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Ten years ago, the Austrian-born, New York–based graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister—famous for his attention-grabbing exhibitions, posters, and books, as well as for his impeccable album covers for bands like The Rolling Stones, OK Go, and Aerosmith—walked onto the stage at the TED Global conference in Oxford, England. There to present his findings about the power of time off, he spoke specifically about the virtues and values, personal and professional, of taking a sabbatical every seven years, something he started to do in 2000 and has continued to practice since. Coming in the midst of the Great Recession, the talk resonated widely: its resulting video has been watched more than three million times. Clearly, Sagmeister was, and is, onto something. Even if it’s something most people can only dream about. Since then, Sagmeister has gone on yet another sabbatical—his third, in 2016—this time stopping in Mexico City, Tokyo, and the town of Schwarzenberg, Austria, over the course of a year. (For his first sabbatical, he was in New York City; for his second, Bali.)

On this episode of Time Sensitive, the 56-year-old looks back, with a fuller-picture view, at his three periods of time off. Digging in to how the sabbaticals created opportunities for incubating ideas that became two massive multi-year undertakings—one a project on happiness, the other on beauty—Sagmeister shares with Spencer Bailey how certain things have changed for his practice since that TED Talk a decade ago. In 2012, he joined forces with Jessica Walsh; their firm, Sagmeister & Walsh, now operates in a different, slightly larger office than the one he was in, and having another partner at the firm has shifted how things run overall. Still, Sagmeister’s signature approach to design remains as exuberant as ever. For clients including the duffel-bag brand Baboon, the Jewish Museum, and the Miami advertising agency Gut, the firm continues to produce inventive and playful work.

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