Austrian graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister’s pitch book for The Happy Film fits in my palm—it is short and sweet, bright and charmingly … delightful. The book works to communicates Sagmeister’s desire to answer and visualize the following questions through film, “Is it possible to train your mind in the same way you train your body?” and, “Can you change your behavior to make yourself happier?” Though it does not promise to make readers any happier when they opened the book’s pages, The Happy Film Book is comprised of a series of aphorisms that Sagmeister has acquired throughout his life that he feels have helped him understand why we are unhappy, and how that can be changed. The positive maxims are visualized in spaces and styles normally reserved for advertising campaigns through Sagmesiter’s unique approach to typography. Metal coils floating in a pool and duct tape stuck to a fence become a part of the phrase, “Trying to look good limits my life.” His aesthetic approach to these simple words of wisdom are even more powerful given his lively approach.
Interspersed with the photographed adages are other elements of the Happy Show, an exhibit organized by Sagmeister and Claudia Gould for the Institute of Contemporary Art in Pennsylvania. Visual statistics related to happiness, anecdotes from Sagmeister’s own life story, and his inspirations for making the exhibit, (and ultimately the film) tie the photographic typography series presented in the book with supporting dialogue. The Happy Film, a book intended to pitch Sagmeister’s unmade documentary, becomes more than a mode of self-promotion. In advertising itself, this little book not only hints at what is (hopefully) to come from Sagmeister and his team, but supplies a dose of wisdom and thoughtful pleasure to its readers.
By Gabrielle Jensen