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Michael Bierut

Variations on a Theme: New York's High Priorities



Illustration for New York, Christoph Niemann, 2005

Every week, the editors of New York magazine identify five upcoming "can't miss" activities in the magazine's back-of-the-book listings section. And every week, New York's design director, Luke Hayman, and art director, Chris Dixon, select a designer to create "High Priority," a typographic illustration using these five selections.

The rules are simple. The illustration is 4.4 inches high by 6.875 inches wide; it has to include the five events, the dates of the week, and the words "High Priority;" and it can only use two colors, red and black. The designer gets the text late on Thursday, provides a sketch late on Friday, and the finished artwork by the end of the day on the following Monday. The result runs at the start of the listings section in the issue published the following week. This exercise, with its prescribed limitations and one-swing-and-you're-out intensity, is as close as the graphic design world gets to an Olympic event.

Since Hayman and Dixon started "High Priority," over 60 designers, from the legendary to the up-and-coming, have taken the challenge. The list is amazing: it includes Pierre Bernard, Laurie Rosenwald, Allen Hori, Neville Brody, Marion Deuchars, Fernando Gutiérrez, Barbara deWilde, Vince Frost, Julian Morey, Jonathan Hoefler, Ellen Lupton, Martin Venezky, Alexander Gelman, Bob Gill, Milton Glaser, Barbara Glauber, Chip Kidd and Todd St. John, to name just a few. And every week, the readers of New York get to see the same old problem solved a brand new way.

 


Posted in: Graphic Design, Magazines, Typography

Comment 28  |     |     |   Like 1  |   Tweet 1
Comments [28]
I really enjoyed looking at these. But what gives with Stephen Doyle's full-color illustration?
Maria
03.30.06
10:02

Stephen Doyle is not an illustrator he is a designer like his partner Thomas Kluepfel. Luke Hayman and Chris Dixon should ask Tom to create a new "High Priority" design for New York magazine! http://www.doylepartners.com/
Carl
03.31.06
01:03

aw i absolutely love these, it's like exactitudes for graphic design.
chung
03.31.06
09:12

Mr. Bierut called these typographic illustrations in his post, hence the characterization. I am aware of Stephen Doyle's work and was a student of Tom's. I was just inquiring as to why this particular one was allowed to be in full color.
Maria
03.31.06
10:10

It's been a brilliant ride. A nice detail in a much improved magazine. Infinite variations on a theme that most people don't notice, but giving solace and hope to weary designers everywhere. Way to go Luke.
Alan
03.31.06
11:32

Regarding Stephen Doyle's, my guess is that he produced and submitted it in color and NY printed it in black and white. The color is pretty, though.
Michael Bierut
03.31.06
12:07

Constraint is the mother of creation.
Brad Brooks
03.31.06
01:57

Firstly, we'd like to thank Michael, William and Jessica for posting "High Priority" on Design Observer. We're extremely pleased and proud to show this project.... the contributors continue to surprise and delight us.

And so on to the Stephen Doyle question. Stephen's always been an individual and often has strongly held, independent views on design and other matters. And I say that as a friend.

Actually it would be unfair to place the blame for this anomaly solely on Stephen. He was one of the first designers invited to participate and the brief was still in formation. The Red-Black vs. 4-color issue may have been unclear. And for the record, we did run it in its full 4-color glory as we were too scared to ask Stephen to change it.

Luke and Chris
Luke Hayman
03.31.06
01:58

Nice work Sir Lukesalot, Dixonator and gang.

Not a bad one in the bunch! great stuff.

you should do a book of the eventually. if so,
change Doyle's to black/ red in process... for consistency

felix sockwell
03.31.06
02:45

Thank you very much, the gallery is absolutly marvelous!
without a doubt this is one of the finest collections of superb, contemporary graphic design works i have seen on-line for a while, and a not a common opportunity at all for remote readers like myself (Jerusalem :] ) to witness such wealth.
I really hope the directors do plan on publishing a compilation of these...
Yotam
03.31.06
03:07

and they ask french designers to participate too! Pierre Bernard and Jeanne Verdoux are excellent graphic designers! keep up the good work
joshua
03.31.06
04:50

Michael, thanks for this excellent post!
Andrew Twigg
03.31.06
05:59

When looking at the best work of top talent, I am constantly reminded of my shortcomings as a designer. This body of work places their skill in a more of a context I can relate to (as a student), and learn much more from.

Impressive and encouraging.

Thanks!
Mark Notermann
04.01.06
04:00

Thank you so much for posting these!
Ricardo Cordoba
04.01.06
12:12

I am intrigued by how well these work at such a diminutive size. With digital art getting smaller and smaller with iPods etc., maybe there's hope after all!

BTW, aren't there plans to exhibit these at Cooper-Hewitt?
Hollis
04.01.06
01:07

collection = gem.
i thoroughly enjoyed this post.
thank you all all all...


all.
tjblanchflower
04.01.06
06:32

Great post.

15 and 45 are broken links. Is this just me?
Justin Mayer
04.02.06
06:29

Justin,

We've been getting some compaints about those two links for certain browsers. It seems to work fine in Safari but I've noticed the problem in IE.

We're working on the problem, but for now the way to hack around it is to go here for image number 16 and to go here for image number 46. You should be able to click through normally in between.

Sorry for the inconvenience and enjoy the show.

Michael Bierut
04.02.06
06:38

Fabulous. Enjoyed this very much. I wonder, is it a commission in the paid sense, or a privilege and 'solace' as Alan suggests?
Jon Hill
04.03.06
02:13

It's a commission, but as I recall a fairly modest one.
Michael Bierut
04.03.06
02:59

Although all the designs are interesting and complex, I wonder if the readers appreciate it. Some of the executions are so complicated that they are nearly impossible to read. Do the designers really have the readers' best interests in mind or are they merely trying to outdo each other every week? I think it's the latter. Of course, I don't live in NY or read New York magazine so maybe this section isn't that important anyway.
ejs
04.03.06
03:54

these reproductions are small. the magazine's printing is fairly tight and they hold together quite well at the 4.4 X 6.875 size. if anything needs to be scrutinized in NY Mag its the "photo-strations" by new comers like sean mccabe and old hands like john ritter, who basically take photographs and recolor them into what are now widely costrued to be illustrations. New York sort of grasped this Ritter-esque ideology from the New Yorker and now magazines all over the place are hiring photo-strators® to do photo-strations® to avoid higher photo-fees®. go phigure.- phelix
felix sockwell
04.03.06
04:40

Yeah, Felix--the name photostrations works and there's some doozies out there. Some of those guys in NY have gotten a little better since they started out a year ago though--and though they're clearly born of John Ritter, he's always taken it further. It never comes across like a colorized PR shot--sometimes there's even an idea. And considering it's the New Yorker, it comes across pretty cool.

I though the High Priorities would run out of steam long ago. I'm happy to see that it hasn't. And can't we credit it with spawning the new treatment for Safire's Times page? By the way, my favorite innovation of Luke's has been the use of Karen Caldicott's busts. Though they appeared here and there before --they never got the chance to speak like this.




D
04.09.06
08:14

Chris and Luke at New York have posted their own constantly updated version of the gallery here.

Michael Bierut
04.12.06
03:49

Many illustrators these days will find that deadline a generous one.
Flaherty
04.19.06
11:35

Delightful post. I was surprised at how good the last comment fits. An old problem solved in a brand new way.
Creative Excellence from all the participants!

But I was wondering, is it an open competetion or is it commisioned?

Really good post.
Esben Grøndal
11.10.06
03:40

Information about the open competition can be found here.
Michael Bierut
11.10.06
06:12

Looks like they've been discovered in Russia, too.

Jessica Helfand
01.18.07
03:32



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