Sagmeister stylistic approach to their Graphic Design methodology, one



Sagmeister and Walsh; a combination of Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh.

Sagmeister & Walsh have a significantly bi-polar approach to Graphic Design, bordering along Conceptual Art at time the teams approach to dealing with problematic situations, through designed aesthetic has been, through the year’s, time and time again with Stefan being the one to convey it more into the forefront. To fully appreciate their alternative, stylistic approach to their Graphic Design methodology, one needs to understand the era in which Stefan Sagmeister learnt or studied? (Alfie, the sentence is incomplete).

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Stefan, came from European-Approach to design, having been born in  Austria should be no surprise to that reasoning, in fact, as quoted in many interviews; Tibor Kalmann (born Hungarian) being the key influencer in his work, Tibor was ahead of his time, in the putting a sense humanity in his work, through body behavior and attitude. This has molded Stefan’s world view, and was much wilder and less conservative in its thinking because of that influence.

When reading Stefan’s biography “Things I have learned in my life so far” (Sagmeister et al., 2008) one gains an understanding chronological of his upbringing. He communicates several philosophical  messages throughout, his use of Graphic Design  which brings better understanding of how he interoperates alternative methods of subscribing to the progressive of a piece of design, this book cemented the tone of how he had dealt with his political correctness stance, through his career, with this quote being the caveat of this view point.  “Being not truthful always works against me” (Sagmeister et al., 2008).




However in January 2013, Sagmeister and Walsh created a visual identity that had produced  a number of disparaging images, including an album cover of man receiving a fellatio from a woman in one of the pictograms, and they had also created naked business cards with the pair being on them to distributed (New Grids, 2013). But, the polarizing imagery used was the selection of pencil’s, that read Average Penis Sizes, “African American, Caucasian, Asian”.  This use of racial profiling in use in graphic design instantly comes off as gross; to see the pencils as anything other than racism repackaged as edginess. (Or edginess rebranded as racism.) But the pictograms are open to more a subjective interpretation of it’s ‘beauty’. For instance, could Walsh and Stagmister be forcing the anonymous letches to confront the ugliness of their innuendos?  This plays to what Stefan considers his flair of play of Politicized Standard for design since, considering their positioning, now as of today, in Graphic Design, this was a calculated decision for their own visual identity.



People who are aware of Stefan’s work should not be surprised that Sagmeister and Walsh would create something like this because it all comes down from how Stefan has maintained his work ideology over the last 20 years. One can apply this to the mindset in which Stefan has adopted; he has always amplified the point as mentioned previously. However, this project in particular really exemplifies his lack of political correctness and he manipulates the very definition of his graphic design aesthetic. Like the irony in printing a scientific “fact” about racial penis sizes on a pencil. As the Jezebel article points out in several places, a joke about the expense of the powerless coming from a position of the powerful more often than not; reinforces and validates status quo positions of power. The obvious issue is of course, is that  this is not based on valid scientific research (research that, in any event, appears to be a hoax: no such ethnicity based penis-size chart can be found on the BMJ’s website, though a doctored one has been on  the Internet for years) (, n.d.).



It’s the racially charged context in which certain selectively cited “facts” have been placed. Or to put it another way: for the sake of self-promotion, two prominent white designers have created an identity that trades in ugly racial clichés, in a field where very few nonwhite designers occupy positions of power. Surely, Sagmeister and Walsh are too perceptive to realize the problem with that concept at the time. While, yes the subscribed theory is not valid, the element of truth that keeps the whole thing together is the prescribed notion of intent, and this from Stefan’s perspective has kept his head above water and made him significant in the process.

The overall consensus for this case study is that political correctness and the manipulation of it can be used to be commercial. We see it every day in the altercation on the streets and conversations in our cities. We cannot escape it and Stefan has combined this work-process; mixed with social activity in such a way in that the communication of the idealism of what even the concept can be, is used for something that makes us think more than aesthetically appealed to gorge in, this is significant in the era of Political Correctness, inceptive because the two, in the output for designers are idols for many students, with Stefan being prominent for his speeches and Ted X talks, with one YouTube video title (alone) signifying his idea of what GD should be ‘Bring the personal and the human into design’ so he wasn’t scared to go above and beyond the norm of what is acceptable, to himself and consumers. Morality is something mentioned in the opening paragraph, because like you’ll see in the next paragraph about Women’s March symbol, there are two tokens of the spectrum, and although Stefan and Co had established this boisterous informed appeal, understanding that this was  visual identity, and yes it was a commercial for themselves, it shows how toying with what Political Correctness is can be appealing to the consumer and , but showing significant personalized mobility is what makes the project vindicated of its own intentions and the personality of Stefan himself.






With just one day gone into Donald Trump’s presidency, there was the anticipated Women’s March on Washington, in which hundreds of thousands convened in Washington, DC and other cities around the world, to stand up for women’s rights. The Women’s March was not primarily an Anti-Trump march; its mission was to stand up for equality during the next four years.


The Pussyhat Project provided a knitting pattern for anyone who was interested in knitting their own hat or in knitting hats to send to marchers in Washington D.C. For those who couldn’t attend the march, the idea was that they could still participate by sending hats to marchers. Knitters and/or crocheter’s also had the option to send personal written notes to whoever might receive the hat. The hats made the splash the creators intended to make at the march. The Pussyhats appeared in several if the majority of the images of the project, sending the universal grassroots message of unification, in this instance towards strong women, along with people around the globe.



Design with Dissent, in intern is being Politically Incorrect, and even the concept of this event and the wordplay of the explosive was something that brought an element of brutalized truth into the question, and the politicalized issue in the forefront as with the women’s suffragette movement. This was an act of grassroots activism, that interned was showing the Politicalized of being non-PC in terms of proving moral substance and in this case from the new president’s words from a leaked tape.



When one replays the highlights from the march there is a key token of symbolism; you see the hats, a wave of pink storming through Washington DC. This is one of the key elements of the march that was brought out throughout by the symbolism, and identification is given to the prominent; in question was the association to the gender identification. To link in summary, it brought out a key component of Graphic Design into this march’s identity and that was the use of an extension of the vehicle of identification graphical elements, also referred to as Gender Graphics.



The pink identification that entailed. their visual identity had many more links to the President’s identity then one could imagine. When analyzing Trump’s visual identity, he had used a red baseball cap, which was used in order to relate to the ‘working’ class American. Since the symbolized identification of the cap was something that people used as a token for propaganda like response’s since the Material was open for Manipulation, and that in of itself was another element of how this project used manipulation of Trump’s Graphical Design visuals to dethrone Trump’s look and identity and that is a class-warfare tactic that itself is retaliation and then equals being not PC. Likewise, these hats were used for the same purpose in witty response to the President. The Pussyhat Project” PUSSYHAT PROJECT™. (n.d.).




However, although the activism is very encouraging and inspiring there was one long looming factor about this March that Social Justice Activists bring up which sparks yet another layer of what could be considered, non-realization, of being politically correct. Where I found the encouragement to talk about this topic, does using the colour pink portray a hidden factor of sexism?  When looking at the outlook of the wave of colour, it’s easy to get consumed by the sea, to the public response of the situation, but the sentiment that the pink pussycat excludes and is considered offensive to those who identify as transgender women and gender non-binary, who don’t have typical female genitalia and perhaps to women of colour as their genitals  may be brown rather than pink. The color pink was chosen “because pink is associated with femininity,” the Pussyhat Project posted on its website. “We did not choose the color pink as a representation of some people’s anatomy. Anyone who supports women’s rights is welcome to wear a Pussyhat. It does not matter if you have a vulva or what color your vulva may be. If a participant wants to create a Pussyhat that reflects the color of her vulva, we support her choice.” (PUSSYHAT PROJECT™ FAQ, n.d.)



I selected this case study to show how not unlike in the visual identity for the Stefan Segmister and Jessica Walsh partnership, this shows how the line for political correctness can be sometimes subdued to polarized opposition towards the designer’s intent. While with Stefan Segmister his project was to be commercialized for himself, this was for the function of collective dissent. The usage of pink is something that can be polarized due to the implication of the matter in hand, the “Think Pink” exhibition at the Boston Fine Art Museum traced how in the 1700s both men and women wore pink, and it wasn’t until the post-WWII era, when a nation of Rosie the Riveters put down their tools and put on June Cleaver’s pink apron, that girls were sentenced to pink purgatory., 2014) Clearly the female genitalia was causing a problematic sort of threat, so what could be more delightful than rubbing it in oppressors’ faces? (Metaphorically, of course.)





The incubus of all this, when looking at the detailed analysis of the visual identity for Sagmeister & Walsh alongside the Pussyhat movements descriptive nature of what Political incorrectness enrolls and that being, it all comes down one simplest nature instant; the factor of taste in the form of subjective interpretation. One major piece of significant influence in the Graphic Design world was the first things first manifesto that was derived in 1964. It is something that can be seen with the contrast of the two significance of political correctness summarization within this manifesto.


“In common with an increasing number of the general public, we have reached a saturation point at which the high pitched scream of consumer selling is no more than sheer noise.” (Flask, n.d.)



Now, all though this is derived towards the fundamentals of what can be graphic design. I think there is a case in summary that “noise” for both cases studies in their different and layered uses of political correctness. Should we accept the norm, and believing this notion this quote, not only brings this up in these two studies but questions even the moral bases in accumulates in both. For example, the use of the language of “high pitched scream”  (Flask, n.d.) builds the intention of manipulating the audience into gravitating towards your ideas and mechanisms, and you can see how this quote itself could be interpreted in producing content that is ill-voided of keeping what people would could be considered a standard, the definition of being Political Correct.



“With this in mind, we propose to share our experience and opinions, and to make them available to colleagues, students and others who may be interested.”  (Flask, n.d.)


You could see this and easily associate the main structure of first things first manifesto in the symbol of ‘the pussy hat’ meant towards people emotional connection.


The contrast in this quote in the two is how we perceive the presentation of the work in relation of what the preverbal definition of being ‘Political Incorrect’ is, with the Visual Identity, we see these human behavior’s and mannerisms and we can relate to it and in someway we relate and subjective nature it preserves into personal human relationships; in making this statement in their work, they’re showing they can be relatable in a manor that is more avant-garde, in the way it wants you to think and, in all of this is, Political incorrectness comes to interpretation.



It’s how we create moral bases on human behavior and in terms of Graphic Design along with the term design in dissent, being Politically incorrect, make for controversy, Social relations, as we know are determined by production relations, and when materialist criticism approached a work, it used to ask, what was the position of that work in relation to; with regard to. The message of Women’s March can relate to emotive response’s and the materials of the ‘Pussy-hats’, and in this case could be derived into making associated in colour, perceptive intentions, see the connection here? The bases of Graphic Design has many fields, being immersive can as abstract as a Pink (Pussy Hats) or can be intense like a shade of Black (Stefan Stegmister & Jessica Walsh visual identity). The significant difference in terms of the project is how ‘raw’ the appeal is.  The systematic issues when in relation to any form of design or communicative piece, is how do you make your case plausible, to the degree of making it significantly eligible to mass appeal as we discussed.