Thursday, December 1, 2016
Stephan Sagmeister 1990s design attitude
Born in Austria, Sagmeister studied engineering after high school, but switched to graphic design after working on illustrations and lay-outs for Alphorn, a left-wing magazine. At 19, Sagmeister moved to Vienna hoping to study graphics at the city’s prestigious University of Applied Arts. After his first application was rejected – "just about everybody was better at drawing than I was" – he enrolled in a private art school and was accepted on his second attempt.
Through his sister’s boyfriend, the rock musician, Alexander Goebel, Sagmeister was introduced to the Schauspielhaus theatre group and designed posters for them as part of the Gruppe Gut collective. Many of the posters parodied traditionally twee theatrical imagery and offset it with roughly printed text in the grungey typefaces of punk albums and 1970s anarchist graphics. In 1987, Sagmeister won a Fulbright scholarship to study at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. Here humour emerged as the dominant theme in his work. When a girlfriend asked him to design business cards which would cost no more than $1 each, Sagmeister printed them on dollar bills.
Sagmeister moved back to Austria and worked as a graphic designer before moving to Hong Kong in 1991 to join the advertising agency, Leo Burnett. "They asked if I would be interested in being a typographer, " he later told the author, Peter Hall. "So I made up a high number and said I would do it for that."
When the agency was invited to design a poster for the 1992 4As advertising awards ceremony, Sagmeister depicted a traditional Cantonese image featuring four bare male bottoms. Some ad agencies boycotted the awards in protest and the Hong Kong newspapers received numerous letters of complaint. Sagmeister’s favorite said: "Who’s the asshole who designed this poster?" Sagmeister Website is here.