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Michael Bierut

Michael Bierut studied graphic design at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning, graduating summa cum laude in 1980. Prior to joining Pentagram in 1990 as a partner in the firm’s New York office, he worked for ten years at Vignelli Associates, ultimately as vice president of graphic design.

His clients at Pentagram have included The New York Times, Saks Fifth Avenue, The Council of Fashion Designers of America, Harley-Davidson, The Museum of Arts and Design, United Airlines, The William Jefferson Clinton Foundation, Mohawk Paper Mills, New World Symphony, Princeton University, the New York Jets, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Morgan Library and Museum.

He has won hundreds of design awards and his work is represented in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Montreal. He has served as president of the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) from 1988 to 1990 and is president emeritus of AIGA National. He also serves as on the boards of the Architectural League of New York and New Yorkers for Parks. Michael was elected to the Alliance Graphique Internationale in 1989, to the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame in 2003, and was awarded the profession’s highest honor, the AIGA Medal, in 2006. In 2008, he was named winner in the Design Mind category of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards.

Michael is a Senior Critic in Graphic Design at the Yale School of Art, and a Senior Faculty Fellow at the Yale School of Management. He writes frequently about design and is the co-editor of the five-volume series Looking Closer: Critical Writings on Graphic Design published by Allworth Press. His commentaries about graphic design in everyday life have been heard nationally on the Public Radio International program “Studio 360” and his appearance in Helvetica: A Documentary Film is considered by many that movie’s funniest moment. Michael is a co-founder of Design Observer, and his book 79 Short Essays on Design was published in 2007 by Princeton Architectural Press.

Contact Information:
bierut [at]

Posts by Michael Bierut

OBSERVATORY: Massimo Vignelli, 1931-2014 (05.27.14)
OBSERVATORY: What Bill Knew (02.27.14)
OBSERVATORY: And May All Your Christmases Be Carefully Staged So As To Appear White (12.25.13)
OBLOG: 50 Books/50 Covers 2012 Winners Announced (06.26.13)
OBSERVATORY: Chromatophobia (02.13.13)
OBSERVATORY: Graphic Design Criticism as a Spectator Sport (01.14.13)
OBSERVATORY: Positively Michael Patrick Cronan (01.07.13)
OBSERVATORY: Style: An Inventory (10.29.12)
OBSERVATORY: The Typeface of Truth (08.09.12)
OBSERVATORY: I Love the 80s (06.04.12)
OBSERVATORY: The Poster that Launched a Movement (Or Not) (04.30.12)
OBSERVER MEDIA: Designing, Writing, Teaching: Not My Real Job (05.27.11)
OBSERVATORY: Seven Things Designers Can Learn from Stand Up Comics (05.17.11)
OBSERVATORY: Five Years of 100 Days (02.10.11)
OBSERVATORY: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mentor, Or, Why Modernist Designers Are Superior (01.31.11)
OBSERVER MEDIA: Michael Bierut on Clients (01.21.11)
OBSERVATORY: At the Movies with Javier Mariscal (12.10.10)
OBSERVER MEDIA: Michael Bierut on Typography (11.15.10)
OBSERVATORY: Art Directors Club: 2010 Hall of Fame (11.05.10)
OBSERVATORY: Dot Zero (09.15.10)
OBSERVATORY: Mr. Vignelli’s Map (09.14.10)
OBSERVATORY: Lella Vignelli (09.13.10)
OBSERVATORY: James Victore: Straight Up (09.01.10)
OBSERVER MEDIA: Michael Bierut on 86 Notebooks (08.11.10)
OBSERVATORY: Jerry Della Femina, Mad Men, and the Cult of Advertising Personality (07.25.10)
OBSERVATORY: The Bones of Francois Robert (04.22.10)
OBSERVATORY: Designing the Unthinkable (01.12.10)
OBSERVATORY: Designing Obama (10.25.09)
OBSERVATORY: The Figure / Ground Relationship (09.25.09)
OBSERVATORY: Spoiler Alert! Or, Happy Father's Day (06.21.09)
OBSERVATORY: When Design Gets in the Way (06.19.09)
OBSERVATORY: Seymour, An Introduction (05.30.09)
OBSERVATORY: Invasion of the Neutered Sprites (04.21.09)
OBSERVATORY: Designing Through the Recession (12.24.08)
OBSERVATORY: The Four Lessons of Lou Dorfsman (10.23.08)
OBSERVATORY: 26 Years, 85 Notebooks (10.12.08)
OBSERVATORY: Mad Men: Pitch Perfect (09.30.08)
OBSERVATORY: David Foster Wallace, Branding Theorist, 1962-2008 (09.14.08)
OBSERVATORY: There is No Why (07.31.08)
OBSERVATORY: My Handicap (07.20.08)
OBSERVATORY: Fitting (05.13.08)
OBSERVATORY: The (Faux) Old Ball Game (03.31.08)
OBSERVATORY: Would It Kill You To Smile? (03.11.08)
OBSERVATORY: The Smartest Logo in the Room (02.11.08)
OBSERVATORY: Will the Real Ernst Bettler Please Stand Up? (01.08.08)
OBSERVATORY: The Most Hated Holiday Song in the World (12.22.07)
OBSERVATORY: How To Be Ugly (11.11.07)
OBSERVATORY: Déjà Vu All Over Again (10.22.07)
OBSERVATORY: Rest in Peace, Herbert Muschamp (10.09.07)
OBSERVATORY: May I Show You My Portfolio? (09.21.07)
OBSERVATORY: You're So Intelligent (09.05.07)
OBSERVATORY: Flat, Simple and Funny: The World of Charley Harper (08.16.07)
OBSERVATORY: Donal McLaughlin’s Little Button (07.25.07)
OBSERVATORY: Everything I Know About Design I Learned from The Sopranos (06.11.07)
OBSERVATORY: Why a Book? (05.24.07)
OBSERVATORY: Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Typeface (05.12.07)
OBSERVATORY: Our Little Secret (04.06.07)
OBSERVATORY: Good at Art (03.19.07)
OBSERVATORY: Jean Baudrillard Dies (03.06.07)
OBSERVATORY: Cheap Music and Commercial Art (02.16.07)
OBSERVATORY: All That Jazz: Posters by Niklaus Troxler (01.30.07)
OBSERVATORY: Speech, Speech (01.23.07)
OBSERVATORY: The It Factor (01.16.07)
OBSERVATORY: Now You See It (12.20.06)
OBSERVATORY: The Graphic Glass Ceiling (12.11.06)
OBSERVATORY: New House (11.20.06)
OBSERVATORY: Onserved: CR on Alan Fletcher (11.15.06)
OBSERVATORY: What's That Crashing Sound, Or, Eisenman in Cincinnati (10.12.06)
OBSERVATORY: Vinyl Fetish (10.09.06)
OBSERVATORY: Alan Fletcher: Living by Design (09.27.06)
OBSERVATORY: The Golden Age of American Commercialism (09.24.06)
OBSERVATORY: This is My Process (09.09.06)
OBSERVATORY: Helmut Krone, Period. (08.23.06)
OBSERVATORY: The Road to Hell, Part Two: That Elusive Silver Bullet (08.08.06)
OBSERVATORY: Where the Happy People Go (07.17.06)
OBSERVATORY: Regrets Only (07.10.06)
OBSERVATORY: The Mysterious Power of Context (06.22.06)
OBSERVATORY: My Phone Call to Arnold Newman (06.14.06)
OBSERVATORY: The Road to Hell: Now Paved with Innovation? (06.04.06)
OBSERVATORY: Eight-and-a-Half by Eleven (05.19.06)
OBSERVATORY: I Am a Plagiarist (05.11.06)
OBSERVATORY: When Design is a Matter of Life or Death (04.06.06)
OBSERVATORY: Variations on a Theme: New York's High Priorities (03.30.06)
OBSERVATORY: Warning: May Contain Non-Design Content (03.18.06)
OBSERVATORY: The Persistence of the Exotic Menial (02.26.06)
OBSERVATORY: Design by Committee (02.12.06)
OBSERVATORY: Wilson Pickett, Design Theorist, 1942 - 2006 (01.22.06)
OBSERVATORY: In Praise of Slow Design (01.15.06)
OBSERVATORY: The Unbearable Lightness of Fred Marcellino (12.29.05)
OBSERVATORY: Innovation is the New Black (11.20.05)
OBSERVATORY: Designing Twyla Tharp's Upper Room (11.06.05)
OBSERVATORY: The Final Days of AT&T (10.29.05)
OBSERVATORY: The Great Non-Amber-Colored Hope (10.24.05)
OBSERVATORY: Looking for Celebration, Florida (10.13.05)
OBSERVATORY: Four Years After (09.11.05)
OBSERVATORY: You May Already Be a Winner (08.29.05)
OBSERVATORY: Every New Yorker is a Target (08.16.05)
OBSERVATORY: Credit Line Goes Here (07.22.05)
OBSERVATORY: Rick Valicenti: This Time It's Personal (07.14.05)
OBSERVATORY: My Favorite Book is Not About Design (or Is It?) (07.12.05)
OBSERVATORY: The Obvious, Shunned by So Many, Is Successfully Avoided Once Again (06.28.05)
OBSERVATORY: Call Me Shithead, or, What's in a Name? (06.19.05)
OBSERVATORY: The Man Who Saved Jackson Pollock (06.06.05)
OBSERVATORY: On (Design) Bullshit (05.09.05)
OBSERVATORY: Me and My Pyramid (04.22.05)
OBSERVATORY: The Supersized, Temporarily Impossible World of Bruce McCall (04.18.05)
OBSERVATORY: Homage to the Squares (04.03.05)
OBSERVATORY: No Headline Necessary (03.28.05)
OBSERVATORY: Fear and Loathing in Pen and Ink (02.28.05)
OBSERVATORY: Designing Under the Influence (02.26.05)
OBSERVATORY: Authenticity: A User's Guide (02.08.05)
OBSERVATORY: The Comfort of Style (02.03.05)
OBSERVATORY: The Best Artist in the World (01.19.05)
OBSERVATORY: Robert Polidori's Peripheral Vision (01.08.05)
OBSERVATORY: The Other Rand (12.16.04)
OBSERVATORY: Just Say Yes (12.08.04)
OBSERVATORY: The Whole Damn Bus is Cheering (12.01.04)
OBSERVATORY: Logogate in Connecticut, or, The Rodneydangerfieldization of Graphic Design: Part II (11.21.04)
OBSERVATORY: The World in Two Footnotes (11.18.04)
OBSERVATORY: First Person Shooter (11.13.04)
OBSERVATORY: Colorama (11.01.04)
OBSERVATORY: What We Talk About When We Talk About Architecture (10.21.04)
OBSERVATORY: I Hate ITC Garamond (10.01.04)
OBSERVATORY: Graphic Designers, Flush Left? (09.20.04)
OBSERVATORY: The Graphic Design Olympics (08.23.04)
OBSERVATORY: What is Design For? A Discussion (08.17.04)
OBSERVATORY: The Rendering and the Reality (08.14.04)
OBSERVATORY: Eero Saarinen's Forty Year Layover (08.04.04)
OBSERVATORY: The Bodoni Conspiracy (07.25.04)
OBSERVATORY: Pablo Ferro Offers You His Protection (07.20.04)
OBSERVATORY: To Hell with the Simple Paper Clip (07.14.04)
OBSERVATORY: Ed Ruscha: When Art Rises to the Level of Graphic Design (07.12.04)
OBSERVATORY: And the Gold Award for Design Goes to God (07.05.04)
OBSERVATORY: The Tyranny of the Tagline (06.29.04)
OBSERVATORY: Barthes on the Ballpoint (06.19.04)
OBSERVATORY: The Idealistic Corporation (06.16.04)
OBSERVATORY: McSweeney's No. 13 and the Revenge of the Nerds (05.29.04)
OBSERVATORY: India Switches Brands (05.17.04)
OBSERVATORY: My Democracy Was Irretrievably Undermined by Reactionary Idiots and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt (05.09.04)
OBSERVATORY: Better Nation Building Through Design (04.28.04)
OBSERVATORY: Catharsis, Salesmanship, and the Limits of Empire (04.22.04)
OBSERVATORY: I Hear You’ve Got Script Trouble: The Designer as Auteur (04.17.04)
OBSERVATORY: Stanley Kubrick and the Future of Graphic Design (04.03.04)
OBSERVATORY: Michael McDonough’s Top Ten Things They Never Taught Me in Design School (03.24.04)
OBSERVATORY: The Book (Cover) That Changed My Life (03.19.04)
OBSERVATORY: George Kennan and the Cold War Between Form and Content (03.13.04)
OBSERVATORY: 1989: Roots of Revolution (03.06.04)
OBSERVATORY: Information Design and the Placebo Effect (02.28.04)
OBSERVATORY: The Final Decline and Total Collapse of the American Magazine Cover (02.18.04)
OBSERVATORY: Rob Roy Kelly’s Old, Weird America (02.02.04)
OBSERVATORY: The Sins of St. Paul (01.31.04)
OBSERVATORY: (Over)explaining Design (01.18.04)
OBSERVATORY: Vladimir Nabokov: Father of Hypertext? (01.11.04)
OBSERVATORY: The Forgotten Design Legacy of the National Lampoon (01.05.04)
OBSERVATORY: Errol Morris Blows Up Spreadsheet, Thousands Killed (12.17.03)
OBSERVATORY: Mark Lombardi and the Ecstasy of Conspiracy (11.24.03)
OBSERVATORY: Graphic Design and the New Certainties (11.10.03)
OBSERVATORY: The New York Times: Apocalypse Now, Page A1 (10.28.03)