With everything that's been happening lately, you'd think things are getting worse, not better. But here's the thing. Despite these challenging times, life has improved for the vast majority of people – from lower levels of crime to higher life expectancy around the world. It's encouraging stats like these that form the basis of Stefan Sagmeister's new book, Now is Better, and the focus of this week's episode.
One of the world's most celebrated living designers, Sagmeister's exploration of human progress through the ages was inspired by a pessimistic conversation with a friend. Like many of us, his pal believed life was better in the "good old days" and that everything's got gloomier since then. But actually, that's simply not true. If you look at the facts, the world is more prosperous, people are living longer, and generally, things are better than they used to be.
Sagmeister took it upon himself to prove his friend wrong in his latest creative project and used historical art and data visualisation to paint a rosier picture of how far we've come. "I found the phenomenon of a highly educated person, so influenced by the daily news cycle that he carries a completely wrong view of the world, fascinating," says Stefan. "From a communication-design point of view, it seemed an interesting direction to tackle."
In showing us a more optimistic angle, he urges us to choose gratitude and positivity over pessimism and despair. And that's important, not just for our happiness and mental well-being but our drive and energy to create, too.
Sagmeister formed the New York-based Sagmeister Inc. in 1993 and has since designed for clients as diverse as the Guggenheim Museum, the Rolling Stones, and HBO. His work is in museum collections worldwide, and he teaches in the graduate department of the School of Visual Arts in New York. We hope today's conversation with Sagmeister inspires you to think about the future with much-needed hope.