Spreading joy: Stefan Sagmeister at the DX

Internationally renowned NYC-based graphic designer, Stefan Sagmeister is as celebrated for his commercial work for brands like Levi’s and Grammy garnering album covers for the likes of Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones and Talking Heads, as he is for his provocative public art installations. Sagmeister not only tests the boundary between art and design, he often transgresses it through his imaginative implementation of typography.

Last week he brought his vivacious spirit to Toronto’s Design Exchange, with the opening of The Happy Show. Sagmeister offers visitors the experience of walking into the his mind as he attempts to increase his happiness via mediation, cognitive therapy, and mood-altering pharmaceuticals.

Centered around the designer’s 10-year exploration of happiness, this exhibition presents typographic investigations of a series of maxims, or rules to live by, originally culled from Sagmeister’s diary. To contextualize Sagmeister’s personal maxims that appear throughout the exhibition, his individual experience is portrayed alongside the social data of renowned psychologists and several prominent historians, detailing the role of age, gender, race, money, and other factors that determine happiness.

Solo shows on Sagmeister’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. Stefan Sagmeister The Happy Show is organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania and is curated by former ICA Director Claudia Gould, currently Helen Goldsmith Menschel Director, The Jewish Museum, New York.

Sagmeister’s sayings are manifested in a variety of imaginative and interactive forms, including:

Interactive projections

Digital prints, aluminum sheets, wallpapered prints

A neon sign and full-sized bicycle

Pie-chart tables, gumball dispensers and more

A 12-minute film segment of The Happy Film, a feature length exploration of whether it is possible to train the mind the way we train the body

The Happy Show – running at the Design Exchange through Mar. 3 –  offers a delightful escape from winter in Toronto. For more info, visit .dx.org