Interview: maverick graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister explains why he thinks that record cover styles will constantly be superior to movie posters in this unique interview (+ transcript + slideshow).

Sagmeister, 53, has turn out to be one of the world’s greatest-acknowledged graphic designers – creating brand identities for household-title companies, large-profile marketing campaigns and iconic album artworks for famous rock bands.

Stefan Sagmeister. Portrait by John Madere Stefan Sagmeister. Portrait by John Madere

The New York-primarily based designer pointed to the Star Wars film posters as examples of undesirable graphic style in contrast to record sleeves for the duration of an interview at Amsterdam’s What Design Can Do conference.

“The history of the album cover is so a lot richer and so superior to the historical past of the film poster,” Sagmeister advised Dezeen. “The typical movie poster basically takes its strengths from getting attached to some cultural phenomenon.”

Star Wars movie poster, 1977 Star Wars film poster by Tom Jung, 1977

“People like the Star Wars poster because they like the movie,” he continued. “But the poster itself is in the end a piece of shit. It’s a practical illustration with some typeface on it related to what is taking place in the film.”

“It really is a reduction of something that is inherently visual into a single picture and that procedure is inherently uninteresting. It is a really straightforward graphic design factor – you may as nicely layout a logo.”

CD cover for Bridges to Babylon by The Rolling Stones CD cover for Bridges to Babylon by The Rolling Stones

Born in Austria in 1962, Sagmeister found his interest in design and style while doing work at a magazine and then producing album covers for bands he liked.

“I was constantly in terrible progressive rock bands and through that got interested in vinyl album covers,” he explained.

He studied graphic design at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, then worked on a amount of industrial projects in New York and at marketing executive Leo Burnett’s Hong Kong Style Group.

CD cover for Bridges to Babylon by The Rolling Stones CD cover for Bridges to Babylon by The Rolling Stones

Lastly, he moved back to New York to work for his “hero” – Hungarian designer Tibor Kalman – just before setting up his very own studio shortly afterwards.

Relevant story: Sagmeister &amp Walsh produces a emblem for Fugue that moves to music

“We remembered the reason I received into this was the album cover, which of program at that level did not actually exist any longer and it was a CD cover,” Sagmeister explained. “We truly pursued that and for the initial 7 or so many years we genuinely did style for the music sector.”

Nonetheless, soon after working on covers for artists such as Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, Lou Reed and Talking Heads, Sagmeister branched out to function on other sorts of graphic design tasks.

CD cover for Ecstasy by Lou Reed CD cover for Ecstasy by Lou Reed

“I wouldn’t say it grew to become dull, but the 29th cover was not as considerably entertaining as the first,” he explained.

Because setting up in 1993, his studio has completed graphics projects for organizations including HBO, the Guggenheim Museum and Time Warner.

Sagmeister is perhaps best known for the poster marketing his 1999 AIGA lecture, for which he posed naked covered in text that was cut into his skin.

AIGA Detroit poster Poster for Stefan Sagmeister’s 1999 AIGA lecture

American designer Jessica Walsh joined the company in 2010 and was created companion two years later, when it was renamed Sagmeister &amp Walsh. The duo has overseen tasks such as a new brand identity for New York’s Jewish Museum and an animated visual identity for cloud software program management brand Fugue that moves to music.

“As a graphic problem, I nevertheless discover that visualisation for music is 1 of the most juiciest for all,” Sagmeister stated. “I do think that music is in the long run the most emotional of all the arts. To be able to develop the visual that comes out of that emotion and attach it to one thing that is inherently non-visual is an incredibly interesting endeavour.”

Talking Heads_Stefan-Sagmeister_dezeen_468_15 Packaging for Speaking Heads’ As soon as in a Lifetime anthology

Sagmeister spoke to Dezeen in the course of an interview at the What Layout Can Do conference, which took spot in Amsterdam 21-22 May 2015.

Read an edited version of the transcript from our interview beneath:

Dan Howarth: Could you please make clear a bit about your background and how you came to do what you’re carrying out now?

Stefan Sagmeister: I’m an Austrian designer who lives and functions in New York. I’ve been concerned in design and style in some type of trend for an incredibly prolonged time. Possibly given that I was 14 when I wrote for a small magazine and I realised that I actually loved performing the layout a good deal a lot more than I enjoyed carrying out the creating.

From then on I was always in horrible progressive rock bands and through that received interested in vinyl album covers. Then eventually I started design and style in Vienna, then in New York. At design and style college in Vienna, I acquired sidetracked and received to know these other pals who have been not into album layout and in the long run soon after art college did all type of jobs, quite industrial.

I ran a design and style studio for an ad agency in Hong Kong and then returned back to New York to perform for my hero Tibor Kalman and then in the long run six months into that opened my very own small studio. We remembered the explanation I received into this was the album cover, which of program at that point did not genuinely exist anymore and it was a CD cover. We really pursued that and for the very first 7 or so years we actually did design for the music business.

Packaging for Talking Heads Once in a Lifetime anthology Packaging for Speaking Heads’ When in a Lifetime anthology

Dan Howarth: Why did you determine to focus on that?

Stefan Sagmeister: It was only due to the fact of a want to combine my two loves, which had been music and developing things for bands you have by no means heard of, and then some for who you have – Talking Heads, The Rolling Stones, Errol Smith and Lou Read and so on. In the end like fairly a lot everything else in my lifestyle, I wouldn’t say it grew to become boring but the 29th cover wasn’t as significantly exciting as the initial. So we went into different instructions.

Correct now the combine of projects is constantly slightly changing the roles that we have. Roughly it is some business work – what you feel that a layout business would do – and some of it is cultural, the two developing for museums and curating the exhibitions that are proven within in the museums.

And a third of it would be individual. Using the language that we do know how to speak, graphics, and employing that for a a lot a lot more private expression, in the exact same way that musicians or filmmakers do.

Visual identity for Casa da Música Visual identity for Casa da Música

Dan Howarth: How do you think graphic design and style has altered because you began functioning?

Stefan Sagmeister: Significantly. Largely, as often throughout its historical past, the change has been driven by technologies. When I went to school somebody who did graphics had the advantage that there was a wide range of resources that have been incompatible with every single other so on a day-to-day basis you had to modify rooms in purchase to be a graphic designer and all these tools require a different setup.

And some of them you have to do in specific places. Which had its personal set of troubles and it was a a lot slower profession, which in some instances led to a bigger reflection to if you must do it or not since the execution of these concepts is extremely complicated and time intensive.

All of these tools are now doable in one particular single machine, which I believe decreased some of the pleasure of the occupation simply because we have a tendency to sit in front of a display all day extended, in numerous of our instances. At the exact same time, since a whole lot of resources are obtainable in that very same screen, it makes the occupation a great deal wider.

The Happy Show exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts The Happy Present exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, Philadelphia

Dan Howarth: Do you solely operate on graphic design and style?

Stefan Sagmeister: I would still call myself a graphic designer but if individuals just ask I would depart out the “graphic” element, since we do furniture and we do film. Not just a minor piece but we are also carrying out a attribute length film. But we also do websites and branding, all the way down to business cards. I have also found myself choreographing dancers, seriously commissioning music – luckily I don’t have to do the music myself, I’ve learnt also much from bad rock bands.

But the occupation has turn out to be unbelievably broad and I never knew that that was going to come about when I was a younger designer, and it was in no way one particular of the reasons I received into it. But I am extremely thankful that it is so, because it’s so much easier to maintain engaged in it for this kind of long time simply because there are always new pockets to be involved in then.

I am somewhere in the middle when it comes to how a lot newness do I want in my lifestyle and function, and how considerably consistency. I have identified folks that want that newness all the time and I feel that I am not that radical. But I consider if I was to even now do CD covers – I would be out of business for 1 factor, because there is no organization anymore, but even if the music market alter wouldn’t have occurred I just could not.

The Happy Show exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts The Pleased Present exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, Philadelphia

Dan Howarth: What was it about designing for music that you enjoy so much?

Stefan Sagmeister: As a graphic dilemma, I even now locate the visualisation for music is a single of the most juiciest for all because I do think that music is ultimately the most emotional of all the arts. To be in a position to produce the visual that comes out of that emotion and attach it to some thing that is inherently non-visual is an extremely interesting endeavour.

The background of the album cover is so a lot richer and so superior to let us say the background of the movie poster. The common movie poster generally will take its strengths from currently being attached to some cultural phenomenon. Men and women like the Star Wars poster since they like the movie. But the poster itself is eventually a piece of shit. It truly is a realistic illustration with some typeface on it related to what is taking place in the movie. It really is a reduction of some thing which is inherently visual into a single picture and that procedure is an inherently uninteresting method. It truly is a quite easy graphic design point – you may possibly as effectively style a brand.

Jewish Museum identity by Sagmeister &amp Walsh Poster for New York’s Jewish Museum

But to get something that is non-visual like a piece of music and marry an image to it is a significantly more interesting point. And I believe the high quality of the background of an album cover, which looked for a whilst like it truly is going to be a quite defined spot of human endeavour.

Generally the album cover was invented in the 1930s but it had its heyday from 1975 to 2000. And who understands, it may stay that way. But it appears correct now that it will stay. I just bought a record player once again and I’m buying albums purely on their cover merit.

Dan Howarth: A good deal of organizations now appear to be asking for branding and logos that are responsive. How is that shifting the occupation?

Stefan Sagmeister: It used to be super crucial that the emblem could be diminished down to two millimetres and search good when heat stamped on a pencil. For 1 factor, men and women never genuinely use pencils anymore and for the second issue the significance of a emblem and a pencil is minimum on a emblem whilst the significance of a emblem on a website is gigantic. The prospects that the reproductive characteristics of that identity are provided in the digital realm than they were in the print realm.

Hopefully and fortunately, designers will react to that change to the surroundings. It’s quite, very clear that the still picture, the single that the still image, will continue to lose its importance. It will be replaced by either some kind of visual language, like an infrastructure that talks in a certain visual vocabulary, that’s continually changing and adapting.

Fugue visual identity by Sagmeister &amp Walsh Visual identity for Fugue

Or in its simplest kind, animation. The emblem actually, in most of its iteration, is some kind of animated factor. In its extremely easiest form, what utilised to be critical was printability but is it now animatability. How does this point perform when its on a small phone display or on a gigantic display in a stadium?

Dan Howarth: What are the big tasks that you’re doing work on at the second?

Stefan Sagmeister: We just finished a large branding occupation for the Jewish Museum in New York – it’s the largest, foremost arts museum in the Jewish world in the United states. We are at the moment doing work on the lady empowerment undertaking for Saudi Arabia, which I’m quite excited about, and we’re continuing to do a department keep in the Middle East.

On a personal front, we are finishing The Pleased Film – a documentary about happiness which has been very extended in the producing and very hard to do, and has at occasions turn into the biggest supply of misery and discontent in my daily life. Which I suppose is really fitting as it truly is named The Satisfied Film.

I’ll be carrying out a sustainability undertaking that makes men and women change from paper builds to electronic builds. It truly is virtually as if we’re just striving to commence increasing our hospitality workspace venture. It’s very comfy since New York is booming and we had been constantly in the circumstance to choose and decide on but not fairly to the level its going on right now. We’re not genuinely expanding, as we really feel we can do the best work in modest groups so just continuing there.

Lou Reed poster Lou Reed poster

Dan Howarth: Where do you consider graphic design is going to go subsequent?

Stefan Sagmeister: I’m almost certainly horrible as a predictor, but there’s some easy predictions. I consider it truly is going to go the place technological innovation goes. So I think a couple of issues are very easy and foreseeable.

Something that’s achievable to be animated will be animated. I consider that the printing engineering in the 3D planet will play a greater role, or will introduce and make it much less complicated for graphic designers to do goods simply because once more it really is that same area. Or I would say that that printing engineering will proceed to play a massive role as far as person execution, because inkjet will take in excess of much more and much more spaces. It implies that you can do something that is significantly smaller in run and much much more individual in their outlook.

So my assumption would be that customized-created, low-run, large-end projects will perform a greater position taking into consideration particularly that only extremely specialised issues will have the need and the want to be a physical object.

CD cover for OK Go CD cover for Okay Go

Those would be my 3 important predictions. These are reasonably risk-free predictions since I see them already occurring to some extent. We now do often extremely elaborate projects and we do in an addition of ten.

That issue didn’t exist as a client task 20 many years ago. It would have been not possible to print ten of some thing, but now that’s extremely normal and generally only 10 men and women will own it but possibly hundreds of 1000’s will see it on social media, so there is a diverse kind of multiplier going on.



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