paul sahre photographed by pascal béjean




paul sahre has operated his own independent practice since 1997. he is a frequent visual contributor to the new york times, authored books, redesigned two of canada’s largest magazines, built and destroyed a life-sized monster truck hearse for the band ‘they might be giants’ and appeared in a 90’s winona rider film. paul told us more about his work and influences…




DB: what made you want to create images for a living?
PS: I don’t remember a specific instance but I do remember making art as a way of getting praise and attention from my mother in a pretty competitive environment growing up – there were four of us; my sister was the only girl, my older brother was deaf and my younger brother was a trouble maker, so art was my way of getting attention.




‘a few seconds of radiant filmstrip’ book cover.




‘the sinistra zone’ book cover.




DB: how would you describe your approach to design?
PS: I’ve been trying to answer this question my whole career and still can’t do it.


I think design is reactionary by nature and as a result my work is hard to characterize. there is always a graphic component and there is usually typography involved, but beyond that, I view what I do as reacting as a way of creating. I take situations not of my own making and make them my own. thinking is also important to me and I’m fascinated by composition.




‘killing yourself to live’ book cover.




‘sex, drugs and cocoa puffs’ book cover.




DB: who or what has been the biggest single influence on your work?
PS: everything that has ever happened to me.




DB: what would you say is your strongest skill?
PS: persistence. I played a lot of sports growing up and learned the benefits of practice. the harder you work the better you are at pretty much anything. to a fault, I’m not a ‘it’s good enough’ type of person. anything that I have done that might look easy, wasn’t.




‘the savage dawn of twitter’ for the new york times magazine.




DB: what are your thoughts on specialization vs generalization?
PS: I would definitely fit into the generalist category. I’m not sure it’s ever a choice really. for me the problem solving aspect of design was always the thing that interested me, not so much how something looks. that said, some of my favorite designers are specialists.




environmental graphics for juvenile probation centers in new york city in collaboration with lonni tanner and biber architects.




the facilities feature word puzzles on the walls.




environmental graphics for juvenile probation centers in new york city.



DB: do you draw very much and do you think it’s important for a graphic designer to be able to draw?
PS: yes I draw, but I don’t know if I actually like drawing. it’s hard. obsessive. painful even. I drew a lot as a kid but then happily left it once I found graphic design. I’ve only come back to it recently. drawing is what led me to design, but I don’t think it’s essential. drawing can teach you all kinds of things but you can also learn things from other ways of creating.





‘join us’ album sleeve for they might be giants.




music video ‘for when will you die?’ by they might be giants.




DB: how do you think online design resources have influenced the design being produced today?
PS: I might even call it shaping or even dictating rather than influencing. I realize that may seem like a negative assessment, but I think it’s really just the bi-product of access. it’s both good and bad. I think everyone would agree that it’s much easier to mimic and much harder to make something that is yours as a result of tumblrs, pinning and so on.




promotional paper truck / hearse for they might be giants.




the assembled paper truck / hearse – miniature version.




DB: what currently fascinates you and how is it feeding into your work?I
PS:  8mm cameras. film. video. I have no idea what I’m doing and it’s wonderful. we just finished a music video ‘tesla’ for they might be giants where we shot the whole thing on 8mm film. no idiotic filters! I’ve been scouring the planet looking for standard 8mm film. they are still making it in the czech republic. I also got a bunch from some guy in california that was used for aircraft gun cameras. it had been in his freezer since the early 90’s.


each 3 minute spool cost $75-$100 for the film, process, split (as standard 8mm is actually 16mm film stock split down the middle) and transfer. the final video is an annotated youtube that is 24 minutes long (we shot 10 times that and the whole process took a couple of weeks). of course you could end up with something under or over exposed or nothing. seemingly crazy, but I am a dyed-in-the-wool stoic.


I love exploring places I haven’t been yet. part of me wishes the project wasn’t over.




music video for tesla by they might be giants.




DB: do you have any superstitious beliefs or rules that you live by?
PS: yes I drink a lot when I fly, and am always exhausted when we land because I have been keeping the plane from crashing with my mind. try that on an 18 hour flight to johannesburg.




they might be giants app.




DB: what do you know now that you wish you knew at 21?
PS: too many things to mention – let’s go with kentucky derby winners over the last 28 years.




DB: what’s your personal motto?
PS: try and try again.