Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Sagmeister's people got back in touch with me, he's too busy to respond, which is fair enough:

Hi Ben

Thanks for your email. Unfortunately it is just so crazy in here that
Stefan is unable to answer your questions. It's extremely flattering
but sadly he is completely overwhelmed by the amount of e-mails he

As a student, Stefan was very frustrated with the lack of response he
got from design professionals and promised himself to answer every
question. Indeed he used to do it all the time, and included are a
whole lot of answers previously given to students in the past – many
of which you may find useful. It is just not possible to personally
answer each question now.

all good things from 23rd street,
Jessica Walsh
at Sagmeister Inc.

They were kind enough to send me an FAQ though. Here are some useful sections:

9. Our book: Made You Look

Q. Why did you decide to do a book now, at this point in your career?
1. Ego, ego, ego.
2. We were asked.
3. A good time to look back, see all the stuff we've done, get it out of our
4. In the last couple of years many designers published experimental books.
I felt there was room for a classic show and tell book, designs done for
actual clients with all the stories behind it.

Q. It occurred to me after our interview, that most books devoted to the
of one designer tend to focus on people who have had many years of
experience. It struck me that, at the age of 40, you're pretty young to be
honored with a book of this type.
A. I agree. Maybe too young. It was one of the reasons we had to include bad
work, there just was not enough good work to fill a whole book (besides, I
also thought bad work might make good reading).

Q. Why do you feel publishers were interested
in, or thought it would be marketable, to publish a book of your work that
you designed?
A. You would have to ask them, - my feeling is that they liked the work and
they thought it would sell.

Q. Were they initially interested in letting you have most of the
creative control, or was this something you had to stipulate and negotiate?
A. Some publishers were very upfront about wanting to be in control
creatively (we did not go with those) and others told us we would be in
charge. We chose among those.

Q. Other touches, such as the book's title on the edges of the pages, and
flip-book animation of the running dog--were these also ideas that were part
of your proposal or comps you sent initially to publishers?
A. Yes, all of them. You could lift a red acetate off the cover to see the

Q. How did you arrive at Booth-Clibborn as the publisher of the book, when
other publishers also responded with interest?
A. We loved their books. We thought they had good international
distribution. They promised to sell the book at a reasonable price. The
retail price for the consumer was VERY much on my mind, I would have loved
the book to be much more affordable, since my favorite readers, students and
young designers, don't have much money. It now costs $34.96 on
(more elsewhere) which is sadly still high.
I would have loved it to be $19.95. This was also my fault: I was very picky
at the proofing stage, driving cost up. And of course, Booth-Clibborn is a
high quality publisher who does not work with the cheapest printers.

Q. Was Peter Hall your author of choice before you contracted with
A. Yes.

Q. When did you determine that you weren't in a position to write the book
and that it should be
authored by somebody else, was it at the comp stage of after?
A. When I tried it. It was extremely difficult, I found many excuses not to
sit down and write. When I finally did, the process was painful and the
results horrible.

Q. On the book's design: How did you feel, in general, about the idea of
designing a book?
A. I expected the worst since so many designers who had done a book about
their studio told me it was the most difficult job of their lives. It turned
out to be the opposite. Fun.
In general I love designing books because they are, together with music
packaging, among the very few pieces of graphic design that don't get thrown
In general, I also love that you have the attention of an audience for a
longer time span, making it easier to communicate something remotely

Q. The book incorporates many of the interactive aspects and optical
tricks that appear in your CD designs and other projects. Was this an
accident, or was it intentional?
A. Intentional. It makes sense that a book on our work incorporates the same
aspects as the work. This was also why I wanted to utilize that red filter
device for the cover (we had used it before for Mountains of Madness, a CD
packaging that was always one of my favorites among all our projects and not
only worked well for the band but also helped us getting a foot hold in the
music industry).

Q. Of all of the pieces featured in the book (and including the book), which
ones are you most proud of and why?
A. Possibly the book itself. Because we got much more feedback about the
book than we got on all of our other projects combined. Some of that
feedback was from young designers, my favorite line: After I read your book
I had to go and do a lot of work.
That's exactly how I felt as a student after reading a design book I
We also included a rating system at the end of the book (1-5, 1 being the
best grade), a reader can look our opinion of the projects up there.

Q. In your book, there is a random paragraph that appears to have been taken
from a romance novel (among others). Do you often place hidden jokes in your
work for those who are paying attention? How important do you think humor is
to design, and does it sell?
A. I love to hide surprises in places where it makes sense, like books or CD
covers (which are scrutinized very carefully by a small minority of
readers). Humor in design is as important or unimportant as humor in life.

I haven't really processed this information yet, but I will do and edit this blog post.

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