Staff Reporters
Aug 18, 2014

Q&A: Outspoken Spikes Design Jury president Stefan Sagmeister

With Spikes Asia 2014 around the corner, Stefan Sagmeister (pictured), the festival's Design jury president, shares his outsider's perspective on the current state of the advertising industry.

Sagmeister: Bored by industry's current advocacy of failure
Sagmeister: Bored by industry's current advocacy of failure

Stefan Sagmeister, who will lead the Design jury at Spikes Asia 2014 (in Singapore 23 through 26 September), is a designer and the founder of Sagmeister & Walsh in New York. He has worked with clients including the Rolling Stones, HBO and the Guggenheim Museum (full bio). Although he's not a complete industry outsider (having worked for agencies including Leo Burnett in Hong Kong), Sagmeister will bring a decidly non-industry perspective to the jury room. Here, Sagmeister shares some opinions on the current state of the industry.

You seem frustrated by the over-enthusiastic use of the term ‘storyteller’ [see video embedded below]. Do you think advertising/marketing professionals are right to give themselves this title, and if so, in what context?

It's just part of the current industry jargon. It seems that the same people who were 'thinking outside the box' in the '90s, and 'created experiences'—even when designing banner ads—some years later, are now becoming 'storytellers'.

How do you perceive the advertising industry as a whole? Do you believe it has a clear understanding of its purpose, or has that got lost along the way?

To be really good at advertising, I would need to be a salesperson at heart. When I realised I am not that great at sales, and had no burning desire to get better, I got out of advertising.

What would you like to see more/less of in advertising?

More delight, less annoyance.

What recent industry jargon do you loathe the most and why?

The 'importance of failure'. Yawn.

Focusing on design: do you think the average brand (especially in Asia) has enough appreciation of the value of design in its communications? What do you think are the best aspects of Asian design, from what you have seen?

It seems to me that international brands who have focused on design over the past decades have done rather well, say Apple, Samsung, BMW... So my guess would be that the average brand could be doing better.

On the non-brand side, I think there are wonderful design initiatives coming out of Hong Kong with the red/white/blue series by Another Mountain Man being just one fantastic local example.

How do you define great design, and what will your criteria be as a jury president at Spikes?

Good design either helps or delights other people. Great design does both.

What trends in the design category are you really enthusiastic about?

I love seeing designers making their own tools, i.e. writing their own code. I love to see the language of design being applied to more personal content.



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