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Sagmeister: Made You Look

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Another self-indulgent design monograph (practically everything we have ever designed including the bad stuff) is Stefan Sagmeister's hand-scrawled subtitle for the first book about his work, Made You Look. This, and the book's clear red case and silver-gilded pages, seem contrary to the raw, handwritten style he is known for, already setting us up for a wild and very personal ride through almost the entire corpus of the 39-year-old designer's work. Sagmeister once scratched words into his skin for his own lecture poster at Cranbrook, and this is the book version--sometimes enlightening, sometimes embarrassing, always self-conscious, and ultimately touching. The story is a conversation between Peter Hall's text and Sagmeister's handwritten commentary, a perfect and believable device for an absorbing dialogue. Self-indulgent as Made You Look may be, Sagmeister lays himself open with idealism, irony, and humor, creating one of the most moving books about design. --Juliette Cezzar

292 pages, Hardcover

First published March 1, 2001

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About the author

Stefan Sagmeister

28 books115 followers
Stefan Sagmeister (born 1962 in Bregenz, Austria) is a New York-based graphic designer and typographer. He has his own design firm—Sagmeister Inc.—in New York City. He has designed album covers for Lou Reed, OK Go, The Rolling Stones, David Byrne, Aerosmith and Pat Metheny.

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5 stars
541 (52%)
4 stars
309 (30%)
3 stars
139 (13%)
2 stars
24 (2%)
1 star
15 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 36 reviews
297 reviews
November 7, 2011
Stefan Sagmeister is just brilliant. I could lavish praise upon his work for the entirety of this review, or go ahead and give you a couple of examples of the sort of thing you'll find in this book, which ranges from the many tricks in the physical presentation of the book (all of which will evoke some child like wonder in you), touching journal observations scanned in from his own messy handwriting, hilarious stories (related and otherwise...but always relevant), beautiful work, personal quotes from his many clients, random sections of the text ending in cheesy lines from a porno (just to make sure you're still paying attention), and truly, in the best sense of this cliche, much much more. This thing is a fucking goldmine of inspiration, humor, and genuine heart.

The first example is a journal entry:

Jan 22, 1991

“Started work this week. Yesterday was company dinner. 220 people, fancy hotel, the grand ballroom. I am placed at the Burnett management table. I hardly know anybody. It's shit boring. Nobody really knows anything to say. White and gold uniformed waiters serve huge steaks with enormous foil-wrapped bake potatoes. Gary, my new boss, leans over and whispers: “I'll pay you $500 of my own money if you take this potato and throw it across the room.” I do.

A poor waiter, laden with silver trays, bowls and plates walks straight into the potato's flight path: He is hit. Smack on the forehead. He goes down. Trays fly.


The table snickers. Suddenly there's conversation. Drinking starts. Heavily. Four hours later medics are pushing drunk people out in wheelchairs.”

This story encapsulates the man, and his approach to design. Hilarious, huge balls, and the ability to transform any shitty situation into something wonderful, sometimes even by accident. I wanted to end with something that resonated with me, another journal entry.

“Another thing: I am still afraid of sitting down and working on a concept. I guess its the fear of not being able to come up with anything - fear of failing.”

So he's human, too. Good to know.
Profile Image for Michael Bohli.
1,030 reviews40 followers
April 11, 2018
Stefan Sagmeister ist als Grafiker und Designer gleich genial wie auch schwierig. Mit seinen ungewohnten Herangehensweisen an die Materie fordert er nicht nur Auftraggeber, sondern auch Konsument und Unbeteiligte heraus. Nicht selten ist bei seinen Arbeiten aber etwas entstanden, das bis heute extreme Strahlkraft und visionäre Wirkung besitzt. "Made You Look" ist eine Werkschau, die all seine Arbeiten (inklusive einiger eher schlechten) bis zum Jahre 2000 aufzeigt und dazu viele Informationen liefert.

Und wie nicht anders zu erwarten ist das Buch, welches als Softcover in einem roten Plastikschuber steckt, wild, oftmals überladen und berstend mit Ideen. Nebst erläuternden Texten zu den Arbeiten erhält man auch Einblicke in die Prozesse, in das persönliche Tagebuch Sagmeisters' und Kommentare der Kunden. Ob es sich nun um Visitenkarten, Plakate, CD-Verpackungen oder gleich komplette Litfasssäulen handelt, hier wird alles neu angedacht. Nur schade wollte mir die Gestaltung des Buches nicht immer vollends gefallen – doch ja, gewisse Arbeiten haben mich berührt.
Profile Image for Alexander Charchar.
5 reviews15 followers
April 29, 2012
There was a telling moment. In an extract from his journal (snippets of which are about a third of the total content of this book), genius-designer Sagmeister talks about arriving in New York and looking through a book of some of the local design studios' recent work. While much of it was very good, which is no surprise considering it would have been from some of the best studios in the world, he found it boring.

Everything was good; nothing was interesting. And this is all Sagmeister want's to do – something interesting. Not something that reflects the tastes and styles of a time, nothing that references great moments in design history, nothing for designers to look at and simply sputter "oh, yes, that's a clever reference."

The obvious thing to say is that he is an incredibly talented designer. The second obvious thing from this book is that it's filled to the brim with interesting and original work, thought-provoking executions and guts. Sagmeister has guts.

It would be so easy to look at his work and just think about the processes he's gone through, whether it would be a printing technique, an illustration style or a certain use of images, and think this is where the magic lies. It wouldn't be a complete non-truth – much praise can be given to the processes Sagmeister devises as they are often very clever, interesting and, dare it be said, unique.

But process alone is empty. Sagmeister raises a point Katherine McCoy makes – design can not raise above it's content.

Sagmeister's true magic lies in knowing how to make the content interesting, in asking the right questions of the client and trying to considering the audience as best he can. Many of us will stick to what we're given – take the content provided and wrap it up nicely. It seems as if Sagmeister tries to do more than this and, if the content is dry, attempts to make the design so interesting that it's hard to know where it finishes and content begins.

More than talented, he's charming. He's honest, open and willing to let it all hang out (often, literally. Buy this book and you will see him naked. Several times). This isn't a collection of greatest hits, like most designer's monographs are, but a collection which has made Sagmeister the designer, nay, the person, he is.

Through very honest writing from Peter Hall and Sagmeister's own journal entries, we don't just see his winning moments, but probably more often than not, the things that went wrong. We hear about the expensive photoshoots that return poor photos, the long and stressful hours to produce subpar and boring work.

It's so easy to put the legends of our fields on high-horses and assume their work flows from their hands as easily as blood from a vein. This might be a burden the successful have to bear – we become so use to their uprisings, that their downfalls are often kept hidden from us, lest they are thrown from their steeds.

It seems as if Sagmeister cares little of his horse, often appearing as if he has fought his ego and won, at least in part. We see the work he is embarrassed by and he tells us he's embarrassed.

This reminds us that he is human, that he is a normal designer with the same shitty client experiences we all have had to endure, and even worse, the same self doubts. But he keeps going. He's listened to his passion and allowed it to flourish, always wanting to do work he finds interesting.

I can't help but wonder if this is why he is such a good designer. Because he doesn't allow his ego to hide his scars. Because he is always willing to do something unique and interesting and different – the kind of thing most of us might consider for a moment, then just as easily brush it away, thinking it too bizarre or expensive or that the client won't go for it.

A random fact from my childhood came through while reading this book, one I'm not even sure is true, but probably doesn't matter whether it is or isn't: Michael Jordan held two records – most baskets sunk, and most baskets missed.

I think Sagmeister, like Jordan, isn't worried about the times the ball missed the ring, but might even be proud of them, knowing that to have missed, he had to have thrown the ball.
Profile Image for shanghao.
264 reviews96 followers
Want to read
October 21, 2016
I chanced upon this book many years ago when I was visiting Amsterdam, and was so enthralled as I was skimming it I *almost* parted with all of 50 Euros, but for the fact that I was a student travelling on a budget.

Yet I regretted my decision then, for admittedly the one I saw was the hardcover edition (with the psychedelic 3D image slip cover), which is now unavailable to buy online.

As I remembered it, it was very authentic and original, kinda like Bruce Mao but electrified with more wildness and freedom.

It remains the single book that I've continued to look for ever since, and I will always remember that cloudy day in Amsterdam, where time seemed to stop as I browsed through this book, one of many gems in a bookstore stocked by a true curator.

Edit: Sagmeister just replied to my question on his insta account. I am now officially his apprentice!
Profile Image for Curtis Meeson.
4 reviews
September 7, 2016
As a designer - it makes you want to pick up and quit your job. A completely honest recollection of one of the top designers on how he got to where he is today. Every page is a joy.
November 8, 2017
One of the greatest books that I’ve ever read. I also agree about what Lou Reed (musician new york) said about Sagmeister “If Stefan was a movie, he would get five stars”
Profile Image for Mike Bell.
130 reviews2 followers
May 15, 2020
If you want to know all about Stefan Sagmeister, you could do worse than this book. I enjoyed his telling of The Rolling Stones design for Bridges to Babylon, cautionary tales of client interaction and inspiring thoughtfulness of his design. It was a little frenetic to read the copy, his hand written notes, the margin text - similar to much of his design, there was always something to surprise and interact with. Including random pieces of other stories scattered throughout.
Profile Image for Kenneth Sutherland.
130 reviews3 followers
June 24, 2021
just as a physical object this is very cool (page end graphics?), the stories and collected work inside are equally cool. sagmeisters work is sort of gimmicky in the fun “i want one of those things” kind of ways, i also didnt realize he was responsible for so many iconic album covers (lou reed, stones, david bryne, etc.)

the book did completely separate from the cover while i was reading it tho so minus 1 star for that
Profile Image for Ishqha K..
11 reviews
March 17, 2021
Great content and it's narrative. Good read to understand how Stefan comes up with his ingenious ideas for his works, that other creatives can (try to) practice as well. Lovely cover slip case and fore-edge design.
Profile Image for Tsuki.
25 reviews4 followers
December 31, 2021
Sagmeister es el puto amo del diseño (gráfico, meh, o sea, en general). Recomendado, mil veces mejor que el clásico 1000 black dots
Profile Image for Jeff.
302 reviews18 followers
June 1, 2008
I love good design (especially if it's a little transgressive) and I love crazy Austrians, so Stefan Sagmeister is my favorite combination of those things. It's also hard not to like someone who has such an ironic view of his own importance, and who's willing to put himself naked into his own design book, or as he labels it, "Another Self-Indulgent Design Book." The book itself is very cool: it comes in a red plastic jacket, which makes it look like there's a smiling doggy on the front. But when you take it out of the dust jacket, the dog is printed with green that makes it look hideous and ferocious. The back cover as well: with the dust jacket you see only positive reviews of Sagmeister, but with it off comes "Who is the asshole who designed this?" Twist the book, and the edges read "Made you look." Twist it the other way, and there are dog bones. Inside, there's a flip-book animation of a running dog being chopped in half. If this sounds too "psycho" for you, well, Sagmeister thrives on controversy and being "on the edge." This guy was crazy enough to have the text for a poster cut into his skin with an exacto blade, the poster consisting of a photo of his nude torso with the red words visible on it. You can also go to YouTube and hear him give a lecture on design and happiness. Like most Austrians, an ironic, slightly wacko exterior barely contains a sentimental interior.
Profile Image for T..
191 reviews89 followers
October 25, 2011
What design needs in order to touch other people's hearts, according to Stefan Sagmeister (well, I may have paraphrased a little):
1. New perspective. "They have the ability to make me see things in a new way."
2. Trigger of memories. "Somehow they remind me of an experience, maybe childhood."
3. Passion and guts. "They show passion and commitment."
4. Surprise. "There is an element of unexpectedness."
5. Virtuosity. "There is virtuosity of craft or technique - or simply just the astonishment that somebody can be so good at something."
6. Beauty. "And then there is beauty or whatever I see as beauty."

Last, but not the least, and perhaps the most truthful of all:
7. It must come from the heart.

Sagmeister has always been one of my idols. I don't find all of his works appealing, but I have often admired how he can pull things off. I subscribe to his philosophy of what design is and what work is, of how the masses view art and design vs how artists and designers see it. I like how he's so giving, and how he really has no patience for all the pretentious bullshit that is the side effect of being part of a creative world/industry/business.

Now that I have a tiny studio of my own, I understand better where he's coming from. His objective of remaining small particularly resonated with me because it's what I wanted to do, too, for the same reasons. Another goal is to have a year or two off, and not do anything commercial. Instead I would just focus on doing what I want to do. I hope to someday accomplish this.
Profile Image for Julia.
19 reviews4 followers
January 27, 2013
Si tuviera que describirlo en 3 palabras: libro interactivo análogo. La experiencia empieza aún antes de abrir el libro, con la portada y contraportada que revelan cambios al ponerle o quitarle la caja roja que hace de filtro y el efecto de los huesos o el título del libro en el delantero al intentar hojear el libro en ambos sentidos. Una vez empezando la lectura te encuentras con las notas del diario de Sagmeister, a veces en relación con el proyecto que describe el texto principal y a veces siendo solo anécdotas que te hacen sonreír o conocerlo un poco más. Los comentarios de los clientes aportan otra perspectiva de los proyectos. Así, leyendo 3 autores: Peter Hall, Sagmeister y El Cliente, comprendes mejor todo lo que conllevó cada diseño. Ah y el foloscopio del perro mutilado corriendo fue un buen detalle.

Disfruté muchísimo leer este libro, tener que girarlo, leerlo de cabeza, buscar detalles ocultos a simple vista y contemplar los trabajos que reseña.
7 reviews2 followers
December 24, 2009
Sagmeister is quite a character. I wasn't aware of how honest he really is until I read the text in this book, the excerpts from his business diary are really interesting and forthcoming. I enjoyed reading about his work and the background story of the pieces highlighted in this book. Very talented and is not afraid to say when he regretted not doing better on certain works. I've changed my mind about who I thought he was...a good book for any artist, especially those in commercial design.
Profile Image for Tony.
40 reviews4 followers
March 17, 2008
This is one of the few Graphic Design monographs worth reading. Sagmeister’s life is interesting and his written voice is very entertaining. The way his life aligns with his projects allows you to see why he is one of the most sought after graphic designers working. His writing is funny and entertaining and I would recommend this book to designers and non-designers alike.
Profile Image for Felipevsky.
1 review1 follower
August 7, 2012
Probably the best design monograph ever written. The confident inclusion of all the bad bits (awful work, stressful moments, etc), really puts the work and development of Sagmeister as a creator close to anyone starting out in this industry. It's not only a display of excellent work, but the story and evolution of a mindset and basically a way of living that can relate to every creative.
7 reviews2 followers
February 7, 2008
if you're ever feeling a lack of creativity...this book will fill you up with ideas. not just for graphic design nerds, i love how this book is so unconventional and fresh, even after a few years of sitting on the bookshelf.
Profile Image for Paul Rustand.
51 reviews1 follower
January 21, 2010
A great monograph of one of the best graphic designers, Stefan Sagmeister. Loaded with all sorts of fascinating behind-the-scenes tidbits and details, not to mention some pretty amazing design work and interesting clients.
Profile Image for Matthew Herring.
67 reviews1 follower
March 2, 2010
Everything worth knowing about Stefan Sagmeister is in this book.One of the best Graphic Designers in the business takes the reader into his life and process and we come out better, more interesting people on the other end. Well, most of us anyway.
33 reviews
January 20, 2011
Very inspiring look at the enigmatic and forwarding thinking designer Stefan Sagmeister. Great insight into his process and creativity. Wonderful personal notes on project ups and downs, the business side of work and great client stories.
Profile Image for Caroline.
32 reviews
January 2, 2013
This book was inspiring. Not only is Sagmeister great at what he does, he's also honest and brings a lot of insight to the design process. In addition, the book has a lot of fun extras, like the rating system in the index and the designers choosing favorite designs.
Profile Image for Marc.
762 reviews106 followers
August 7, 2014
A fascinating look at 20 years of Stefan Sagmeister's design work, complimented by handwritten notes from his journal. I don't know that I always like the outcome but I respect the continual drive to push himself and to be honest.
Profile Image for Aleksei  Ivanovskiy.
3 reviews10 followers
August 8, 2015
This book is all about the sense of humor for me, Sagmeister designs are fantastic and surprisingly varied in style and medium, but the humor is just sublime, i just couldn't stop laughing at some pages.
4 reviews1 follower
March 23, 2007
Funny, smart and incredibly inspirational. Shows the evolution of a great designer, Stefan Sagmeister.
Profile Image for Matthew.
86 reviews4 followers
May 16, 2007
A great inspiration to any designer, Sagmeister doesn't shy away from the failures and compromises that led him to find his own voice in design. Every page is amazing.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 36 reviews

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