word of the week – ‘strip’ (strɪ́p).

Stefan Sagmeister has his kit off again. This time to announce that his New York design practice is becoming Sagmeister & Walsh, with 24-year-old designer Jessica Walsh getting her name on the door and her very own naked photo alongside the great man.

Above: Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh... as nature intended

Of course this bare-faced stunt prompted all kinds of barbs from the design industry… Alan Aboud tweeted “designers reaching new extreme depths in self promotion. Awful.”, Rob Ball of The Partners weighed in with “you know what would be eye-catching? Something involving Sagmeister without his cock in it #tiresome”. What most struck me though was how grumpy Sagmeister and Walsh looked. There seemed to be no joy in the occasion, just a sense of morose resignation and even boredom. Sagmeister had left his socks on, Walsh perched on a stack of magazines, they stare straight at camera, stark miserably naked. You’re just left wondering what’s the point and what’s the fuss?

Above: Newcastle studio onebestway on dress-down Friday

A couple of years ago I wrote a Design Week column (no innuendo intended) centred around onebestway, an eight-strong Newcastle design agency who went naked for a day on the advice of a business psychologist. Their publicity photo was more ‘Carry On Designing’ than a po-faced art piece, with strategically placed laptops, chairs and fruit bowls hiding their modesty. Mind that stapler. At least they seemed to be enjoying themselves.There’s certainly nothing clever about taking your clothes off... I strip every day and barely give it a second thought. And it’s been done so many times and in so many contexts, that as a gesture it’s barely provocative any more. But I think the reason that Sagmeister has ruffled so many feathers this time is that designers feel they should be judged by their work rather than talent for exposure. After all, they’re supposed to drive the car, rather than pose naked on the bonnet.

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