Stefan Sagmeister, Gaetano Pesce, Andrea Branzi and Sara Ricciardi on happiness: it is the engine of good design

“I don't like the idea of ​​the creative and suffering artist”, Stefan Sagmeister told Tobias Van Schneider in a recent interview on Desk. “When I’m sick, sad or very down I don’t do anything good”, confesses the great graphic designer guru from the top of his resume (he designed the album covers of Lou Reed, David Byrne and Talking Heads, Rolling Stones and Aerosmith, won Grammy Awards and today carries out projects such as The Happy Show or more recently The Happy Film, a documentary dedicated to the tireless pursuit of happiness).

Sagmeister has a very strong thesis on the theme of happiness that makes use of three golden rules + 1.

1) Try not to get bored: change your workplace, view the window, alternate passions, start with design and get to graphics, range from photography and art history, read a book on botany or browse the images of a volume of anatomy. Don’t sit still. 2) Don’t drive away sadness at all costs 3) Don’t stay in your comfort zone. 4) Remove the stereotype of the cursed and creative artist, seek happiness. You may not even find it. But, at some point, maybe it arrives.

And in Italy? What do our great teachers and our young people think about happiness?


Gaetano Pesce: design must take the weight off life

“The drama of the passionate artist has passed. It is happiness and innovation that get along well”, says Gaetano Pesce. Who confesses that when he happened to meet Yohji Yamamoto, the Japanese designer perpetually dressed in black, it was just a short time before he did not superstitiously do the horns. He still jokes about the artist and designer when he replies with amusement from New York where he has lived for almost 40 years. For him, master of the radical, born in ‘39, wizard of color, ironic, nonconformist, exhibited all over the world, the work must have aspects that bring joy and irony, and inevitably a good mood.

“Let me explain”, he says. “Happiness by definition is a short condition, innovation is too. For both, there is an immediate decline of the creative moment and creativity is a state of mind, a way of being that leads us to become curious and innovative. If I had to talk to designers I would say not only think about the function of what they design, but to suggest to people that there is a way to be happy. An important function of the project is to remove the heaviness of the moment. Far from being scholastic, design should discover the meaning of pleasing, creating objects that can make us smile. If we bring joy to someone for 10 minutes it is already an achievement. To design a good mood, then, the use of color is essential because it brings energy, as taught by the Venetian painting tradition”. Examples? The Venetian gondola only turned black after the plague, the absence of color is synonymous with catastrophe, needless to say.

Andrea Branzi: we should try to make happy objects, we need them

Van Gogh killed himself because he wasn’t successful enough, Mark Rothko because he was too successful. The artist’s life can never be defined according to predefined logic. Human material is so contradictory that it is difficult to catalog it”. Andrea Branzi, one of the masters in the art of experimentation, responds with the wisdom of those who are eighty. “Happiness is not an easy definition, not even in design: a discipline that takes place with very professional times and practices on the one hand, linked to industrial tactics, and on the other close to artistic activity. We cannot speak today of a design defined as a rationalist discipline: all this has been overcome. Today it is the place of creativity, experimentation, autonomy and continuous training even outside the market”.

Andrea Branzi, master with three Compassi d'Oro, founder of Archizoom, a central role in Alchimia and Memphis, prizes and awards, is asked how happy projects are designed. “First of all, objects are invented. If one were to make the history of the chair, he would see that the chairs have been inventions for four centuries, one different from the other. Obviously, there is no need for a new chair, but it becomes very urgent to get one. Happiness is – to bother St. Augustine – often unexpected and even useless. Cultural, artistic and creative activity is related to this concept of uselessness, fundamental in human history: doing useless things that no one asks for, no one buys or buys by chance. And he discovers that all of this fascinates him, because we perennially move in a complicated and very elusive territory, we move in anthropology and in human nature. I confess: for many years, I still haven’t understood why I do design, and I must say that I don't want to understand it. I like doing it, it’s essential, it makes me happy. It is not a question of lengthy procedures, but of insights that arrive in 15 seconds, without knowing exactly the goal. What matters is to produce beauty, to do something that seduces, to try to do happy things. Even just for a moment”.

Sara Ricciardi: happiness needs unhappiness

“Happiness needs unhappiness”, Sara Ricciardi, says at the end of the day, in the post-work evening state of grace. “They are both very valuable to listen to. A continuous and incessant dimension of happiness would be foolish, while the alternation goes hand in hand with the rhythm, together they are the opposite of the monotonous: mono – tone” marks the designer and creative from Campania, born thirty years ago in Benevento.

Trained in Milan, Istanbul and New York, she graduated in Product Design in 2015 at Naba, she opens her studio where she creates interior projects, products, unique pieces, installations and performances, collaborating with companies, galleries, museums. In March you will inaugurate a new space in via Palmieri. “The beauty lies in the articulation of an alternation of states. Personally, I very often embrace happiness, especially when I work, I feel it true inside because there is a constant search, it is an alienation that then escapes your hands. It is a continuous pursuit, in short, I owe a lot ‘to those I don't love’, to put it in Wislawa Szymborska's words. The state of happiness is relaxed: you are in the hammock, then at a certain point you have to get off. No?”.

Selected by Wallpaper among the finalists of Next Designer Generation 2018 together with the Panerai workshops, in 2019 she becomes the art director of La Grande Bellezza-The Dream Factory, a patronage project for high Italian craftsmanship. “My design ideal has an underlying maternity that echoes. It is not an aggressive creativity that comes from discontent, it is continuous, daily, personal, intimate. For me, design is formulating messages that are always born from a poetic feeling, from always remaining in this constant love. And then to design a happy home, the people inside must be happy. By energetic osmosis, environments respond to the people who live there”.


Cover photo: Il Treno del Tempo (The Time Train) by Gaetano Pesce, 2019. The art work was presented on the occasion of WorkInGallery: from 24 October to 14 December 2019 the Italian artist, designer and architect moved his creative laboratory to the spaces of the Salon 94 e Salon 94 Design galleries, involving the public in his work.