If I'm going to be completely honest with you I didn't really know much about him before apart from the infamous body poster, but was intrigued as everyone else seemed really excited, and I hate the thought of missing out so went along.
Honestly, again I think I have found my new favourite person. And he sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger!There were two talks by Stefan yesterday, the first one was an audience with where he was interviewed by Patrick Burgoyne from Creative Review. I am fascinated hearing how designers started off their careers and hearing their journey. Stefan went to art school, and got his first job, not because he wanted it, but because he wanted to go and look around the design houses in Hong Kong, but they wouldn't let him just go in for a chat but if he wanted an interview they were more than happy to see him. Thinking that nothing would come of it he went and actually got offered the job. He didn't really want to work there so told them he would only work for a ridiculous amount of money, which they accepted so he could do nothing really but accept!
It was also really encouraging to hear off someone who bigs up and praises having a small design studio. His own studio only has two designers, and that's it. No project managers, no account execs. Just them. And he purposely has kept it that way. It was refreshing and reassuring to know that to be a successful designer you don't have to be part of a massive company with hundreds of employees. And his work ethic is really interesting too. Every 7 years in his career he takes a 1 year sabbatical. In that, he closes his office FOR A YEAR and goes travelling. And he said that all the work that they do inbetween his sabbaticals somehow ends up being able to be traced back to the experiences that he has had in the countries that he visits on that year off. I suppose it's a bit of a luxury as I imagine you would have to have enough pennies to keep you going for a whole year, but it makes so much sense.
His next talk was called Design and Happiness, where he explained more about where he goes and what he does on his sabbaticals, and how it seems he is searching for the definition of what makes us happy, and how we can make ourselves happier. He had a list, so automatically I was sold, apparently of what he thinks can make you more happy and content as a designer. I am just inspired by him, he said a lot of things that made a lot of sense and has really made me re-evaluate how I view things and what I want to do and be.
He also showed us the kind of things that he gets up to on his year off. He doesn't just go on holiday and sit on a beach for a year, he is still incredibly creative and takes inspiration from where he is staying. One of the things that he created was this epic throne like chair that was flanked either side by two guard dogs, which was inspired by the hundreds of stray dogs that wandered around where he was staying. I think it took something like 8 weeks to make and is carved from large blocks of teak wood. It's incredible.
He ended his talk with his 'Happy Film' which was amazing, but also pretty emotional at the end, as he created it with Hillman Curtis who unfortunately died last week. It was an amazing film and the titles for it are below, unfortunately I can't find the whole film but its definitely worth watching the other videos on youtube that feature Sagmeister talking about the film, and his search for happiness:
The other talk that I went to was Design Legends with Kenneth Grange and John Hegarty from BBH, chaired by Fi Glover.
The talk was a discussion of design in the future, and how they think design will move forward, how are we going to compete with companies like China, and what they thought about the problem of 10,000 design graduates finishing this year with only potentially 250 jobs. Obviously pretty big questions that are not going to have a definitive answer, but from what I could decipher we need to carry on being creative but give it a purpose. Design is to improve life, and to solve problems and that it's not just about things looking good, but improving on what we have and striving to make things better all the time, through being creative. It's so refreshing to hear from designers from the past generation, and reminds me to step away from my computer, pick up a pencil and paper and just remember why I want to be a designer.
I must say the whole of the design festival has really made me think about being a designer, kick started me again into wanting to be more ambitious, more pro active and more creative, and really made me think about where I want to be and what I want to do. My only niggle is that there wasn't really that many female designers there. There were two main debates, the one that I went to being postcard from design which had a male only panel, and the other question time had only one female there, Marina Willer Pentagram London's first female partner, who I missed as it wasn't really advertised that she was who was to replace John Sorrell. It would be good to see more of a 50/50 split. I am always interested to hear off successful female designers, how they do it, how they get the life-work balance right and listen to any advice that they have to offer. Cheltenham Design Festival people, if you read this, thanks for the festival, but next year a few more females would be much appreciated, as I think there may have only been 2-3 over the whole 3 day event. Good work though guys, can't wait for next year!