Stefan Sagmeister “The Happy Show”

January 31, 2013

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The Happy Show

Looking for a way to escape the Winter blues for an afternoon? …Then you should head over to catch the Design Exchange’s most recent exhibit, “The Happy Show”.  A couple of weeks ago I went to check it out to see what all the raving was about and I can’t lie, I was curious to find out if I would leave there happy at the end.


World renown and award-winning filmmaker, artist and graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister gives visitors a unique experience as he pushes the boundaries between art and design, with this project that began back in 2000 – when Sagmeister put his design career on hold after working with brands like Levi’s and creating album covers for the Rolling Stones and Talking Heads. His goal was simple – artistic expression and experimentation. Venturing through the exhibit gave me the chance to enter the designer’s interesting mind as he attempts to increase his happiness, and mine presumably, by actually training his mind as one would train their body for the Olympics.

The Happy Show

The Happy Show

Occupying the lobby entrance, the third floor exhibit hall and in-between spaces of the museum, the excitement begun at the elevator that brings you up the third level. I kind of think the picture speaks for itself…the epitome of “elevator love” I guess. I am sure you can imagine how comical this is when the doors open and close. And of course, this epic elevator wouldn’t be complete without a floor directory relating each level to drugs.

Sagmeister attempts to forewarn his audience that this exhibition will not make people happier – meaning he’s a believer of the adage “under-promise and over-deliver!” However, he had gotten off to a damn good start as the space was curated amongst the brightest of yellow walls, which in my mind, is the happiest colour on earth! I loved how it’s a very interactive show which allowed for visitor participation. Made me feel like I was reliving my youth on a school trip! I wasted no time getting interactive by pushing a button to accept my “happy” card which asked me to take a pic of my favourite piece and send it to my best friend. My interpretation of that was to post my fav piece on instagram to my hundreds of instagram followers – naturally!

The Happy Show

The Happy Show

I giggled when I saw 10 plastic tubes of bright yellow gumballs which made up the “Gumball Personal Happiness Survey” and immediately thought that the designer was attempting to cheat in getting patrons to feel happy by feeding us with sugar. Sagmeister’s instructions directed us to take from the number that corresponds with how we would rate our own happiness out of 10. Can’t help but wonder who the heck would have the balls to take from tube #1, basically admitting that they are feeling low, potentially on anti-depressants and want to hang themselves from their shower curtain rod in their bathroom LOL.

The Happy Show

Little handwritten notes by Sagmeister (in Sharpie – who is a Design Exchange sponsor) filled the space with kitschy, inspiring and thought-provoking messages everywhere from the thermostats to the walls in the washrooms… as he expresses his own thoughts for the varied projects which are curated in the exhibit.

The Happy Show_Quotes


Just past a projection of Sagmeister’s 14 minute preview of his upcoming feature length doc film, “The Happy Show” (due out later this year) outlines teaching one’s self to be happy – which should probably be mandatory for all Torontonians LOL…I discovered an interactive installation which resulted in me peddling on a bicycle to unveil the message of the piece, titled, “Actually Doing the Things I Set Out To Do Increases My Overall Level of Satisfaction”. Pretty dope! As I peddled my heart out, the following messages appeared illuminated in front of me…

The Happy Show

The Happy Show

The Happy Show

After a decade of investigation and several months of experiments with meditation, cognitive therapy and mood altering pharmaceuticals, does this make Stefan Sagmeister’s exhibit the answer to happiness? I am not quite sure…however, I did leave the Design Exchange Museum with some tasks to do daily in hopes to find my own happiness – smile, be ambitious, complete goals, reward yourself, reflect, and socialize.

The Happy Show

The Happy Show

The Happy Show

The Happy Show is now on until March 3rd, 2013.  Go get “Happy” and purchase tix online here.

Have you already seen the exhibit? If so…what were your thoughts?



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