While recent advertising has been overwhelmingly digital, the contemporary graphic designer and former National Design Award winner, Stefan Sagmeister, relishes the opportunity to use his considerable graphic talent and imagination to create posters the traditional way, through photo offset lithography. These posters are deliberately human and personal, in response to the “cold” modernist design of some of his colleagues. In general, Sagmeister searches for ideas that elicit sensual or emotional responses from the viewer. For example, in 2009, Sagmeister and his design team deconstructed a pair of Levi’s 501® button fly jeans and used all of the individual elements to create a window installation for American Rag’s Los Angeles store. The installation was reproduced in a limited run of 501 posters that were distributed in American Rag’s Los Angeles and San Francisco boutiques.

The composition’s shag carpet appearance grew from the difficulty of working with the unruly thread. The Sagmeister design team organized the thread, buttons, rivets, and labels in a collage using the white thread to spell out a label they found inside the pocket: “This is a Pair of Levis Sewed with the Strongest Thread.” Among the elements that make this poster so appealing is its tactility—it appeals to the viewer’s sense of touch. This appeal to the personal, to the senses, and to the emotions, is characteristic of Sagmeister’s work.

As part of the 2010 marketing campaign for Levi’s button fly, Sagmeister designed a poster, also in Cooper-Hewitt’s collection (2011-34-2), which features a housefly composed of numerous Levi Strauss & Co. buttons in various sizes. While more slick and elegant than the “Strongest Thread” piece, the housefly poster also possesses a sensual appeal, evoking something hard, shiny, and metallic.

Button Fly by Sagmeister

Sagmeister’s 2011 gift to Cooper-Hewitt also included six other amazing, recently designed objects.

Related Objects:

National Design Week is October 13-21.

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