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Six Things: Sagmeister & Walsh

March 15, 2013 - August 4, 2013


Sagmeister and Walsh
The designers Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh are known for their
experimental typography and striking visual imagery. Their work is by turns
playful and unsettling, humanist and existential, and often expands the
definition of design, embracing film, sculpture, poetry, and performance.
Six Things marks the first exhibition of their newly founded design firm,
Sagmeister & Walsh.

Before this partnership, Sagmeister was already taking an unusual approach
to design. In an iconic 1999 poster for the American Institute of Graphic
Arts (AIGA), he cut type into the skin of his torso like a tattoo. At the
contemporary art gallery Deitch Projects in 2008 he stacked 10,000 bananas
against a wall. Unripe green bananas among the yellow ones spelled out
the sentence, “Self-confidence produces fine results.” The legibility of the
text fluctuated as the fruit ripened over the course of the exhibition.
He has created signature album covers for Lou Reed, Talking Heads,
the Rolling Stones, OK Go, and others, and executed indelible ad campaigns
for major companies such as HBO and Levi’s.

To stimulate his own creativity Sagmeister has gone on periodic sabbaticals
since 2000, traveling and investigating ideas. For the last ten years he has
delved into the nature of happiness. “The center of this exploration,”
he explains, “is the search for an answer to the question: is it possible to train
my mind in the same way I can train my body?” Inspired by the psychologist
Jonathan Haidt, whose research connects spiritual wisdom with modern
science, Sagmeister developed an intensive regimen of meditation, cognitive
therapy, and mood-altering drugs as an experiment in self-discovery.

From this emerged a forthcoming documentary entitled The Happy Film
and from that The Happy Show, a traveling exhibition with accompanying
publications, organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia.
Six Things is a continuation of this project on happiness, in which Jessica Walsh has been an integral partner.

In five compelling short videos and a sound-activated sculpture, Sagmeister
& Walsh examines six things culled from Sagmeister’s diary that he believes
have increased his personal happiness:

If I Don’t Ask I Won’t Get
Keeping a Diary Supports Personal Development
Be More Flexible
It Is Pretty Much Impossible to Please Everybody
Now Is Better
Feel Others Feel

Sugar cubes, bubbles, and water balloons are just some of the materials
used to spell out the phrases. The ambiguous connections between the six
epigrams and the objects of which they are composed are left for visitors to
decipher, a provocative game based in the pleasure of looking.

In addition, intrigued by a 2010–11 nationwide survey in which Jews reported
the highest levels of well-being of all religious groups, the studio has placed
a text in the gallery that connects scientific data to the personal exploration
of happiness.

About the Designers
Stefan Sagmeister (b. Bregenz, Austria, 1962), established the design firm Sagmeister Inc., now Sagmeister & Walsh, in New York in 1993. He is the recipient of numerous design awards, including two Grammy awards for his packaging designs (2005, 2010). Jessica Walsh (b. New York, 1986), a multidisciplinary designer, previously worked at Pentagram Design and Print magazine. The New York Times, AIGA, and EDP are among her clients. She was named Computer Art’s Top Rising Star in Design (2009), an Art Director’s Club Young Gun (2010), and Print’s New Visual Artist (2011). Sagmeister & Walsh has been engaged to create a new graphic identity for The Jewish Museum.


Related Links

Behind-the-scenes view into the making of If I Don't Ask
Sagmeister & Walsh

The Happy Show, 2012
Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania

Sagmeister & Walsh
Still from If I Don’t Ask, 2013
HD video, 2min., 12 secs.
In collaboration with Santiago Carrasquilla and Steve Romano
© Sagmeister & Walsh

Installation photos David Heald/The Jewish Museum, © 2013.

Six Things: Sagmeister & Walsh has been organized by Rebecca Shaykin, Leon Levy Curatorial Assistant.

The exhibition is made possible by the Irma L. and Abram S. Croll Charitable Trust. Additional support is provided by

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The Jewish Museum - 5th Avenue
1109 5th Ave at 92nd St
New York NY 10128