Stefan Sagmeister Talk at Alt Summit / by Leslie Fandrich

If you saw Stefan Sagmeister at Alt Summit, I'm sure you were just as impressed as I was. Or maybe he totally freaked you out. That's completely possible with the on screen nakedness and illustrations of gay sex, but I've been a fan for years and I was secretly hoping he'd appear on stage naked or something. I was disappointed to see him in regular clothes just like the rest of us, but even in clothes he wowed the crowd with his remarkable insights about happiness, his brilliant design work and his vulnerability.

He is always bold and sometimes outrageous in his work, but in person he is surprisingly charming and approachable, even cute. He was kissing everyone in pictures, how cute is that? He was also funny, in that dry, slightly self deprecating way that endears him to you.

During his talk we heard about his sabbaticals and what they mean to him, we heard about The Happy Film and The Happy Show, which are personal projects that grew out of one of his sabbaticals, and we saw him naked literally and figuratively. There is a moment in The Happy Film (we got to se a 12 minute sneak peak) where he is trying to give away a flower in Union Square, New York, and my heart was just aching for him. He's approaching all these women and complimenting them and being sincere and sweet, but everyone just ignored him! New York is such a tough crowd. When I talked to him later that night about it, I told him he should have tried that in Canada and it might have gone much better. He told me that he couldn't watch the footage after, it was so uncomfortable to see himself that vulnerable. Still, he did it and it's in the film. He embraces those uncomfortable feelings and I think this is also his approach to design. He pushes through the uncomfortable stages until he finds the magic. 

He also talked about opposing adaptation and the negativity bias, which I loved. Opposing adaptation just means, don't get bored with something, don't let it get easy, keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Fighting the negativity bias is all about focusing on the ten amazing comments when you get one bad one. It's the bad one that your brain wants to see and torment you with. Don't let your brain do that.

I decided to make an illustration to keep Sagmeister's inspiring messages in my view and if you love it as much as I do you can purchase a print for yourself! It's $20, printed on matte 8x10 paper with archival inks and it's perfect for a spot near your desk where you can be reminded to take a break, be vulnerable, oppose adaptation and strive for happiness.

Kathleen wrote about her experience hearing him speak and she totally put into words how I felt.:

My mind was blown way open. It’s scary enough to be a creative entrepreneur, much less to have the kind of courage it takes to work with creative abandon. But Stefan Sagmeister made me feel brave enough to create from a place of almost child-like authenticity – and to remain diligent in being my own number one client. It’s the kind of work that pays for itself, emotionally and financially.

If you want to learn more about Sagmeister, please check out these resources:

(This is dedicated to Kelly, who told me I should do more of these illustrations! Thanks Kelly.)