Book List of the Week

Book List of the Week: Stefan Sagmeister

Books and happiness

By Steve Kroeter February 3, 2014
Stefan Sagmeister, Graphic Designer: Sagmeister & Walsh (New York)
View Stefan Sagmeister’s Book List

A few days before a live and online signing of his latest book, the updated edition of Things I have learned in my life so far (2013, Abrams), scheduled at his New York studio on February 6, graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister agreed to answer a few questions about the book, its online offshoot, and a little bit about what he’s learned (so far). We also reprise his popular book list for Designers & Books—now updated with some new commentary.

Designers & Books: Things I have learned in my life so far comes from the entries you make in your diary. Aren’t you too busy to write in a diary? How often do you make entries?
Stefan Sagmeister: In the last decade I’ve switched from a handwritten diary to a typed one, and since then my writing has become much more regular. I make a point to write once a week, and—when times are exciting—more often.

D&B: In the part of the book where you talk about “Don’t expect people to change,” which sounds sort of pessimistic, you also say: “I have found that changing myself is possible,” which sounds very optimistic. What is the most important way in which you have changed yourself?
 While working on The Happy Film, I underwent cognitive therapy as one of the strategies to increase my well-being. I found this to be a very efficient technique to change myself. It’s like training in the gym: The more often I do it, the better I’ll be at it.

Interior pages from Things I have learned in my life so far, updated edition, 2013 (Abrams)

Interior pages from Things I have learned in my life so far

D&B: We like that you expanded the book to a website and that there you invite everyone to share the things they have learned in their lives so far. What are some of the most interesting entries you’ve seen appear on the site?
 I thought the sentence “Don’t judge people according to their appearance” was beautifully executed, very touching. I am also very fond of “Honesty can solve any problem.”

D&B: Between the first edition of Things I have learned... and the new edition, your business changed from Sagmeister Inc. to Sagmeister & Walsh. What’s the most important thing you learned as you made the transition from a one-principal firm to a partnership?
It is good to let go.

D&B: Are you still learning? Will there be another updated edition of Things I have learned...?
I will see. If there are worthwhile things to be learned and ways to develop them into proper design projects, then yes. But it could also be interesting to move on toward something completely different.

Cover of Things I have learned in my life so far, Updated Edition by Stefan Sagmeister, 2013 (Abrams)

In addition to being a thought-provoking (and provocative) graphic designer and writer, Stefan Sagmeister is a committed reader. “I read about 30–40 books a year,” he says in the new introduction to his book list, “When I went on sabbatical I thought I would be reading much more, having all this wonderful time available. But I did not read more at all—apparently one book every one to two weeks is the rhythm that fits my desires best.”

His book list—which includes authors David Foster Wallace, Zadie Smith, and Brian Eno, among others—was one of the original 50 that Designers & Books debuted with in February 2011 and has continued to be one of our most widely read ever since. Sagmeister adds, “I have started to read books aloud to some of my favorite people, and enjoyed that a lot. It allows for appreciating something together.”

View Stefan Sagmeister’s Book List

Stefan Sagmeister will sign copies of the latest edition of Things I have learned in my life so far in his New York studio and online (you can get a personalized copy even if you can’t be there!) on February 6. As part of the event, which is co-presented by AIGA/NY and Designers & Books, an in-person student-led interview with Sagmeister will be conducted and live-Tweeted.

Anyone purchasing a copy of Stefan Sagmeister’s updated edition of Things I have learned in my life so far in conjunction with the event will receive one of two free temporary tattoos—courtesy of Tattly— based on the Sagmeister maxims: “Don’t Expect People to Change” and “Self-Confidence Produces Fine Results.”
More details.

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