Stefan Sagmeister

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Stefan Sagmeister
Stefan Sagmeister - 2008.jpg
Sagmeister in 2008
Born (1962-08-06) August 6, 1962 (age 57)
Bregenz, Austria
EducationUniversity of Applied Arts Vienna, Vienna
Pratt Institute, New York City
Known forGraphic design, film
Notable work
Set the Twilight Reeling poster (1996)
AIGA Detroit poster (1999)
Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far (2008)

Stefan Sagmeister (born August 6, 1962 in Bregenz, Austria) is a New York-based graphic designer, storyteller, and typographer. Sagmeister co-founded a design firm called Sagmeister & Walsh Inc. with Jessica Walsh in New York City. He has designed album covers for Lou Reed, OK Go, The Rolling Stones, David Byrne, Jay Z, Aerosmith and Pat Metheny.

Stefan Sagmeister dressed as "La Sciùra Maria" at OFFF 2009 in Oeiras, Portugal.


Sagmeister studied graphic design at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. He later received a Fulbright scholarship to study at the Pratt Institute in New York. He began his design career at the age of 15 at "Alphorn", an Austrian Youth magazine, which is named after the traditional Alpine musical instrument.

In 1991, he moved to Hong Kong to work with Leo Burnett's Hong Kong Design Group. In 1993, he returned to New York to work with Tibor Kalman's M&Co design company. His tenure there was short lived, as Kalman soon decided to retire from the design business to edit Colors magazine for the Benetton Group in Treviso, Italy.[1]

Stefan Sagmeister proceeded to form the New York-based Sagmeister Inc. in 1993 and has since designed branding, graphics, and packaging for clients as diverse as the Rolling Stones, HBO, the Guggenheim Museum and Time Warner. Sagmeister Inc. has employed designers including Martin Woodtli, and Hjalti Karlsson and Jan Wilker, who later formed Karlssonwilker.

Stefan Sagmeister is a long-standing artistic collaborator with musicians David Byrne and Lou Reed. He is the author of the design monograph "Made You Look" which was published by Booth-Clibborn editions.

Solo shows on Sagmeister, Inc.'s work have been mounted in Zurich, Vienna, New York, Berlin, Japan, Osaka, Prague, Cologne, and Seoul. He teaches in the graduate department of the School of Visual Arts in New York and has been appointed as the Frank Stanton Chair at the Cooper Union School of Art, New York.

His motto is "Design that needed guts from the creator and still carries the ghost of these guts in the final execution."

Sagmeister goes on a year-long sabbatical around every seven years, where he does not take work from clients.

He has spent many years designing for the music industry. Several years ago he decided to dedicate 25% of his work to the art world, things like books and publications for galleries, another 25% to the scientific community, 25% to social causes, and the remaining quarter has stayed dedicated to the music industry.[2]


Sagmeister became the subject of controversy after his performance of a lewd joke about animal fellatio at the annual web conference Webstock in Wellington, New Zealand, in February 2017, embarrassing a sign language interpreter and upsetting some in the audience.[3] The organizers apologized to the interpreter in person, and to attendees following the incident, and on Twitter.[4] Webstock organizers also followed this apology up with a longer statement on their blog.[5]

The joke, according to Fast Company, involved having a sign language interpreter assigned to his talk "interpret a story about a manatee giving itself a blowjob", with repeated requirements to the interpreter to use gestures to indicate the sex act.[3] Sagmeister had made the same joke at other events, with requests to sign interpreters in attendance:

  1. the Semi-Permanent design conference in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2008;[6]
  2. the Idea Festival at Columbia University, in New York, US, in 2009;[7]
  3. at the Idea Festival in 2010;[8]
  4. and at the Australian Graphic Design Association Conference in 2015.[3]

Sagmeister later apologized through the Sagmeister & Walsh Twitter account,[9] and from his personal Instagram account.[10]


Sagmeister received a Grammy Award in 2005 in the Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package category for art directing Once in a Lifetime box set by Talking Heads. He received a second Grammy Award for his design of the David Byrne and Brian Eno album Everything That Happens Will Happen Today in the Grammy Award for Best Recording Package category on January 31, 2010.

In 2005, Sagmeister won the National Design Award for Communications from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.[11] In 2013 Sagmeister was awarded the Golden Medal of Honor of the Republic of Austria.[12]

Some of his clients are; AIGA Detroit; Anni Kuan Design; Booth Clibborn Editions; Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities; Capitol Records; Chaumont; copy Magazine; Dai Nippon Printing Company; The Guggenheim Museum.[2]


2000 Design Biannual, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, New York

2001 Stealing Eyeballs, Kunstlerhaus, Vienna; Solo exhibition, Gallery Frédéric Sanchez, Paris

2002 Solo exhibition, Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna

2003 Solo exhibition, Museum fur Gestaltung, Zurich, Switzerland; Solo exhibition, DDD Gallery Tokyo[2]

2012 The Happy Show, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia[13]

2015 The Happy Show, Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna

2015 The Happy Show, Museum für angewandte Kunst Frankfurt[14]

2018/2019 Sagmeister & Walsh: Beauty, Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna[15]


  • The Happy Film (2016, documentary)[16]

Further reading[edit]

  • Sagmeister, Stefan: Made You Look - Peter Hall (Booth-Clibborn, 2001) ISBN 978-1-86154-207-6; also Abrams paperback edition (2009): ISBN 978-0-8109-0597-9
  • Sagmeister, Stefan; Things I have learned in my life so far (2008) New York:Abrams, ISBN 978-0-8109-9529-1
  • website associated with above book:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rawsthorn, Alice (February 3, 2008). "What Stefan Sagmeister has learned in his life so far". The New York Times.
  2. ^ a b c Fiell Charlotte and Peter, "Contemporary Graphic Design", p. 260-263 Taschen,.
  3. ^ a b c "Stefan Sagmeister's Jokes Have Officially Gotten Old". Co.Design. 2017-02-17. Retrieved 2017-02-18.
  4. ^ "webstock on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2017-02-18.
  5. ^ A statement from the Webstock team
  6. ^ "PS I LOVE YOU". Friend. 2008-08-18. Retrieved 2017-02-18.
  7. ^ GSAPPinterviews (2009-10-08), A Manatee Tale as told by Stefan Sagmeister, retrieved 2017-02-18
  8. ^ "Stefan Sagmeister: What the Manatee saw". IdeaFestival - Stay Curious. Archived from the original on 2017-02-18. Retrieved 2017-02-18.
  9. ^ "Sagmeister & Walsh on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2017-02-18.
  10. ^ stefansagmeister Feb 18/2017
  11. ^ "Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Announces Winners of the Sixth Annual National Design Awards". Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Oct 1, 2005. Archived from the original on 2013-06-14.
  12. ^ Winterpalais
  13. ^ ICA Website The Happy Show
  14. ^ Museum für angewandte Kunst Frankfurt The Happy Show
  15. ^ "SAGMEISTER & WALSH: - MAK Museum Vienna". Retrieved 2018-07-05.
  16. ^ Official Website The Happy Film

External links[edit]