At 2 p.m. today, the New York design firm Karlssonwilker and several of its high-profile friends—including Stefan Sagmeister, James Victore, Paul Sahre, Emily Oberman, Jon Burgerman, Chris Speed, and Scott Stowell—will be taking over the Art Directors Club for “an intimate mix of talk, show, discussion and performance,” followed, at 8 p.m., by a party—all in celebration of KW’s 11th anniversary. If you’re unable to make it to the event, don’t worry: Imprint will be there to provide live coverage of the extravaganza, in short dispatches posted right here on this very page.
The KW11 live blog is now closed. The following notes have been fleshed-out slightly since the event, and we’ve added a few photos. Please let us know what you think of this first-ever Imprint live blog using the comments form below!
5:40 p.m. Wilker adds one final piece of advice: “Something I would not recommend is drinking a lot of alcohol to cope with the stress.” And that seems as good a place as any to conclude the conference portion of the event and prep for the party! Sahre thanks everyone for coming. This also seems like a good place to wrap up this experiment in live blogging. Thanks for reading!
5:34 p.m. Sagmeister agrees on the usefulness of “envisioning the worst-case scenario.” Most things, he says, “are really not that bad.” When starting his studio, he says, “that helped me.”
5:32 p.m. Karlsson adds that, when they were considering starting KW, he asked himself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” They could end up hating each other; they could lose their start-up money. He figured these things are “not the end of the world.”
5:30 p.m. Wilker is speaking about their partnership. “Every year in January, we basically renew our vows: ‘Should we do this for another year?’ . . . It definitely prevents us from long-term planning. But it keeps things fairly light. It’s a thing that’s a little outside of me.” Meaning that he no longer has this idea that if the business fails, he is a failure.
5:24 p.m. Wilker replies: “I don’t really see this as my job as a designer.” Sahre charitably admits that “you’re not making the world worse with your work.” Sagmeister adds that “such a high percentage” of this kind of self-consciously political design is “total crap.”
5:20 p.m. Sahre decides to get critical: Karlsson and Wilker “are absolutely not socially engaged,” he says. “I personally feel like designers have personal responsibility in that regard.”
Karlsson, Wilker, Sagmeister, and Sahre
5:16 p.m. Sagmeister talks a bit about working for Tibor Kalman. He says that Kalman “ruined all the people who worked for him to work for anyone else.” Hence, all the people from M&Co basically had to start their own studios.
5:12 p.m. Wilker on getting out from under Sagmeister’s shadow: “It gave us something to kind of rub against . . . I think a lot of energy came from this.”
5:07 p.m. Sagmeister says he’s happy not just for KW’s success but also because they have become real friends since they left his office 11 years ago. “I keep a distance as the guy who runs the studio.”
5:00 p.m. Last but not least: Stefan Sagmeister comes up to talk with Karlsson, Wilker, and Sahre.
Victore roasting Karlssonwilker
4:52 p.m. Victore: “When you guys get out of first gear, it’s going to be amazing.”
4:51 p.m. Victore: “I’m always amazed. This takes two of you??”
4:50 p.m. James Victore takes over. “These guys are my heroes because I feel often so petty that I’m burdened by these concerns with originality, creativity, making a living. These guys: Nada!” This is turning into a roast!
4:38 p.m. Ilic continues showing paintings, illustrations, and photographs of scantily clad women (and a few men) in artistic poses. His conclusion? Please do not get seduced into becoming artists because you think it’s going to be a glamorous life full of naked ladies.
4:36 p.m. And we’re back—with Mirko Ilic, who says his “generation got tricked into becoming artists.” People thought it was all “alcohol, drugs, and naked ladies.” Cue slides of naked ladies.
"Unpaid internships are for rich kids." –Scott Stowell
The break gave the audience a chance to check out this poster devoted to (almost) all the interns who worked for KW since 2000.
4:14 p.m. Short answer: It was helpful. It’s hard to transcribe DeRose’s exact words because, as he’s speaking, Wilker is DJing on his phone, so that it sounds like DeRose is rapping over an increasingly fast dance beat. (You had to be there.) And now a 15-minute break!
4:11 p.m. Frank DeRose, a former KW intern, is now onstage. His current studio is two floors above KW’s (and one floor above Sahre’s). Wilker: “Did it fuck you up to work with us, or was it really helpful?”
3:53 p.m. Now Tod Tarhan is talking about designing the Scream movie posters, as art director at Miramax. The first poster was inspired by a Bruce Nauman clown-torture movie!
3:46 p.m. Not bad!
3:45 p.m. Now Karlsson’s young son will do a one-minute improvised performance–on his electric-guitar T-shirt.
3:38 p.m. Chris S
peed takes the stage, with a saxophone! KW has designed every CD that he’s put out on his label, Skirl Records.
3:34 p.m. Oberman also wants to know what it’s like getting out from under a mentor’s shadow (Sagmeister in KW’s case, Tibor Kalman in her own case.) Karlsson says that, in the beginning, KW went to meetings where the whole time people asked about Sagmeister. After two of three years, this got “kind of annoying.” But he says that now, they’re cool with it. They still have that “Sagmeister thing” attached to them, and it’s fine. (He doesn’t really answer Oberman’s first question about their partnership.)
3:30 p.m. Oberman wants to hear about Karlsson and Wilker’s partnership. What do they do when they disagree? At her previous firm, Number 17, Oberman and her partner had a rule: nothing went out the door that they didn’t both love.
3:26 p.m. Oberman says that the nice thing about a larger office is that there are people there to help you put out fires. Stowell talks about the weird quasi-personal relationship things that crop up between small offices and their clients.
3:21 p.m. Sahre: “Joining Pentagram is sort of like becoming a New York Yankee; you can’t say you’re an underdog anymore.”
3:14 p.m. Scott Stowell has joined Oberman onstage. He and Oberman are going to talk about running small studios. (Also, the Print magazine laptop battery is suddenly running dangerously low. Suspense!)
3:11 p.m. Now Sahre has welcomed his wife, Emily Oberman, onstage. She recently became a partner at Pentagram (big applause). Sahre: “People are saying congratulations to me.”
3:03 p.m. Burgerman sings “My American Summer” for us. Not bad! Now we’re seeing slides of some his work.
2:57 p.m. Now Jon Burgerman has taken the stage, with an instrument. It’s a . . . ukulele?
2:55 p.m. Sahre asks Karlsson and Wilker how they got started. They met at Stefan Sagmeister‘s office. When Sagmeister decided to take a sabbatical, they had a choice: go find another job, go back to Europe . . . or start their own office.
2:45 p.m. Now we’re getting a visual tour of KW’s office over the years. You can see many of these photos at Karlssonwilker.com (click on “about,” then “random images.”)
2:43 p.m. Sahre introduces himself (“I’m not even a designer, I’m a fucking graphic designer—there, I said it”) then cues the Star Wars theme (on the portable record player) and brings out Karlsson and Wilker.
2:38 p.m. Presentation begins with offstage screaming, following by MC Sahre yelling at the top of his lungs. Then a pause. When Karlsson and Wilker asked Sahre to emcee, he says, they made one request: “that this be lame.” (This was after he had rented the tux.)
2:33 p.m. Video projector is now live, with a welcome message. Here’s the full lineup for today: Emily Oberman, Paul Sahre, Jon Burgerman, Mirko Ilic (a late addition?), James Victore, Chris Speed, Frank DeRose, Tod Tarhan, Stefan Sagmeister, and Scott Stowell.
2:20 p.m. Paul Sahre announces that we’re going to be starting in about ten minutes—he says that apparently there’s a subway fire?
The KW11 AV hub
2:16 p.m. Waiting for the conference to begin. Auditorium is about half full. On stage we have an old sofa, a couple of office chairs, some cardboard boxes supporting a laptop and a plastic portable record player, and KW’s Doglamp.
2:05 p.m. Twitter photo success! Follow us @printmag for more snapshots during the conference. [Note: This post has now been updated to include some photos from the event.]
1:57 p.m. The ADC Gallery is slowly filling up, and Paul Sahre is stalking around in a tux—looks like things are on track. Next, will attempt to upload a photo to Twitter. Stay tuned.
1:16 p.m. Mason here, getting ready to leave Print HQ for the Art Directors Club. The live-blogging will commence at 2. Don’t forget to hit that refresh button!