Recently, a few of us went to the Design Exchange winter exhibit: Stefan Sagmeister, The Happy Show. There has been a lot of buzz this past year over Sagmeister’s upcoming feature film The Happy Film. Couple this with the sneak peek we were given during Sagmeister’s talk at Design Thinkers last year, and we were pretty stoked to go check it out.
Happy is as Happy Does
Overall I was pretty impressed with the show, the typographic elements probably being of the most interest to me. Most of the walls of the entire third floor were covered with handwritten notes and exhibits (mistakes included). There were also some much larger type installations that were truly inspiring. As a designer there is something deeply satisfying about seeing beautiful typography displayed on such a grandiose scale.
Along with the typography, I was also taken by the video clips on display throughout the show. There were two excerpts from Sagmeister’s upcoming film, both of which were fairly lengthy and contained that compelling blend of Sagmeister’s personal search for happiness and execution of unique and “live” typography compositions. I think this is the crux of my interest in the project: Sagmeister has definitely done his research into what exactly provides lasting happiness. He’s also not afraid to put himself on the line and be the “guinea pig” for a lot of popular ideas as to what will make us happier (cue slightly creepy group meditation footage).
One of the virtues of the show is Sagmeister’s encouragement to engage personally with the content through various mediums. There’s everything from the opportunity to submit sketches of what happiness means to you to powering exhibits by pedalling a bicycle. It’s really easy to be brave and publicly participate too, mostly because of the attitude Sagmeister has himself when approaching the topic. He is completely humble and willing to do whatever it takes in his pursuit of happiness.
The Pursuit of Happy-ness
Sagmeister’s skills as a designer and provocative sense of humour blend well to create a unique space where you really can take the time to explore what it means to be “happy”. As well as it being a fine example of typographic design, it’s also a unique opportunity for deeper thought. This is the show where you will be shown hard facts about the sexual habits of people in New York before and after the AIDS crisis. But, it’s also the show where the next exhibit on the wall will be Sagmeister’s favourite candy in the world free for you to take. It’s within this context that you will be asked to rate your own happiness on a scale of 1 to 10 and, although the show makes no promises to improve that rating, I can promise it will make you think of it in a way you never have before.
(All images courtesy of www.sagmeisterwalsh.com)