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All I Need to Know I Learned from Graphic Design

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The unfortunate thing about cutting-edge graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister’s stopover in Denver on Friday, March 7, to deliver a lecture at the Oxford Hotel, courtesy of local American Institute of Graphic Arts chapter, is that it’s completely sold out. But one reason for his visit, his unique new publication called Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far, can still be found for purchase at local bookstores like the Tattered Cover, and it’s fascinating.

A work of art in itself that goes beyond the limits of even the most sophisticated commercial art, Things collects a Sagmeister side-project – an ongoing series of personal adages rendered in text, using a variety of unusual media (bamboo scaffolding, sugar, cactus, sausage links, furniture, crime scene tape and even two streams of clever digitally-enhanced pee) and then photographed – into fifteen full-color chapbook-style booklets encased in a slipcase that’s been laser-cut with an image of Sagmeister’s face. Essays and commentary by Sagmeister, design historian Steven Heller, Guggenheim curator Nancy Spector and psychologist Daniel Nettle complete the playful visual package, which can change faces like an amusing slide show, depending on which pamphlet you slide in front.

And another thing: Sagmeister also invites others to get in the act by submitting their own little masterpieces of physical wisdom to his website, where he challenges surfers with this:

“The idea for this site originally came out of my own list in my diary, under the very same title: Things I have learned in my life so far. Astonishingly, I have only learned twenty or so things so far. Over the last five years I did manage to publish these maxims all over the world, in spaces normally occupied by advertisements and promotions: as billboards, projections, light-boxes, magazine spreads, annual report covers, fashion brochures, and, recently, as giant inflatable monkeys.

So here I extend this same question to you: What have you learned in your life so far? What is it that you are fairly sure about? What is it that you believe in by now? Please do write it down beautifully. Design it digitally, photograph it, draw it, scan it and upload it. Use any media that works for you, paint, sculpture, film…”

That’s so cool. Now, pass on your own motto here. --Susan Froyd

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Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


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