show

The Editors
Erikspieksalot
11.06.14

"Bap, barm, or cob?"

The Editors
Erik Spiekermann: Left with no alternative
11.04.14

In today’s extract from the new biography of Erik Spiekermann: Berlin to London

Michael Bierut
Thoughts on “Thoughts on Design”
08.11.14

On Paul Rand’s 96-page masterpiece, “Thoughts on Design.”

Steven Heller
Steven Heller on Mentors
Michael Bierut
Massimo Vignelli, 1931-2014
Owen Edwards
A Michelangelo, at 100 mph Plus
Michael Bierut
What Bill Knew
02.27.14

A 1991 speech by William Drenttel revealed what he knew about the business of design.

Rick Poynor
The Writings of William Drenttel
Rick Poynor
From the Archive: Brian Eno, Artist of Light
Alexandra Lange
MoMA’s Modern Women
Observed
Welcoming Dr. Paul Polak
04.08.13

Welcoming Dr. Paul Polak as a Design Observer contributing writer.

Rick Poynor
Dom Sylvester Houédard’s Cosmic Typewriter
12.09.12

Dom Sylvester Houédard: Benedictine monk, champion of concrete poetry, and master of the “typestract.”

Rick Poynor
Herbert Spencer and the Decisive Detail
11.30.12

In Herbert Spencer’s most memorable photographs, signs of official communication fray into visual poetry.

Rick Poynor
Robert Brownjohn: Photos at Street Level
The Editors
Our Mothers, Our Selves
Rick Poynor
The Enduring Influence of Richard Hollis
04.06.12

An exhibition of Richard Hollis’s work provides the first public opportunity to assess the entire shape of his output.

Jessica Helfand
Audrey Real Helfand: Designer Manquée
03.13.12

Fifty years ago, my mother Audrey was a prolific visual maker: today, she’d be running her own studio.

Jessica Helfand
Ezra Winter Project: Chapter One
01.30.12

Jessica Helfand, who teaches the seminar "Studies in Visual Biography" at Yale, shares her year-long exploration of the American muralist Ezra Winter: this is part one.

Rick Poynor
In Response to An Anatomy of Uncriticism
01.27.12

Alexandra Lange’s article in Print about the sacred cows of graphic design sidesteps the issue it raises.

Rick Poynor
Ernst Haas and the Color Underground
01.19.12

Has Ernst Haas, an early master of color photography, received the credit his ground-breaking pictures deserve?

Rick Poynor
On Display: The Kirkland Museum
Andrew Sloat
Winterhouse: A Video
05.30.11

A short film about Winterhouse, the studio of William Drenttel and Jessica Helfand. It was made for the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame in 2010. Film written and directed by Andrew Sloat.

William Drenttel
A Conversation with Daniel van der Velden of Metahaven
12.27.10

An expansive interview with Daniel van der Velden, co-author of Uncorporate Identity.

Alice Twemlow
Massimo Vignelli’s Desk
09.15.10

Vignelli Celebration: Alice Twemlow snoops around Massimo Vignelli's desk.

Michael Bierut
Lella Vignelli
09.13.10

In my ten years at Vignelli Associates, I came to understand the relationship between the two brilliant designers who ran the office. Massimo would tend to play the role of idea generator. Lella served as the critic, editing the ideas and shaping the best ones to fit the solution.

Debbie Millman
Interview with Massimo Vignelli
09.13.10

Vignelli Celebration: Debbie Millman interviews Massimo Vignelli.

AIGA
Lella and Massimo Vignelli: The 1982 AIGA Medal
09.12.10

Vignelli Celebration: In 1982 Massimo and Lella received the AIGA Medal for their many contributions to the design world, here is an article which originally appeared in the 1983 issue of AIGA Graphic Design USA 4.

Michael Bierut
Jerry Della Femina, Mad Men, and the Cult of Advertising Personality
07.25.10

A review of Jerry Della Femina's From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor, published in a new edition on the occasion of the debut of the fourth season of the AMC series Mad Men.

Owen Edwards
Remembering Julius Shulman
07.29.09

Looking back on an afternoon of chocolate, pastrami, and Scotch with modern architecture's iconic photographer.

Michael Bierut
Seymour, An Introduction
05.30.09

In a world of design consultants, information architects, and experience planners, Seymour Chwast is something refreshingly old-fashioned: a commercial artist.  

Ellen Lupton
A Conversation With David Barringer
05.28.09

David Barringer’s book, There’s Nothing Funny About Design is actually very funny. The conversation that follows was conducted via e-mail over a three-day period.

Adam Harrison Levy
An Interview With Philip Glass
05.12.09

In 2005, Adam Harrison Levy interviewed Philip Glass for a BBC documentary film about Chuck Close. Glass was seated in front of the monumental painting Phil, 1969. This is their exchange.

John Cantwell
Trump, The Logo
05.07.09

The logo above the Trump Tower's main entrance, huge and gleaming in 34-inch brass block letters, bluntly announces Donald Trump’s presence on the street. It’s crude, perhaps, but undeniably effective. In a neighborhood filled with names like Bergdorf, Cartier, and Tiffany, none is more prominent than Trump’s.

Lorraine Wild
Will Burtin: Design and Science
04.15.09

Will Burtin’s story is presented in Design and Science: The Life and Work of Will Burtin. Like all of the emigré “pioneers,” Burtin brought an amazing amount of talent and energy (along with plain old ambition) to his modernist approach.

Chris Pullman
What I've Learned
11.23.08

After 35 years working for the same company, WGBH in Boston, legendary design director Chris Pullman reveals the ten things he learned.

Michael Bierut
The Four Lessons of Lou Dorfsman
10.23.08

For over 40 years, Lou Dorfsman designed everything at CBS from its advertising to the paper cups in its cafeteria. Getting great work done in giant institution is supposed to be hard. How did he make it look easy?

Adam Harrison Levy
The Inventor of the Cowboy Shirt
09.30.08

A few years ago, I found myself lost inside a shopping mall with Jack A. Weil, better known as Jack A, the man who, in 1946, invented the snap-buttoned cowboy shirt.

Glen Cummings
Athos Bulcão, The Artist of Brasilia
08.11.08

Athos Bulcão was a public artist, interior designer, muralist, furniture and graphic designer who collaborated with Oscar Niemeyer and others to define Brasilia — one of the 20th century’s most radical and controversially received urban experiments. Bulcão died on July 31 at the age of 90, and left behind an astonishing body of work.

Michael Bierut
There is No Why
07.31.08

The year's best design movie is not about a typeface. It's Man on Wire, the new documentary about Philippe Petit's 1974 high wire walk between the two towers of the World Trade Center.

Ettore Sottsass
When I Was a Very Small Boy
06.16.08

Ettore Sottsass: "Everything we did was entirely absorbed in the act of doing it, in wanting to do it, and everything we did stayed ultimately inside a single extraordinary sphere of life. The design was life itself, it was the day from dawn till dusk, it was the waiting during the night..."

Alice Twemlow
Graphic Design at the Museum
06.05.08

The work of Graphic Thought Facility, a London-based graphic design consultancy, is on exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago until August 17. It’s the first time the Art Institute has staged a show solely on contemporary design...

The Editors
Fifteen Minutes of Fame
02.01.08

If graphic design's become so edgy as a profession that we're getting name-dropped in hit movies, maybe it's time to get serious about how we're really being portrayed.

Steven Heller
Wilhelm Deffke: Modern Mark Maker
01.24.08

The modern corporate logo was born in Germany shortly after the turn of the twentieth century, the direct descendent of burgher crests, coats of arms, trade and factory marks. One of the most prolific of these mark makers is barely recognized in design histories today, except for the occasional footnote. His name is Wilhelm F. Deffke...

Michael Bierut
Will the Real Ernst Bettler Please Stand Up?
01.08.08

In the late 50s, Swiss designer Ernst Bettler created a series of seemingly harmless posters that brought down a drug company with a Nazi past. It's a great story, but it never happened. Why do we need to believe in Ernst Bettler?

Jessica Helfand
Remembering Paul Rand
01.03.08

This essay, a rememberance of Paul Rand, is taken from Michael Kroeger's book, Paul Rand: Conversations with Students, which will be published on January 3 by Princeton Architectural Press.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Graphic Editorship
12.16.07

Fuel's realization that they possessed the transferable skills and instincts to publish thought-provoking books with editorial depth, has allowed them to create a publishing venture that offers a fresh take on visual culture.

Jessica Helfand
Another Myth Brilliantly Debunked
08.23.07

The Folding Paper Box Association of America would influence more than just packaging regulations: a half century before the Poynter Institute would claim authorship for its revolutionary Eye-Trac research, the FPBAA was already tracking viewers' visual responses to packaging...

Adrian Shaughnessy
Tony Wilson: The Postmodern Mythmaker
08.14.07

Tony Wilson, founder of Factory records, died August 10. Wilson had many claims to fame: he was a successful television presenter; a music industry impresario of flawed and maverick genius; and he was one of the shrewdest patrons of graphic design there has ever been.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Barnbrook Bible: A Graphic Autobiography
07.30.07

Jonathan Barnbrook's new book, Barnbrook Bible, ranks amongst the most ambitious personal projects undertaken by any graphic designer...

Michael Bierut
Donal McLaughlin’s Little Button
07.25.07

In 1945, architect-turned-graphic-designer Donal McLaughlin designed a lapel pin for a conference in 1945 that became one of the most widely seen symbols in the world: the emblem for the United Nations. Tomorrow is his 100th birthday.

Steven Heller
Leon Friend: One Teacher, Many Apostles
07.21.07

Leon Friend (born in Warsaw in 1902) was a career art teacher at the Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, New York, with a special passion for what he called graphic design. This is his story and his influence.

William Drenttel
One Man's Literary Compass
07.03.07

It was in 1966 when I returned to San Francisco to re-establish The Greenwood Press. The first thing I did was to build these bookshelves with my young architect friends. These photographs by Dennis Letbetter, forty years later, have captured so beautifully the soul and spirit of Greenwood's library.

Steven Heller
Silas H. Rhodes, Founder of SVA
07.02.07

Silas H. Rhodes, chairman of the School of Visual Arts in New York City, died last Thursday at 91. He was a progressive educator who established a uniquely collaborative learning environment that delicately balanced creative independence with academic rigor.

Jessica Helfand
Ad Reinhardt, Graphic Designer
05.17.07

Ad Reinhardt fretted about the meaning of life. He agonized about the purpose of painting. He questioned everyone, critiqued everything, and worked incessantly. In other words, he was a graphic designer.

William Drenttel
The Good Citizen's Alphabet
02.08.07

Bertrand Russell had the wisdom to realize that certain words require proper definition to be used correctly in political and social discourse. This alphabet book is offered here as a slide show for our readers.

Adrian Shaughnessy
"I Sold My Soul And I Love It"
02.05.07

The current issue of Creative Review is "guest edited" by hip British advertising agency Mother. The theme, suggested by Mother, is I Sold My Soul And I Love It — a vastly contradictory statement, but one that invites debate over what it means to work in visual communication."

Michael Bierut
The Graphic Glass Ceiling
12.11.06

A week ago, I was the moderator of a panel discussion at the 92nd Street Y with Milton Glaser, Chip Kidd and Dave Eggers. Afterwards, someone asked, "Why do you — all three of you — suppose there are so few female graphic designers — or at least so few female 'superstar' graphic designers?" There was a moment of uncomfortable silence. What would your answer be?

Michael Bierut
Alan Fletcher: Living by Design
09.27.06

Remembering the late British designer Alan Fletcher, who once said, "I treat clients as raw material to do what I want to do, though I would never tell them that." For him, design was not a profession or a craft, but a life.

DJ Stout
Remembering Ann Richards
09.19.06

To create the famous Texas Monthly cover of Governor Ann Richards astride a Harley, art director DJ Stout used a body double. "For many years, I would run into Ann Richards at my favorite Mexican food lunch spot in downtown Austin and she would always thank me for giving her such a 'sexy body.'"

Michael Bierut
Helmut Krone, Period.
08.23.06

One of the greatest designers that ever lived was an advertising art director: Doyle Dane Bernbach's Helmut Krone. A new book celebrates his life and work.

Jessica Helfand
A Good Pan Is Hard To Find
07.28.06

On baking a cheesecake and becoming a better designer: it's one big balancing act of artistry and skill.

Jessica Helfand
The Global Curse of Comic Sans
07.20.06

In this coastal region slung just below the Pyrenees, one might expect to see evidence of the enduring cultural tensions between Spain and Catalonia — different kinds of signs or symbols, for instance â€" but on the surface at least, no such rift is exposed. Instead, Catalonia clings to a visual language that celebrates the goofy: this is a country awash in Comic Sans.

Lorraine Wild
Wassup, Beatrice
07.05.06

I've heard endless definitions and descriptions of graphic design: I can recite them all, and on any given day I can identify with one essentialism over another: e.g., "Today, I'm a conceptualizer." I can even be swayed by the argument that, in fact, we work in a moment when graphic design is devolving as a practice identifiable by any common standards. It makes me think of a woman who I have always found completely annoying in her assuredness — Beatrice Warde.

Michael Bierut
My Phone Call to Arnold Newman
06.14.06

Michael Bierut remembers a 25-year-old phone conversation with the late photographer Arnold Newman.

Willis Regier
In Remembrance of Richard Eckersley
04.24.06

Richard Eckersley died on April 16, having given the best years of his life to establishing the importance of high-quality book design for university presses. Here, a remembrance by Willis Regier, director of the University of Illinois Press.

Michael Bierut
When Design is a Matter of Life or Death
04.06.06

When structural engineer William LeMessurier realized that his work on Manhattan's Citicorp Center was flawed, he was faced with a choice: he could keep quiet and gamble with thousands of lives, or he could speak up. What would you do?

Julie Lasky
Edward Hopper, Village Person
01.05.06

My friend opened the door to a minimally furnished skylit room. It had a pot-bellied stove, a painter's easel, and photos framed on the wall of a grim man with long legs. The room was the studio of Edward Hopper. (Slide show by Duane Michals.)

William Drenttel
David Hughes: Caricaturist of Our Time
11.17.05

But my favorite, in recent years, is the British illustrator David Hughes. I yearn for his drawings, look for them in my favorite publications, and save them whenever and wherever I find them.

Michael Bierut
The Final Days of AT&T
10.29.05

The acquisition of AT&T by SBC will result in, among other things, the retirement of one of Saul Bass's most well-known logos. Does anyone care?

Michael Bierut
You May Already Be a Winner
08.29.05

Are graphic design competitions worthwhile?

Michael Bierut
Credit Line Goes Here
07.22.05

Design is essentially a collaborative enterprise. That makes assigning credit for the products of our work a complicated issue.

Michael Bierut
Rick Valicenti: This Time It's Personal
07.14.05

In his newly-published monograph Emotion as Promotion: A Book of Thirst, Rick Valicenti provides a glimpse into a designer's life that is at once accessibly seductive and brazenly idiosyncratic.

Lorraine Wild
Exhibitions by Renzo Piano and 2x4
07.04.05

Both architect Renzo Piano and graphic designers 2x4 are at the top of their respective games as designers, but the way they approach their own exhibitions (at LACMA and SFMOMA, respectively) places them at opposite poles of a style of communication, and maybe even belief.

Michael Bierut
The Man Who Saved Jackson Pollock
06.06.05

Herbert Matter, the designer who stored away a cache of recently-discovered Jackson Pollock paintings, deserves a similar rediscovery.

Rick Poynor
Mevis and Van Deursen: Rueful Recollections, Recycled Design
06.03.05

In their self-edited monograph, Dutch graphic designers Mevis and Van Deursen turn their backs on their professed commitment to ideas and treat the book mainly as an opportunity for undemanding aesthetic play.

Jessica Helfand
Greer Allen: In Memoriam
04.28.05

Designer, critic, pundit and historian, Greer Allen was Senior Critic in Graphic Design at Yale School of Art. He designed publications for The Houghton Library at Harvard, the Beinecke Library at Yale, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and a number of other distinguished cultural institutions around the country. Greer Allen died last week after a short illness. He was 83.

Julie Lasky
Christo's Agent Orange
02.13.05

Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Central Park gates lack that magnetic, landscape-transforming power. Could this be owing not just to the way the gates drive viewers to seek greater heights of sensation, but also to the off-putting emergency color, the subtle grid of the rip-stop nylon reminiscent of quick escapes from troubled aircraft?

Rick Poynor
The I.D. Forty: What Are Lists For?
01.09.05

How do we measure one kind of achievement in design against another to arrive at a ranking? The truth is we can’t. The real purpose of I.D.’s list was to underscore the magazine’s position as selector and taste-maker.

Rick Poynor
Who's In and Who's Out of the Dictionary
11.11.04

A Dictionary of Modern Design gives exemplary treatment to industrial designers, furniture designers, and the organisations that served them. Once again, though, graphic design emerges as the also-ran of design.

Jessica Helfand
Ladislav Sutnar: Mechanical Beauty
08.10.04


Michael Bierut
Pablo Ferro Offers You His Protection
07.20.04

The title design for the film Napoleon Dynamite, credited to Pablo Ferro [although designed in fact by actor Aaron Ruell], provoke an assessment of Ferro's influence in the world of motion graphics.

Michael Bierut
Ed Ruscha: When Art Rises to the Level of Graphic Design
07.12.04

A retrospective of the drawings of Ed Ruscha raises the question: is he an artist or a graphic designer?

William Drenttel
Edward Tufte: The Dispassionate Statistician III
07.06.04


Rick Poynor
Where are the Design Intellectuals?
07.03.04

Prospect magazine has published a list of the 100 top British public intellectuals. A handful of visual art and architecture people make the cut, but no from design is included, reflecting its absence from public debate.

Michael Bierut
Barthes on the Ballpoint
06.19.04

Roland Barthes disliked ballpoint pens, suggesting that there is a "Bic style" suited for "writing that merely transcribes thought."

William Drenttel
Learning from Las Vegas: The Book That (Still) Takes My Breath Away
05.05.04


Jessica Helfand
Time Waits for No Fan
05.01.04


William Drenttel
El Lissitzky for Pesach
04.10.04


Rick Poynor
Jan van Toorn: Arguing with Visual Means
03.21.04

Jan van Toorn’s designs embody an idea about citizenship. They address viewers as critical, thinking individuals who can be expected to take an informed and skeptical interest in the circumstances of their world.

Michael Bierut
The Sins of St. Paul
01.31.04

Paul Rand is almost universally revered as the infallible father of American graphic design, which may have blinded his legions of admirers to his flaws: an overemphasis on logos as a communications tool, a lack of engagement in content, a detachment from history, and humorlessness.

William Drenttel
Adolf Wölfli Invents Design Brut?
01.05.04

Mr. Gomez has taken your basic 19th-century-madman-artist and turned him into a model 20th century graphic designer.

Rick Poynor
Notes on Experimental Jetset
12.21.03

Experimental Jetset’s argument that design should have a certain autonomy and an inner logic separate from tastes and trends makes sense, but as a rationale for defaulting to Helvetica, is it convincing?

William Drenttel
Edward Tufte: The Dispassionate Statistician II
11.06.03

More on Edward Tufte and his critique of PowerPoint.

Jessica Helfand
Color Me Kurt
11.03.03

Having seen Schwarzenegger as a black man before he was elected Governor, one can only imagine what's next for Colors under Kurt Andersen.

Jessica Helfand
Edward Tufte: The Dispassionate Statistician I
09.26.03


William Drenttel
Paul Rand: Bibliography as Biography
09.02.03

This is bibliography as biography, and a posthumous testament to the considerable scope — and ongoing life — of one designer's mind. A Selected Bibliography of Books from the Collection of Paul Rand


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