources to get you started:
Posted by Angie
David Mack is the creator, author and artist of Kabuki, a comic book series that has earned international acclaim for its innovative storytelling, painting techniques and page design. He is also the writer and cover artist for Marvel Comics’ Daredevil.
He graduated with a BFA in Graphic Design, which included studies in Sculpture, Painting, Drawing, Art History, Photography, Typography and Bookmaking, and a minor in English. The first published Kabuki collection, Kabuki: Circle of Blood, was completed while David was in college, and the story served as his senior writing thesis. He has now completed seven collections.
I found Kabuki several years ago, when I wandered into a comic book shop looking for art-driven stories. David’s writing is just as brilliant as his illustrative abilities. He uses watercolor and mixed media collage in his unconventional page layouts and creates stunning imagery and powerful storylines.
Posted by Jeanine
I’ve lately been loving the charming illustrations of London-based illustrator, Emma Block. Her work has a beautiful hand-made quality and is inspired by people she meets in her everyday life, old photos, vintage clothes, travel, 1950s illustration and 1930s jazz. She’s illustrated books, greeting cards, fashion magazines and also has curated art exhibits and written for publications. Her clients include Blue Apple Books, The British Heart Foundation, Time Out, Hallmark, American Greetings, and Moo.
Posted by: Natalie
Joanna Gniady is an illustrator based in Wroclaw, Poland.
Her work includes mixed media productions for music and book covers, editorial and children’s illustrations, posters, motion design and concert scenography.
She is co-founder of Dot.Dot Independent Graphic Studio and collaborates with the film group Karuzela.
See more of Joanna’s work: Portfolio
Post by Clio.
The Tugboat Printshop is made up of Paul Roden & Valerie Lueth. They have been working together since 2006, hand-crafting & publishing their original woodcut prints from a studio in Pittsburgh, PA. Roden and Lueth make traditionally crafted woodcut prints by carving original drawings in low relief on blocks of 3/4″ birch plywood. Once carved, these blocks are rolled up with ink and printed onto archival paper to create the finished artworks. According to the artists themselves if these prints are cared for properly, they will last many lifetimes!
Isn’t the detail breathtaking? I sure hope to own an original Tugboat Printshop print one day…I can imagine it would be a real conversation starter and you would be constantly finding new quirks and hidden details every time you looked at it. The process shots on The Tugboat Printshop’s website are fascinating also.
Post by Alice Palace
See her website
Here’s a sneak peek:
“As an illustrator, It’s really important to know your craft. Spend the time and dedicate yourself to learning your medium(s) and really experimenting, pushing boundaries.
Be good at what you do. We love to see new fresh illustrators who have their own signature style which is unique to them. It really is important to take time out and be patient and develop your skills and art. Being passionate about what you do comes through in your work too. We love enthusiasm and originality! “
Read more of this insightful interview here!
Posted by Jeanine
Jenean is a Memphis-based artist and designer whose colorful and unique patterns grace stationery, wallpaper, fabrics, rugs, giftwrap, stationery and other surfaces and products. She licensees her work to companies including Fisher-Price, Sigg, C.R.Gibson, Gelaskins, Free Spirit Fabric and more. I love the organic shapes and bold color combinations that give her collections a distinct look!