Stefan Sagmeister: What the Manatee saw

Stefan Sagmeister formed and leads the New York-based design firm Sagmeister, Inc. Since 1993, the enterprise has had such diverse clients as The Rolling Stones, HBO and The Guggenheim Museum and has been nominated five times for Grammies - and has won for The Talking Heads Box Set.

Beginning with an attention getting story about manatees, Sagmeister segues into his presentation.

Saying ideas can become repetitive, he points out that every seven years, the studio he founded shuts down for a year of sabbatical and growth. He jokes that the training "will make him a better retiree."

But more seriously: "Jobs" get done for money; "Careers" for advancement; "Callings" because they are intrinsically fulfilling. Taking sabbaticals ensures that his work will remain a calling. Since you "won't lie to your diary," he has kept his personal reflections in a diary, which have been a rich source of ideas since then.

Surprisingly, the sabbaticals have also been financially rewarding, and he points out other examples of companies offering employees time away. Google, for example, gives its employees 20 percent of company time for personal use and pursuits.

His journaled reflections have been reduced to sentences, which find their way into the remainder of his presentation.

"In branding, sameness is overrated." Showing the angled support characteristic of Museum Plaza, he riffs on what can be done with that out-of-the-ordinary, out-of-order item.

"Being not truthful always works against me," for example, has been transformed into a display very similar to the installation at 21c called "Text Rain." Walking past Sagmeister's screen, however, will tear visually at a spider's web, which is recreated, presumably by a very quick working spider, in only a few moments.

Or, paraphrasing, "How can a creative do something when they can do anything?"

And heard in a visual ad: "not everything in life that counts can be counted."

As for what the manatee saw, it must have been people taking time away from their work. As for what the manatee did, well you just had to be at the IdeaFestival to hear for yourself.

Image: Geoff Oliver Bugbee

Wayne