STEFAN SAGMEISTER’S DESIGN OVER THE TOP


Rolling into the Design Exchange is the first instalment of a long-overdue revitalization of this Toronto facility. The initiative leads off with New York graphic designer, Stefan Sagmeister, and his take on the heartbeat of design practice, which he calls, “The Happy Show.” Pictured above is the entryway to the show, whereby viewers click out a gumball from the dispenser at the level (running from 1 to 10) of the happiness magnitude that seems to cover their state of affairs.

Sagmeister couldn’t be more serious about his focus upon a reservoir of energy to be cultivated by anyone intent upon being creative. But he couldn’t be more lighthearted and downright goofy about putting that quest in play. Does that in itself tell us something about a playful paradox at the heart of his venture?

There is a video of a sojourn by him to Bali and a one-week-stand at a meditation centre there. “All the participants, without exception, told me they were completely happy. I didn’t believe a single one of them for a second.”

Latching on to the readily comprehensible spectrum of work ranging from job through career and up to calling, the show comprises a visually inventive spree of installations and videos enacting approaches toward discovering delight in work. One instance appearing in a video of a power point he performs cites a designer who affixes empty cartoon speech bubbles to signage in the streets of Manhattan, by way of dialogue with the contrarian wit out there.

In catchy juxtaposition with that bright and quixotic effort, the second half of the show involves a large, flashy promotional installation for the Mini, whereby a London advertising agency goes to the edge in inciting reckless driving in potential buyers—its Futurist dash giving us to understand how such uncanniness is something we love. Making one’s way into a laser tower, the visitor is presented with a steering wheel and column at which, by pressing road-rage hard upon the horn, there is activated wild mottos on a video track showing cars proceeding along beltways at practically impossible but spiritually necessary speeds.

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