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The Time We Met Stefan Sagmeister

They say you shouldn’t meet your hero, well, in that case, we were glad we did.

Our team was lucky to attend the Istanbul Design Summit, organized by the Istanbul Municipality to announce its mission as the City of Design, a name designated to the city of Istanbul by UNESCO in 2017. So it was all very important for us at The Basement, as a local creative team, to be part of this mission.

While all the seminars and talks were an inspiration to us and how we will move forward as a team, nothing resonated with us like meeting the one and only, the rock star of the design world Stefan Sagmeister.

Stefan talked about beauty, he also talked about our collective consciousness when it comes to beauty, and how we are at some level agree on what’s beautiful, whether you are a poet in New York, a fisherman in Beijing, or a start-up designer in Istanbul. We all agree on what’s beautiful.

The talk was inspiring, captivating, eye-opening and hilarious. Afterward, we just assumed he was going to exit the hall. He was, after all, a busy man.

Nope, he did not!

He greeted everyone who approached him, took pictures with everyone who wanted a picture, and had conversations with everyone who wanted to converse. We were in line, patiently waiting for our turn. Finally, we got to meet him. The legend, the rockstar, Stefan Sagmeister!

We admit we were fangirling at the beginning, but we had an important question to ask. A question we’ve been asking ourselves since our days in the basement at AUS (American University of Sharjah). Why is it that every designer we learn about is a Western designer, and none of the middle eastern ones get recognized for their work? Even Zaha Hadid (RIP) got recognized for the work she did abroad. what are we lacking? better yet, what do you advise us as designers in the Middle East?

Stefan Sagmeister listened to our question attentively, took a moment to think and said that he advises us to work locally. He explained that if we want to work with clients in our region/country, they would look for someone who speaks to their culture/identity because we understand it. if they want to get their work done by an international company they wouldn’t come to a company in their country, they would go for an international company. Moreover, He said that a common mistake that designers tend to do is try to enter the international market instead of working locally, and in return, they get lost in the big world. So we should draw our inspiration from our surroundings and work locally.

His advice resonated with us as we immediately understood what he meant. The same night, we changed our whole business model. We also decided to share his advice to us with our fellow designers because this is what we do as a community, we get better together.

And that was the time we met Stefan Sagmeister.

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