Stefan Sagmeister by John Madere


Stefan Sagmeister, 23rd Street, Manhattan

Design Design Inspiration Inspiration

Both a graphic designer and typographer, Sagmeister was born in Bregenz, Austria, in 1962. He studied at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, Austria, and at the Pratt Institute in New York. After living in Hong Kong where he worked for the advertising agency Leo Burnett, he founded Sagmeister Inc. in New York in 1993. His regular clients include Time Warner, the Guggenheim Museum, Lou Reed, the Rolling Stones and Zumtobel AG. He has received many awards, among them a Grammy for the design of the Talking Heads album "Once In A Lifetime".

Do you have a "primary workspace", and – if yes – where is it?
Yes, I do. It’s on 23rd Street in Manhattan.

Do you always like to work at the same place, or do you prefer a change of scenery?
I only have one workplace, but I am always on the road. I average about 50 trips abroad per year, so I often work in hotel rooms and airplanes as well. I would prefer to do my brainstorming in trains. The best ideas pop up as I watch the landscape fly by. But, unfortunately, that’s not really an option in the United States.

What significance do you assign to the office as a space?
I’d give it a 6.5 out of 10.

What functions do you ascribe to it?
 It’s all about work. When I am in the office, I focus on work (as opposed to leafing through design magazines, making personal calls etc).

What do you like about it? What do you dislike about it?
 I went overboard with my efforts to keep costs low and rented an office that is far too Spartan. The result is that I can’t receive many clients, because being on the 4th floor without an elevator is just a bit too rustic. We have a sign at the reception that says "Sagmeister Inc., 3rd world offices, 1st world prices."

Do you get the sense that your office makes a statement about you?
Well, it’s extremely basic so I’d say it gives the impression that I’m really stingy.

Are there any places or locations where you have particularly enjoyed working?
1. In the train from Bregenz to Vienna, in a compartment all to myself.
2. In a freshly cleaned hotel room, doesn’t matter where. Bonus if there’s a balcony.

You spend part of the year in Indonesia? What does your work setting look like there?
The work setting looks good, along with the nice view from the office. (see photo)

Is it true that you recently moved? Why?
Yes. Because the old office was in the same building as my apartment, and my private life was blending with the public to the point it was hard to separate the two. Now I live in the old studio, but the new one is only a 10-minute walk away. Any farther wouldn't really work for me.

Are there places where you have to work but would rather avoid?
 I decide where I work, so there aren’t really any places that I feel the need to avoid.

You work alone, but also in a team, right? Which do you prefer?
 I like both. I’d get bored if I worked alone all the time. And it wouldn’t really be possible, either. Having said that, I prefer to work on ideas early in the morning, especially because there isn’t anyone in the studio yet.

Do you find your office a place of inspiration, of creativity?
It must be. That reminds me of a great quote by Duke Ellington: I don’t need inspiration. I need deadlines.

Are there rituals that are important to your everyday office routine? Either routines that you have consciously set or ones that come to you now that you think about it?
 Thinking about things by going off on tangents that have nothing to do with those things.

When you look back over the entire period of your "office life", what changes would you describe as most decisive?
Good ol’ technology.

Can you tell us about a "wow!" experience that you’ve had in your office?
My mom did a headstand in the office once. That was a WOW.

What is the most important object in the office?
 I’m sorry to say it’s my laptop.

What's the most personal object in your office?
I’m sorry to say it’s my laptop.

What is the most important tool for your work?
I’m sorry to say it’s....

What is your favourite activity in the context of work?
Closing my laptop.

The thing you most wish for in an office?
A teddy bear.

How many hours do you spend in your office per day?

What inspires you?
Manner lemon wafers.

What bothers you most in your work?
Interruptions. Being interviewed. Awful.

Describe your dream office.
A railway car that’s been converted into a studio and is always moving from place to place.


Moritz Bentele