The impetus for Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far came directly from a list in Stefan Sagmeister’s diary under the same title. Over the course of seven years, Sagmeister found unorthodox ways to create interactive installations in the global world that visualized the maxims catalogued in his diary. He used spaces traditionally occupied by advertisements and promotions (billboards, brochures, and notably a cluster of giant inflatable monkeys), and replaced the content with his personal truths.

This series of typographic works was later compiled into the boxed set of booklets, now in the Cooper-Hewitt collection, each displaying a different aphorism from this endeavor. Sagmeister states that the project was influenced in part by his grandfather (a sign painter in their hometown of Brengz, Austria) who kept his many pieces of wisdom around the house.

In his vast body of work, Sagmeister has strived to highlight a human aspect in the world of design, which he believes is by and for individuals, not machines. His designs often invite the participation of viewers while simultaneously emphasizing the physicality of the human body. The interactive nature of the Things I Have Learned… installations is paralleled in the format of this book. The reader can variously arrange the order of the individual booklets to drastically change the appearance of Sagmeister’s trellised face adorning the cover.

On the eponymous website created by Sagmeister Inc., contributors are invited to submit the things they have learned in their life so far. Sagmeister invites the public to “write it down beautifully. Design it digitally, photograph it, draw it, scan it and upload it. Use any media that works for you, paint, sculpture, film…” Through this project, Sagmeister extends his personal project to meld a community through shared truths while continuing to engage the public in art and design.

Watch a video from our new Collections in Motion series featuring Things I Have Learned So Far and see the book’s many transformations!

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