BMW’s new video series, Bold Voices puts creative mavericks in the driving seat.

Wallpaper* + BMW presents  Bold Voices, a video series by Bayerische Motoren Werke that portraits independent and pioneering minds from all over the world and explores the courageous attitude needed to create greatness, inspire progress and influence tomorrow.

This Bold Voices episode takes Austrian designer and art director Stefan Sagmeister out of his comfort zone New York City into the small town districts of New Jersey. Driven by curiosity he explores this “new” environment, introduces us to the creative power of honesty and explains how to be “more gutsy“.

Wallpaper* + BMW Stefan Sagmeister interview

Can a designed product make someone happier?
Right now over 50% of the world population live in cities. For this part of the population, EVERYTHING surrounding them has been designed, from the contact lens, to the cloth, the chair, the room, the house, the street, the park, the city. These designed surroundings play exactly the same role to a city dweller as nature does to an indigenous person living in a rain forest. 
They can be designed well or badly. They will make a difference.
There are of course many products out there that do make our life easier, but we tend to only notice them when they fail badly. I can be in a plane going up and completely ignore the fact what an incredible piece of design that really is. I'll only really notice it when it crashes.

Could art help us to know who you are? 
As a maker I see the work that we do in the studio as design. I do not care much about definitions, but as the outside world does, it makes sense to abide. Donald Judd said that: “Design needs to work, art does not.” Art can just be, it needs no function. 
And yes, I do think that many artists create worlds that do define who they are. Good art allows us viewers a view of that world, a possibility to see it from a different point of view. Design can do the same, both for the maker and the viewer. It certainly had an enormous influence on defining who I am. I discovered important issues about myself by working on the film, among them that I am not a particularly thankful person. I've been trying to make gratitude a part of my life and think I've become a little bit better. But I need constant reminders: There are times when I can be truly thankful for a sweet gesture, and others where I just take my rather blessed situation for granted.

Do you think that happiness is necessary to be creative? Or, instead, the ‘bad life’ of some artists is an ingredient that increases creative possibilities?
I myself do much, much better when I’m in good shape. I am also more useful to other people. When I am not doing well, I create nothing. 
Sometimes it’s possible to look back and make a piece about the time when I did not do well, but during the period itself, my productivity and creativity are very low.

How do you get your ideas? Do you feel truly happy while working? And if so, can you describe the feeling – and maybe relate it to how you feel in other parts of your life?
Ideas come from everywhere, just hopefully not from other graphic designers. I can be inspired by pretty much anything, a long train ride, a Renaissance painting, a piece of music, a newly occupied hotel room and it is interesting to translate that into the world of design. And yes, I can feel truly happy while working. 
Especially when I’m engaged in a craft I can get lost in. Other thoughts fall away; time falls away as I’m truly engaged in doing my best. It's what the Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls flow. Many people manufacture that feeling with computer games, as by design they engage them – through the various levels of difficulty- at the edge of their capabilities.

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.