I have always known design to bring along with it a great deal of stress. With deadlines, unreasonable clients, annoying marketing executives, irritating suppliers who seem to have their own unreasonable schedule that has nothing to do with yours, deciding design fee, client haggling, chasing payments…. the list of grievances is endless. How, in all this flurry of stressful activity, can one find Happiness in Design ?
Saagmeister seems to have found a way. With the seven year itch. Every seventh year, he shuts down his studio for a year of reflection and introspection. The outcome of this year-long sabbatical then goes on to provide the fodder for future projects. An interesting thought. But how many designers are actually working on a similar module? Almost everyone I know and meet personally seem to be laden with more work and deadlines than they can handle. And that seems to be what is lauded, approved, and looked upon as the way to be, the route to take for success and….happiness (?!) Clients, too busy trying to squeeze designers of work that is worth all the exhorbitant design fee that they charge, are always happy to endorse this route of stress and business…which then is suppposed to lead to economic bliss…happiness.
Do we as designers measure happiness in quantity of hours of sleep lost? In quantity of the number of days we spend like a zombie in front of a desktop pouring over design details? or is it the sheer satisfaction and exhuberance of a job well done that brings us the most happiness? Stefan Saagmeister designed the AIGA poster using his own body as a canvas for a very painful number of tatoos all over…bringing to light the fact about how painful this business of design can be. However, to execute the painfully unhappy side of design, Saagmeister probably experienced extreme happiness by delving himself into his work wholly and willingly. Is happiness in design a paradox? Where the process of design, while being painful, brings happiness in its final outcome?
Stefan Saagmeister. Happiness By Design. http://www.ted.com/talks/stefan_sagmeister_shares_happy_design.html
As one of his many lists says, and I quote from his TED Talk :
- Thinking about ideas and content freely : with the deadline far away.
- Working without interruption on a single project.
- Using a wide variety of tools and techniques.
- Travelling to new places.
- Working on projects that matter to me.
- Having things come back from the printer done well….
sums up a lot of my happiness that comes from the experience of design and I am sure that there are other designers out there who share the same point of view. Stefan Saagmeister shares experiences in design, both his own and few examples of works by other designers, in many aspects of the field that makes him happy.
For my thesis topic in this semester, I am exploring slow design. And as I delve deeper into it, I feel convinced that in the long run this is the route to Happiness in Design. Perhaps there are other points of view in this regard. However, when I realise that slow design takes into account many aspects that are all for the positive good of the individual, society and environment, I am increasingly thinking that this is the way to go. As in one of my second last posts, I quoted William Henry Davies’ poem ‘Leisure’, it really reflects the way I feel about the state of affairs of how things are moving in today’s world. No one really seems to have the time to stand and stare. At least we have been lead to believe that we dont enjoy that luxury any more, not without a pang of guilt on the effect our leisure is having on the economy, unless of course one is referring to the ever growing economy generated by tourism…in which case, all said and done at least we are keeping the leisure industry happy!
I will end this blog post with a lovely quote by Jonathan Miller from my favourite Alan Fletcher book, ‘The Art of Looking Sideways’. Page 139.
‘Among the many characteristics which have been identified as peculiar to the human species – language, laughter, love, politics and cruelty – the one which is often overlooked is the capacity to be delighted and diverted by the exercise of the senses. Although these systems were evolved to furnish reliable knowledge of the external world, man is unique in exploiting them for sheer enjoyment. In fact a large proportion of his energy and ingenuity is spent on re-arranging the external world for the express purpose of providing more delightful perceptions. Even in communities which live on the margin of subsistence, scarce resources of time and energy are dedicated to the pleasures derived from decoration and ornament, and in the more developed societies, the amount of labour devoted to such provisions is taken to be one of the most significant measures of its civilisation.’
Sir Jonathan Wolfe Miller (born 21 July 1934) is a British theatre and opera director, actor, author, television presenter, humorist, sculptor and medical doctor. (Wiki online).