"Having guts always works out for me"

Design Indaba reads Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far by Stefan Sagmeister.

First Published in

In 46 years on the planet Stefan Sagmeister has learnt 20 things. More than some and humbler than others, Sagmeister's rate of a lesson every two years or so belies the design genius he puts into expressing his maxims in physical terms.

In Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far, Sagmeister has collected these maxims in a book for the first time. See, previously they were published in the most unlikely of spaces including billboards, projections, light-boxes, magazine spreads, annual report covers, fashion brochures, and even in swimming pools and as giant inflatable monkeys.

The "book" fits these unlikely arenas by continuing to push the boundaries of format. Actually a book-shaped box open at the top, the box includes 15 booklets of 16 pages each. The front of the cover-box is a die-cut of Sagmeister's face, to allow for different covers to emerge according to which booklet is placed in front.

An expression of Sagmeister's oeuvre of photographing three-dimensional graphic constructions, the book creates a universe of optical delusions in which chopped up chairs, vienna sausage shadows, wilting flowers, toilet papered trees, reappropriated soft toys, half ripe bananas, slimy fish, cutthroat snails, pruned hedges, magnified microbes and bamboo scaffolding reveal hidden messages. No wonder he's only learnt 20 "things", with such a gargantuan imagination continually distracting him.

If you can tear yourself away from the visuals, words are supplied by design historian Steven Heller, Guggenheim chief curator Nancy Spector, psychologist Daniel Nettle and Sagmeister himself. Oh, and Maxim 1 is: "Helping other people helps me." Read the other 18 in the book.

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