Pictures at an Exhibition: Two Inspiring Design Exhibits

There’s always a lot happening in design in the New York area and its radius, but these two design shows soared high above the din. Excellent sources of inspiration, and well worth ferry or train travel this summer, they left me with countless hours of discussion and exploration.

The first, from Cooper-Hewitt’s National Design Museum, is Graphic Design – Now in Production. This exhibit explores some of the most vibrant happenings in graphic design over the past decade or so, with over a thousand print, digital, and film/TV pieces on display.

Graphic design exhibits, commentary and review, The Happy Show, Graphic Design – Now in Production

While the show as a whole veers slightly into visual overload, it’s worth it. Take a deep breath, dive in, and savor the projects. The rewards of seeing the field of graphic design expand – absorbing the rise of user-generated content, utilizing new printing and distribution methods, and the blossoming of the design-preneur – reveal endless possibilities for the future.

One of my favorite pieces: Christopher Doyle’s Identity Guidelines. As a guidelines geek, I found it incredibly creative and funny. Well done.

Graphic Design – Now in Production
26 may 2012 ~ 3 sept 2012
Building 110, Governors Island, New York :: Directions and free ferry schedule
Open weekends + holiday Mondays / 10am to 6pm


Well south of NYC, 90 miles give or take, there’s another terrific exhibit happening. Blurring the line between design and art, the ever über designer, Stefan Sagmeister and his The Happy Show are on view.

In full disclosure, and with respect to Mr Sagmeister, I find some of his commercial work too self-involved. However, I am a huge explorer of happiness (in my personal blog, the curious g, I cover the topic quite often), so naturally I had to check out his show.

Mr Sagmeister pondered: “The question I wanted to answer was, could I train my mind to be happy, the same way one trains one’s body?” To do that, he chose to explore meditation, cognitive therapy, and mind-altering drugs (as I understand it, this phase is yet to come).

While spending many years exploring the nature of happiness, his ambitious, unfinished 14-minute documentary, The Happy Film was born seemingly from personal loss and aging. The short is engaging, and most of all, relatable. As Sagmeister’s journey continues, I anticipate the film’s completion.

Graphic design exhibits, commentary and review, The Happy Show, Graphic Design – Now in Production

The rest of the exhibit is a mix of bold, simplistic hand-drawn images, infographics and interactive installations, in cautionary yellow and black colors, displaying personal quotes and oft-researched stats about both the individual and nations relationship with and to happiness. Sagmeister’s interpretation is alternately moving and amusing.

As always with a quest for happiness, the questions are turned to ourselves, giving the show an introspective edge. Sagmeister provides a final, imaginative vehicle for rating one’s own happy level.

While his personal quest continues, Sagmeister succeeded in making me and others smile.

Stefan Sagmeister’s The Happy Show
4 april 2012 ~ 12 august 2012
Institute of Contemporary Art @ University of Pennsylvania :: Philadelphia, PA
118 South 36 Street (at Sansom)
Hours vary W thru Su. Closed M + Tu.


Have you seen either show? What was your take?

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2 Responses to “Pictures at an Exhibition: Two Inspiring Design Exhibits”

  1. Mark_P Says:

    Hi there:

    Just FYI, the image at the top is only partially displaying. The rest look good though.


  2. Janet Giampietro Says:

    Hi Mark_P:

    As I don’t know which browser you’re looking at, I’m not sure I can suggest anything other than emptying your cache, and see what it looks like after. All is well on my three browsers.

    Thanks for the heads up, much appreciated.

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