Industry Insider: Designing Happiness at the BOD Conference

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I’ve been attending David Shepherd’s Business of Design Conference each Fall for the last 6 or 7 years and this year was no exception.

 The BOD conference, as it is known, was located in New York City this year and the focus of the conference was Designing Happiness.  Well for me it started off on the right foot because just being in New York City makes me very happy!

My favorite part of this year’s BOD conference was the keynote address by graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister.  Stefan is owner of Sagmeister, Inc. and works on creative projects for clients as diverse as the Rolling Stones, HBO, and the Guggenheim Museum. He has been a speaker at the prestigious TED conference, the exclusive big ideas conference attended by some of the world’s biggest thinkers.

Stefan is currently creating an amazing film called the Happy Film which we were lucky enough to see the first 12 minutes at BOD.  It is fantastically creative and really about the true meaning of happiness especially in relation to Stefan’s sadness after the death of his mother. He begs the question of whether we can be truly happy again after a great loss.


Stefan has really created a life that makes him happy.  He is passionate about his job yet every 7 years he takes a year sabbatical, not to lay on the beach, but to work on a project that is on his wish list.

This idea of taking time away from the job I am passionate about really resonated with me.  Could I even do it? Would I be able to take a year away from this crazy business of design that is my love? And if so, would I also work on a project, one of those “some day” things that I plan to do? And how would I chose which project to do each year?

Well if while working one of my “bucket list projects”, I could take a few moments each week to lie on the beach and read my favorite design magazines maybe I could get used to the idea. Especially if the issues were as fabulous as the hot off the presses October issue of House Beautiful which greeted me upon my return from the conference.  And I don’t think that it is a coincidence that right there on the cover it says “Happiness starts here”.


What makes you happy? What would you do if you took a sabbatical? During this time of reflection following the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I think this is a very important question to ask ourselves.  So many of us made giant leaps in 2001 following the 9/11 tragedy into things that would really make us happy, but 10 years later are we still doing that thing that brings us such joy? And is it still the thing we love? Are we still passionate about it? It is what we want to live for?

I am so HAPPY that David Shepherd and the BOD conference introduced me to Stefan and I am so HAPPY that this caused me to take another look at my life and what I really want to do with it. And while I am deciding, I am so HAPPY to have my October 2011 House Beautiful to keep me company.

Here’s to Happiness for us all!  Tobi


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6 Responses to Industry Insider: Designing Happiness at the BOD Conference

  1. jobeth says:

    Tobi – This post resonated with me. I have been a big fan of Steven Sagameister’s work for the last few years. I am awed by his creativity. Those art installations and photography – just wow! I am mostly inspired by his creative sabbaticals. So inspired, it became the basis of my last year. While I have not owned my own business (which would make this a little more difficult), I did take time away from the rat race this last year to focus on projects that have always intrigued me. I picked up a camera, picked up a pen, started a blog, spent time in prayer and honed my personal mission. The latter led me to volunteer work with causes dear to my heart. I had the time (and energy) to start a mentoring program for women. In a few weeks, my sabbatical will come it’s close. I feel rested. My creative side and my heart got a much needed refill. I’m ready to use my right AND left side of my brain again for an opportunity that came about because I took this time away. I am grateful and I am happy. Wish more folks could take the time to stop and be still. They would be amazed how productive they could be. Thanks for the post. Here’s to happiness!

  2. Jennifer says:

    Beautifully written….thanks Tobi!!

  3. You sound so inspired by your conference! LOVE Stefan, it takes a lot of courage to literally “close up shop” for a year. I am in the closing weeks of a one and a half year sabbatical from paid design work. And, honestly, I haven’t worked harder in my life. During this time, we have followed a dream to move to the PNW, given our daughter a beautiful wedding, welcomed our first grandchild, bought and remodeled a beach house, and begun a remodel on our pied-a-terre — a waterfront condo in the city. All of these wonderful things came out of being open to change and new adventures, and from seeing challenging and difficult times as times of opportunity. I wouldn’t trade the last year and a half for anything.

  4. Hi Toby, This a wonderful thought-provoking post. I think that we all must define for ourselves what happiness means. In order to discover what gives me life I’ve had to define how I value myself and my personal integrity. It is definitely a journey, but I can now find joy and wonder in the simple gifts of connection with another in the moment. Daily I find joy and amazement at how life seems to work things out without my ego interference, For me, taking a year off would hinder my growth as it is in my work that I find the most fortuitous encounters and connections with others and God’s inspiration. Thanks for inspiring me. Mary

  5. I enjoyed this post so much I blogged about it and linked to the post. Thanks so much for sharing this!

  6. Tobi,

    Great to see you again at the BOD conference. I too was so inspired by Stefan’s presentation. Looking inward to our own source of happiness and cultivating it, enables us to better create interiors for our clients that make them happy. Thanks for yet another inspiring post.