Stefan Sagmeister: How Vacations Power Your Creativity

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Every seven years, designer Stefan Sagmeister closes his New York studio to go on vacation.

This vacation time is important because it enables him, he says, to relief from the daily stress, improve his creative outlook and do better work.

Graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister is renowned for his album covers, posters and little book of life lessons.

As well as working for clients as diverse as Benetton, the Guggenheim Museum, Casa da Musica in Porto, and Time Warner, he has designed album covers for Talking Heads, Lou Reed, OK Go, The Rolling Stones, David Byrne, Jay Z, Aerosmith and Pat Metheny.

Refreshing vacation

In a 2009 TED talk, he explained his reasons for closing his agency to take a year-long vacation every seven years. First, he illustrates how he had got into a rut creatively, and he was unhappy with repeated themes within his work. His frustrations with his original ideas were matched with a fresh perspective on the way we currently divide our lives.

While we spend the first 25 years of our loves learning, we then assign the next 40 years to working, only allocating around 15 years to retirement after this work.

Why not take five of these retirement years and intersperse them between our working years, asks Sagmeister.

Not only will it be enjoyable for me, the work that flows from that time off will benefit my company and society as a whole, instead of just a grandchild or two” he says.

A trend to be followed

As he points out himself, his isn’t the first company to take this approach.

Google famously allows 20% of the time to be spent on individual projects.

And 3M’s commitment to 15% time to spend on personal projects resulted in two of its most successful products: scotch tape and post-it notes.

Sagmeister’s own experience led to a boost on positive emotions in creativity – and worked financially.

The better-quality design work output enabled him to charge higher prices on his return. What’s more, Sagmeister reports, “my job became my calling again.”