stefan sagmeister: the happy show at ICA, philadelphia
stefan sagmeister: the happy show at ICA, philadelphia stefan sagmeister: the happy show at ICA, philadelphia
apr 02, 2012

stefan sagmeister: the happy show at ICA, philadelphia

stefan sagmeister taking a break in the men’s room to prep for ‘the happy show’ all images courtesy of the institute of contemporary art, philadelphia




stefan sagmeister: the happy showinstitute for contemporary art, philadelphiafrom april 4th – august 12th, 2012


the happy show’, the latest exhibition of work by new york-based graphic designer stefan sagmeister, presents viewers with the experience of walking into the creative’s mind as he makes the effort to increase his happiness through means of meditation, cognitive therapy and mood-altering pharmaceuticals. the show is a culmination of the designer’ ten-year exploration of the topic of happiness, expressed through the typographic investigations of a series of maxims, or rules to live by, originally derived from sagmeister’s diary and which have manifested into a variety of interactive forms. to contextualize the ‘proverbs’ which appear throughout the exposition, sagmeister has collected the social data of harvard pscyhologists daniel gilbert and steven pinker, psychologist jonathan haidt, anthropologist donald symons, and several historians.

inflatable monkeys on display at ICA’s tuttleman terrace




spanning across the entire second-floor galleries and ramp, as well as activating the museum’s in-between spaces, the show presents sagmeister’s test of the boundary between art and design as it transgresses through his implementation of typography. included in the exposition is a 12-minute clip of the ‘happy film’ a feature length exploration of whether it is possible to train the mind the way in which we train the body. ‘I am usually rather bored with definitions. happiness, however, is such a big subject that it might be worth a try to pin it down.’ – stefan sagmeister


‘monkey’ in its pre-inflated state

installing one of the typographic projects

general installation

left: the masters at schaller and weber are cutting down hundreds of slices of fine bologna beerwurst right: stefan sagmeister’s master jessica working on handmade bologna cards

laser cutting the world ‘happy’ out of bologna

‘the happy show’ invitation in progress

packaging the invitations

a 12-minute clip of ‘the happy film’ is on show as part of the exhibition

‘the happy film’

‘the happy show’ typographic logo

  • Sagmeister is a genius. Fantastic stuff.

    Tom P says:
  • he spelled understands wrong in the mirror.

    amos says:
  • He corrected it right after the photo was taken.

    Phil says:

have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

comments policy
designboom's comment policy guidelines
generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

- please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
- please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
- please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
- please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
- please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
(there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
the best 100-200 entries too.)

a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

design news

keep up with our daily and weekly stories
502,388 subscribers
- see sample
- see sample