Daily Features

The Book We Need Now: New from Stefan Sagmeister

October 24, 2023

Renowned graphic designer and Designers & Books contributor Stefan Sagmeister brings us exactly the book we need now.

Titled Now is Better, this visual exploration of human progress over time takes a long view that gives us cause for hope in the face of much of the current news.

Now is Better by Stefan Sagmeister, soft-cover book and slipcase (Phaidon Press, 2023). 

The book continues Sagmeister’s life-long interest how design can best speak to people and improve their lives. Initially conceived in 2020 as the world entered a global pandemic, Now is Better looks at quality of life issues through collected statistics and information.

WOMAN I, from Now is Better. Percentage of countries in which women have the right to vote, 1900–2000. Image credit: Phillip Reed and Andreas Vesterlund. 

Combining art, design, history, and quantitative analysis, Sagmeister transmutes data sets into arresting visualizations that are part artwork, part infographic, bringing to life encouraging statistics that show how for a large part of the world’s people, life has gotten better over the past 200 years—with positive lessons for further human betterment in the future.

The visualized data is shown inlaid into nineteenth-century oil paintings, embroidered onto canvases, or transformed into dynamic lenticular prints and hand-painted tableware, many of which have been exhibited in galleries around the world. A foreword by psychologist and leading authority on language and the mind Steven Pinker; an essay by design historian (and Designers & Books contributor) Steven Heller; and a conversation between Sagmeister and Hans Ulrich Obrist, curator and artistic director of Serpentine Galleries in London, underline Sagmeister’s radically positive outlook.

Now is Better, issued in softcover with silver foil edges, comes in a die-cut slipcase with custom typography that interacts with the cover artwork beneath. Each book includes a lenticular print designed by Sagmeister, that expresses the increasing percentage of the global population living in democracies between 1915 and 2015.

LIFE, from Now is Better. Average global life expectancy, 1800 vs. 2020, visualized on a dress shirt and a historical canvas.

ILLITERACY (detail), from Now is Better. Percentage of the world’s population that is illiterate, 1820–2020. Created in collaboration with Yau Jiang Ping, Su Embroidery, China.

Now is Better
By Stefan Sagmeister
2023, softcover, with flaps (slipcased), 264 pages, 300 color illustrations
Available from Phaidon Press

For further reading:

Books that Inspire Stefan Sagmeister

Books by Stefan Sagmeister

Missed the PRINT Book Club discussion of the book on October 25, 2023, with Stefan, Debbie Millman, and Steven Heller? It’s now available for on-demand viewing. Register here to watch it.

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