Can Design find Happiness? Sagmeister at MAK

What makes us happy or at least happier? Stefan Sagmeister, the “grand master of graphic design,” embarked on intensive research into personal happiness, omitting no possible means in the process. Meditation, cognitive therapy, mood-altering drugs — Sagmeister tested everything that promised happiness on his own body and then translated his experiments into the exhibition The Happy Show, which has now arrived at MAK in Vienna after previously being on display in North America and Paris. Running until 28 March 2016, STEFAN SAGMEISTER: The Happy Show pervades the MAK with the designer’s captivating search for happiness.

Is it possible to train the mind to be happy? Or at least happier? Can the mind be trained in the same way as the body? These are only some of the core questions in the show, which can be answered with an unequivocal “yes.” The Happy Show demonstrates quite clearly that there are things we can do that will make us happier. It all depends on our attitude, our habits, and our behavior, according to one of Sagmeister’s messages. However, what we expect will make us happier will not always do so. “I normally find definitions rather boring. But happiness is such a huge topic that it is perhaps worth a try,” is Sagmeister’s comment on his own happiness research. In handwritten commentaries on walls, railings, and in the bathrooms of the museum, he explains his ideas and reasons for the projects on display. Social scientific data by the psychologists Daniel Gilbert, Steven Pinker, and Jonathan Haidt, the anthropologist Donald Symons, and important historians, who position his experiments in a broader context, supplement his personal notes. Sagmeister addresses a colorful panoply of parameters for happiness, such as religion, money, marriage, sex, activities like surfing on the internet or reading the newspaper, as well as the relation between the number of sexual partners and levels of satisfaction.

The search for a symbol for happiness will be a collective affair: visitors can push buttons, draw lucky symbols on small strips of paper, draw cards with tasks, and are invited to withdraw money from an ATM while donating 20 cents. A display with silver plates offers visitors Sagmeister’s favorite candies. At the installation How happy are you? visitors can answer with their own “level of happiness” on a scale from 1 to 10 by taking a piece of chewing gum from the respective place. In turn, this action will visualize the collective happiness level of the visitors to the exhibition.

The Blogazine