The influences of an Icon

A few weeks ago I was lucky to be able to visit Lisbon again, for the OFFF conference.  And again it was a real eye opener, not so much on a technical level this time,  but more by talking with people with either a lot more experience, or from a completely different background, or from a completely different culture.

There was one speaker in particular, that has been a great influence for me for many years:  Stefan Sagmeister.


He is a real design icon, from another generation for most of you, bringing words of courage in these troublesome times, where lots of different global threats are guiding people to almost primal behaviour and decisions, where ego is often placed before honour in your work. And because of this, these global threats are often misused and blown out of proportion, like we have seen with other global crisis’s and now also with the financial crisis. You can recognise a coward, by looking at the shadow he hides in.

But before you start thinking I am diminishing today’s crisis, let me take the example of Tim O’Reilly, and compare it with the famous Pascal’s Wager. Whether or not the worst is yet to come, we do better when we act on that belief, and try to make something better and add real value to the world. Step out of that shadows.

Stefan Sagmeister is arguably the greatest graphic designer in the world, but not only that. He also spends a lot of time thinking about his creative life, and how to achieve happiness in that. As a result he started making a list of things he learned, and shared it with everybody. I first saw this list about 6 six years ago during his lecture in Amsterdam, and personally I still take a lot of comfort in being almost fully compliant with that list, certainly coming from such a great creative person.

Things I have learned in my life so far:

  1. Complaining is silly. Either act or forget.
  2. Thinking life will be better in the future is stupid. I have to live now.
  3. Being not truthful works against me.
  4. Helping other people helps me.
  5. Organizing a charity group is surprisingly easy.
  6. Everything I do always comes back to me.
  7. Drugs feel great in the beginning and become a drag later on.
  8. Over time I get used to everything and start taking it for granted.
  9. Money does not make me happy.
  10. Traveling alone is helpful for a new perspective on life.
  11. Assuming is stifling.
  12. Keeping a diary supports my personal development.
  13. Trying to look good limits my life.
  14. Worrying solves nothing.
  15. Material luxuries are best enjoyed in small doses.
  16. Having guts always works out for me. 

Stefan Sagmeister

Try to comply and see for yourself.

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