The Editors | Essays

Your Favorites of the Decade

In the last decade Design Observer has launched three podcasts, hosted four conferences, sheparded a century-old competition, celebrated our 15th year, published books, and commemorated a founder gone too soon. Through it all we've continued posting some of the most provocative essays, podcasts, interviews, and opinions on the world of design. While we celebrate every one of the thousands of posts we've published since 2010, herewith, in no particular order, is a list of your favorites of the decade as we head into 2020.

An Introduction to Graphic Design
William Drenttel and Jessica Helfand
Graphic Design 101 by William Drenttel and Jessica Helfand.

Accidental Mysteries
John Foster
A weekly cabinet of visual curiosities set aside for your perusal and enlightenment. This week: chairs.

Massimo Vignelli, 1931-2014
Michael Bierut
A personal memory of the late designer Massimo Vignelli.

S2E12: Dana Arnett + Patrick Palmer
Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
Dana Arnett is a vice chairman and a founding partner of VSA Partners, a branding and marketing company based in Chicago. Patrick Palmer leads the strategy practice at VSA.

The Art of Punk and the Punk Aesthetic
Rick Poynor
Punk has two graphic histories: Punk: An Aesthetic and The Art of Punk. What conclusions do they draw?

What’s Wrong With This Picture?
Jessica Helfand
If a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s a painting worth? Judging from these images, it’s hard to say.

Brené Brown
Debbie Millman
Debbie talks to author and researcher Brené Brown about belonging, courage, and vulnerability. “The very first thing I look for in you is vulnerability. And the very last thing I want to show you is my vulnerability.”

Vignelli’s Herald (or Heralding Vignelli)
Steven Heller
Vignelli Celebration: Steven Heller remembers the Herald.

Episode 103: Cathedrals and Candidates
Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
Notre Dame cathedral fire, Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg design systems, Mina Markham and Pantsuit, unidentifiable objects, Wesley Morris on romantic comedies.

The Politics of Desire and Looting
Adrian Shaughnessy
The part designers have played in the London riots.

The Real Skinny on the Real Skinny
Jessica Helfand
Consider the fact that one-fifth of those suffering from anorexia will, if untreated, die from complications related to their eating disorder, and ask yourself: is less really ever more? On the visual nature of body image.

I‘m With Her
Michael Bierut
The logo we designed for Hillary Clinton wasn’t clever or artful. I didn’t care about that. I wanted something that you didn’t need a software tutorial to create, something as simple as a peace sign or a smiley face. I wanted a logo that a five-year-old could make with construction paper and kindergarten scissors.

Malcolm Gladwell Is #Wrong
Maria Popova
Response to Malcolm Gladwell's New Yorker magazine essay, "Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted."

Simon Sinek
Debbie Millman
On this episode, Debbie Millman talks to Simon about the fruits of good leadership.

A Makeover for the BART Map
Rachel Berger
Unlike the notorious 1972 Massimo Vignelli redesign of the New York City subway map, the new BART map didn't make much of a splash in graphic design circles.

It’s Time to Define What “Good” Means in Our Industry
George Aye
I know a definition of good is missing because I’ve been asked to pinpoint it, with some fairly high stakes on the line.

Why Nicolai Ouroussoff Is Not Good Enough
Alexandra Lange
Nicolai Ouroussoff might turn out to be the last architecture critic, which makes it even more imperative to say: He is not making a good case for keeping the breed.

Agency or Studio? The Dutch Design Dilemma
Rick Poynor
Dutch graphic design, once so original and innovative, now looks increasingly similar to everyone else's graphic design.

What Am I Doing Here? Tall Buildings and High Anxiety in Las Vegas
Mark Lamster
I spent three days in a new entertainment complex, CityCenter, in Las Vegas. What follows is a diary of my experience in that time.

Episode 66: Ethics!
Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
The Copenhagen Letter, Mike Monteiro’s Design the Right Thing, Branded by Memory, Google Quick, Draw!, Otl Aicher’s Isny, the Trash Isles.

Reassessing the Saul Bass and Alfred Hitchcock Collaboration
Pat Kirkham
The evidence, scholarship and debates: Saul Bass and the famous shower scene in “Psycho.”

S4E6: Margaret Gould Stewart
Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
Margaret Gould Stewart is vice president of product design at Facebook.

Architect Barbie
Nancy Levinson
Architect Barbie: the world's most famous doll has a new career.

Esther Perel
Debbie Millman
Debbie talks to Esther about marriage, polyamory, and adultery. "Many affairs, if they were not discovered and they were left alone, they would die a natural death."

Graphic Design Criticism as a Spectator Sport
Michael Bierut
Michael Bierut on logo redesign outrages, what they mean, and why we should demand more.

S4E10: Abbott Miller
Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
Abbott Miller is a partner in the design firm Pentagram.

Jobs | June 13