The designers Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh are known for their experimental typography and striking visual imagery. Their work is by turns playful and unsettling, humanist and existential, and often expands the definition of design, embracing film, sculpture, poetry, and performance.

Six Things marks the first exhibition of their newly founded design firm, Sagmeister & Walsh.

Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh, installation piece (photo credit: New York Jewish Museum/publicity)

Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh, installation piece (photo credit: New York Jewish Museum/publicity)

Before this partnership, Sagmeister was already taking an unusual approach to design. In an iconic 1999 poster for the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), he cut type into the skin of his torso like a tattoo. At the contemporary art gallery Deitch Projects in 2008 he stacked 10,000 bananas against a wall. Unripe green bananas among the yellow ones spelled out the sentence, “Self-confidence produces fine results.” The legibility of the text fluctuated as the fruit ripened over the course of the exhibition. He has created signature album covers for Lou Reed, Talking Heads, the Rolling Stones, OK Go, and others, and executed indelible ad campaigns for major companies such as HBO and Levi’s.

To stimulate his own creativity Sagmeister has gone on periodic sabbaticals since 2000, traveling and investigating ideas. For the last ten years he has delved into the nature of happiness. “The center of this exploration,” he explains, “is the search for an answer to the question: is it possible to train my mind in the same way I can train my body?” Inspired by the psychologist Jonathan Haidt, whose research connects spiritual wisdom with modern science, Sagmeister developed an intensive regimen of meditation, cognitive therapy, and mood-altering drugs as an experiment in self-discovery.

From this emerged a forthcoming documentary entitled The Happy Film and from that The Happy Show, a traveling exhibition with accompanying publications, organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia. Six Things is a continuation of this project on happiness, in which Jessica Walsh has been an integral partner.

In five compelling short videos and a sound-activated sculpture, Sagmeister & Walsh examine six things culled from Sagmeister’s diary that he believes have increased his personal happiness:

If I Don’t Ask I Won’t Get
Keeping a Diary Supports Personal Development
Be More Flexible
It Is Pretty Much Impossible to Please Everybody
Now Is Better
Feel Others Feel

About the Designers

Stefan Sagmeister (b. Bregenz, Austria, 1962), established the design firm Sagmeister Inc., now Sagmeister & Walsh, in New York in 1993. He is the recipient of numerous design awards, including two Grammy awards for his packaging designs (2005, 2010). Jessica Walsh (b. New York, 1986), a multidisciplinary designer, previously worked at Pentagram Design and Print magazine. The New York Times, AIGA, and EDP are among her clients. She was named Computer Art’s Top Rising Star in Design (2009), an Art Director’s Club Young Gun (2010), and Print’s New Visual Artist (2011). Sagmeister & Walsh has been engaged to create a new graphic identity for The Jewish Museum.

The exhibition runs through August 4, 2013