Sagmeister & Walsh is a New York City-based design firm that is known for creating edgy content that walks the line between full-scale art exhibitions and commercial work. They create brilliant, bold and unconventional projects for clients like Jay-Z and the Rolling Stones. Whenever I’m looking for creative inspiration, I know I can turn to Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh on Instagram for their out-of-the-box thinking and modern style. I recently went to Royal Oak, Michigan for a showing of Stefan Sagmeister’s newly released documentary, The Happy Film.
Making Great Art Requires Embracing Discomfort
This film started out as a simple graphic design project but quickly took on a deeper mission. Stefan turns himself into a design project as he attempts to become a happier person. For help with this mission, Stefan consults with Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist, Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University, and an author with a focus on morality. Jonathan guides Stefan as he tries three experiments to increase his happiness based on scientific research. Along the way, Stefan creates unique art pieces to share his lessons learned which are humorous and at times difficult to watch. The film’s overarching theme is that a having meaningful life requires embracing, rather than running from discomfort.
From a visual standpoint, the agency’s eye for design shines throughout the production with beautiful fonts, the music selection, and interactive art scenes. Almost every shot in the film could be captured as a still-frame, showing the agency’s exceptional attention-to-detail.
Changing a Project’s Structure Can Lead to More Creativity
After the screening, Stefan held a Q&A session where he explained his creative approach to documentary funding. Stefan financed the entire film by giving lectures around the globe about his process of making the film. Whenever he ran out of funding, he simply would give another presentation and the project was rolling again. Because the film crew did not receive government funding, they had the ability to be more flexible with their timeline.
The Happy Film left me feeling inspired to find more ways to exercise creativity into my daily life. I believe this documentary is a must-see for creatives and designers interested in personal development.