Missed our conversation with Stefan Sagmeister this week? Register here to watch this episode of PRINT Book Club.
Is Stefan Sagmeister the eternal optimist? Yes. But he believes that optimism makes rational sense. Many things in our current moment need fixing. Sagmeister’s philosophy and the thesis of his new book Now Is Better is that we have a much better chance of solving them from a headspace of progress and positivity than we do if we let ourselves succumb to doom and gloom.
The challenge of our time: figuring out how to make positive news interesting.
In this conversation with Debbie Millman and Steven Heller, Sagmeister discussed the inspiration behind his new book, Now Is Better. It’s been generations in the making. The artwork foundation for the book’s data visualizations came from the leftovers of Sagmeister’s great-great grandparents’ antique store, sourced in his parents’ attic. That 18th- and 19th-century paintings serve as the canvas for contemporary data is a metaphorical and literal interpretation of his thesis. When Sagmeister compares his life to his great-great grandparents, the data comes alive in a personal way alongside the personal history of his family.
For Sagmeister, Now Is Better isn’t just a familial story. It’s a global story told with cold, complex data about improvements in the lives of humans over the past 100 to 200 years. The art is there to provide a visual bridge. People can appreciate the painting for its aesthetics, but the data story is included on the back if people are curious about it.
Despite data telling us that things are better now than ever in human history, you might be skeptical, given the news cycle.
“If I’m in a good mood, I’m more useful to my community.
What’s the cure for pessimism? You must override your amygdala, that part of our brain wired to latch onto perceived threats and keep us safe. Seeking the positive in an ocean of negative is hard work. One of Sagmeister’s favorite spots on the internet to send his amygdala packing is David Byrne’s Instagram editorial project @reasonstobecheerful.
If we can let in the positive, as designers and creatives, we’ll be able to put all of our might into working on solutions for the pressing challenges of our day.
Here are ten reasons for optimism from Now Is Better.
Don’t own a copy of Sagmeister’s book? You can order one here.