Stefan Sagmeister talks about what inspires him

If there’s one name aspiring young designers think of when it comes to inspiration, it’s Stefan Sagmeister. The inimitable Austrian designer has put his mark on everything from advertising to film, art installations and furniture. He hardly needs an introduction at all. It only seems fitting, then, for to conduct an interview with Sagmeister about what inspires him, a question he broke down into three parts.

1. The blank slate of “a newly occupied hotel room.”

2. Non-client driven experiments as a regular part of the design practice. “The key word here is ‘regular.’ I found that experiments which are not part of a regular schedule have a tendency to get pushed out by more ‘urgent’ jobs simply on account of having a deadline attached to them.”

3. Edward DeBono’s books on thinking, like “Lateral Thinking,” “Six Thinking Hats,” and “Creativity Workout.” DeBono devised methods that allow us to “conduct thinking as a conductor leads an orchestra. We can call forth what we will.” DeBono also said that “usually, the only people who are very satisfied with their thinking skill are those poor thinkers who believe that the purpose of thinking is to prove yourself right – to your own satisfaction.”

So who inspires Sagmeister? “Tibor Kalman,” he says, “was the single most influential person in my design life and my one and only design hero.” Sagmeister went on to say that it’s not because he thinks Kalman is the best designer who ever lived – hardly. “There were probably a number of people around who were as smart as Tibor (and there were certainly a lot who were better at designing) it was, more than anything else, his incredible salesmanship that set his studio apart from all the others. Nobody else could sell these concepts without any changes, and get those ideas with almost no alterations out into the hands of the public. Nobody else was as passionate.” Kalman’s advice for designers was to “do everything twice. The first time you don’t know what you’re doing, the second time you do, the third time its boring.”

And how did Sagmeister become interested in design in the first place? “When I was 15,” he says, “and got stoned and stared at album covers for a long time.” Hear that, teenage stoners? Keep on smoking and gazing off into space. There may be a world-renowned designer in you yet.