As part of my undergraduate studies we were to “[…] conduct an in-depth study of an aspect of your own discipline’s culture of your choice, with the emphasis on the analysis of appropriate social, cultural, economic, technical, historical and aesthetic issues relevant to your chosen topic and your creative work.“.

I decided to consider the work of Stefan Sagmeister as he is a current modern graphic designer who is experimenting with design to meet a personal objective of touching the heart with design. Product design is at the forefront of our lives and leading Expert Donald Norman has studied and written on the subject of why we like everyday things – this is mainly because of the design. Being in the industry for longer, I wanted to compare a formal, academic approach to a method of design, to a very free and creative process that Sagmeister has. Rather than having specific scientific goals that Don has, Sagmeister has personal goals that are his passion.

I conducted my research by reading the books by Don Norman, and studying and comparing them to a series of work produced by Sagmeister for the same client, quite a similar brief but different approach – conference posters for AIGA.

I found that there was an underlying presence of Norman’s design processes and methods in Sagmeister’s work. Not only that but Norman’s specifically stated that all of the 3 levels of design process and method need to be met in order to be effective when it comes to using emotion as a key factor. I initially found that Sagmeister’s approach to be quite predictable, but not as effective as I thought.

My research and findings are important because as a practitioner, I need to better understand methods and processes without losing the space for passion and creativity. I believe Sagmeister has been able to do this effectively, and been in a position to take on the idea of emotional design and touching the heart a serious aspect of this work, where he literally put sweat, blood and tears into his project to touch the heart. As a passion it certainly impresses the client!

My essay would be useful to other designers to consider Sagmeister’s approach and how effective Norman’s levels of process and design methods are. Many designers steer away from a formal attitude to design method as it stifles creativity, but having an understand of how we process visuals is important. To have this understanding does not mean we have to stick to a solid formula, but being aware of what is needed to be included in our design process to design for the emotion and touch the heart.

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