The Observatory

Michael Bierut and Jessica Helfand discuss, design, current events, and current enthusiasms.

Subscribe to The Observatory on iTunes or your favorite podcast app, or follow Design Observer on Soundcloud.

Episode 73: Fire, Fury, Playtime
Eva Hagberg Fisher on dressing for sexual harassment proceedings, Oprah at the Golden Globes, Print goes digital, Fire and Fury pop-up book, Jacques Tati’s PlayTime


Episode 72: Out With the Old
New York Times Magazine, Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, favorite podcasts, Wormwood, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel


Episode 71: A 40,000-point 9
Ivan Chermayeff and American modernism, Kurt Andersen, Vincent Scully, Ivo van Hove’s The Fountainhead, Brothers in Arms


Episode 70: When Art Imitates Life
Monstrous men, magazine covers and editors, Arranged!, Prongles


Episode 69: Fixes and Facelifts
Fixing American democracy, Snøhetta’s plan for Philip Johnson’s AT&T Building, Internetting With Amanda Hess, Synoptical History of the Civil War


Episode 68: Learning from Muriel Cooper
Muriel Cooper, Now You See It, Harvey Weinstein and #metoo, kilonova explosion, Lin-Manuel Miranda interviews Stephen Sondheim


Episode 67: Guns N’ Tote Bags
Visualizing gun violence after Las Vegas, Louis Vuitton v. My Other Bag, tote bags, Helen Rosner on Olive Garden, Call My Agent!, Netflix in French


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


Episode 65: Cones of Uncertainty
Visualizing hurricanes, elections, and other future events; the Jefferson Davis Highway; Margaret Calvert and British road signs; Alexander Todorov’s Face Value


Episode 64: The Eye and the Storm
Hurricane Harvey, weather data visualization, electric cars, Taylor Swift, Scarfolk Council, the internet as an Uncanny Valley


Episode 63: August Recess
The Doomsday Clock, the color blue, selfie sticks, graphic designers on screen


Episode 62: Keepin’ It Nasty
Cursing, Anthony Scaramucci, the alt-right’s shit aesthetic, Tony Fadell and Silicon Valley regrets, John G. Morris, Donald Trump draws the Manhattan skyline


Episode 61: Font of Corruption?
Pakistan, Donald Trump Jr., default fonts; Calibri, Courier, Hobo, Cooper Black; Silicon Valley corporate headquarters; subway signage mystery; The Turnaround; Steven Colbert’s Figure-It-Out-a-Tron


Episode 60: Everyman and Ariane
The new Ken dolls, Tonl and diversity in stock photography, Zillow threatens McMansion Hell, InspiroBot


Episode 59: Signatures and Circles
Egregious email signatures, circular Twitter avatars, Wonder Woman, Demetri Martin’s Dean


Episode 58: The Family Circus
Green lights for the Paris Climate Accord, NY Times Magazine comics issue, Lynda Barry in Family Circus, knitting as spycraft, Jim Russek’s poster for Our Town


Episode 57: Communion and Commerce
A record-breaking Basquiat; design, life coaching, and therapy; Thomas de Monchaux reviews Wendy Lesser’s biography of Louis Kahn; a neural network names paint colors


Episode 56: All the Presidents’ Libraries
Presidential libraries, Dieter Rams’ Ten Principles for Good Design 2017 Tech Industry Edition, Ai Weiwei, I.M. Pei


Episode 55: Sea and Sky
Earth Day, the March for Science, EPA Graphic Standards Manual, Design and Exclusion, Big Little Lies, Five Came Back


Episode 54: Egos, Eggs, and Half an Onion
Twitter’s default avatar, border wall submissions, Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi ad, School for Justice, the Uline catalog


Episode 53: On Writing Well
#trypod, Dan Brown cover contest, Design in Tech, writing for designers, The Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened, Wes Anderson’s Bar Luce


Episode 52: Dictator Style
Peter York on autocrat chic, Sunday in the Park with George, BBC interview with Robert Kelly, Jessica Dimmock’s The Convention


Episode 51: Vintages
Behance Design Trends of 2017, George Nelson’s How to See, Michael K. Williams, W.E.B. Du Bois’ infographics


Episode 50: What Democracy Looks Like
The Women’s March, Parker Palmer, The Young Pope, Oreos, Girl Scout Cookies


Episode 49: My First Tattoo
Tattoos, Type 1 diabetes, ID cards, taking MBA students to the art gallery, Kerry James Marshall, Mark Rothko, Mike Mills, the 2017 Citizen Designer Pledge


Episode 48: Lella and La La
Lella Vignelli, John Berger, Second Avenue Subway, Jackie, La La Land


Episode 47: True Colors
Pantone’s color of the year, Time’s Person of the Year, Arrival, The Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog, Seinfeldia


Episode 46: TV Party
TV party: Search Party, The Crown, Fleabag, Crisis in Six Scenes, Highston, I Love Dick, Daniella Zalcman, the fallout shelter sign


Episode 45: I’m With(out) Her
Election night, Brand Trump and the presidency, Design That Matters, Facebook’s flawed news feed


Episode 44: In Dreams
Marcin Wichary visits the Technology Museum of Emporda, Vine, Grand Central Station vistas, deluxe composition notebooks, Errol Morris on Elsa Dorfman, bad ballot design, Grilli Type’s GT America, Transparent, Elaine Lustig Cohen.


Episode 43: The End Is Near
Campaign fatigue, advertising and viral video, voting technology, intellectualism in the design community, the art of David Pease, the 1986 Mets


Doors and Perception
Bathroom signs, MBA students, Mozilla and open logo design, The Commissar Vanishes, Masters of Sex


Memory Loss
The Napalm Girl photo on Facebook, 9/11 out of context, Apple stores and the iPhone 7 launch, the Doctor Strangelove trailer, Wiener-Dog, Pantsuit


Food for Thought
Samsung v. Apple, the International Style v. capitalism, Sausage Party, mozzarella sticks


Passing the Torch
Olympics, cursive handwriting, NASA’s secret art studio, gun sales on Facebook, #firstsevenjobs


Rough Sketches
Trump-Pence, Clinton-Kaine, Black Lives Matter, The Four Seasons, mapping the brain, the video essay


Border Control
Brexit, borders, naming, Fiorello La Guardia and his airport, robot dogs, though leadership, Snapfax


A Seat at the Table
The President needs a Cabinet-level Secretary of Design — or a design consigliere


Mind-Body Problems
Nutrition Facts, Mark Bittman’s food rating system, colon cancer screening, Time Well Spent, Peter Arno, Flat File


The Good, the Flat, and the Ugly
Instagram, rainbows, digital brutalism, Design: The Invention of Desire, the Freewrite.


Prisons and Paradise
Solitary confinement, virtual reality, design thinking for prisoners, Drew Hodges’s Broadway, The Paradise, Prince’s unpronounceable glyph


High Maintenance
Innovators and maintainers, Bernie and Hillary, mapping and infrastructure, algorithms and Rembrandt


Shapes and Japes
Corporate design humor from Mic Drop to bland.ly, photoviz, remembering Zaha Hadid


Crowd Control
Tay, Boaty McBoatface, New Zealand, emoji, and the madness of crowds


The Logosphere
The Met and the logosphere, designing with scientists, the Clinton-Sanders graphics race


Magic on the Page
Matthias Buchinger, Beyonce, Mohawk Superfine at 70, Umberto Eco



Guys and Dolls
Barbie and Rey, food and design, 30 years after the Challenger disaster



Working-Class Heroes
British art schools, Bowie, Alan Rickman, the State of the Union, cannabis chocolate


State of the Chart
Data visualization, The Big Short



Hello
Michael finally gets an iPhone, the Pirelli calendar, Amy Schumer, design and TV 



Brute Force
Behind the Bataclan, pigeon pathologists, Design Thinking at IBM, the Coke bottle at 100, Michael Gross



Magnitude
Climate change, Drake’s take on James Turrell, an IKEA horror catalog


The Opposite of Ugly
Michael Bierut’s monograph, the lost art of album art, ugliness


Basic Human Needs
IKEA and Facebook efforts for refugees, e-reading, Adrian Frutiger, Phil Patton



Moving Pictures
Aylan Kurdi, photojournalism, airline posters, early television


September Issues
Google’s new logo, design thinking, and lessons from Oliver Sacks



Over the Rainbow
Rainbows, selfie sticks, and the flag of New Zealand


New Horizons
Pluto is at the outer limits of the solar system. Porto is at the end of Europe.


Places and Faces
Art, nostalgia, and community


M Is for a Million Things
Milan, Mario Batali, Michelle Obama, Moshe Safdie, Modernism, MOO (our sponsor), Michael Erard, metaphor design, Macintosh icons, Massimo Vignelli....


Knockout
Are boxing and photography hipster pleasures? Are they past their prime, or do they have a bright future?


150 Years, 7 Minutes, 6 Seconds
Visualizing business data, a logo to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation, and more.


East Meets West
Or collaboration vs. “one person making one thing at one time”


Inside the Lines
Michael and Jessica discuss the The Grid, which uses artificial intelligence to design websites, the history of grids, and the unlikely success of coloring books for adults.


The Observatory: The Inevitable
On this episode, Michael and Jessica talk about death (not taxes): how designers have to think about preventing death and representing death, and whether death is “just another design challenge.” Also, the color blue.


The Observatory: Land, Rand, Mad Men
Michael and Jessica talk about a panel they participated in at the Paul Rand exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, plus the return of Mad Men and the fate of photography giants Kodak and Polaroid.


The Observatory: Such Watch
On this episode of The Observatory, Michael and Jessica talk about Jonathan Ive, the rollout of the Apple Watch, and Michael Graves


The Observatory: FYI We Are Graphic Designers
This week, Michael and Jessica talk about graphic designers on screen, highlights from What Design Sounds Like, and Michael’s trip to Design Indaba.


The Observatory: Words, Pictures, Sounds
A few things on our minds


The Observatory: Our Favorite Things
On this episode, Jessica Helfand talks about her Paris 140 series, and Michael Bierut describes his 100 Day Project + some of the cultural highlights of the year.


The Observatory: Dollars and Change
On this episode of The Observatory, Michael Bierut and Jessica Helfand discuss the midterm election and currency design.


The Observatory: Epidemics and Theater
On this episode of The Observatory, Jessica and Michael talk about design, performance, and fear of Ebola. 


Announcing The Observatory
A new monthly podcast with Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand



Observed | January 16

Design, Hong Kong, and the future. [JH]

IKEA invents the pregnancy test advertisement. [JH]

Is interface design to blame for the false Hawaii missile alert? [JH]


Observed | January 15

How good design can improve peoples’ lives: a look back at the design history of the baby transport system. [JH]

A new year’s resolution from Gizmodo: they’re going to write more about design. [JH]

Design is ... more than a department ... more than a phase ... more than a feeling! McKinsey explains. [JH]


Observed | January 12

Edith Wharton’s design legacy. [JH]

Cycling their way from Europe to Asia, two women are researching the history and contemporary uses of paper. [JH]


Observed | January 11

Is an artistic “hobby” the key for scientific fame? [JH]

Extraordinary visual evidence of climate change: a worthy Oscar contender, and a cautionary tale of epic scale. [JH]


Observed | January 10

E-waste graveyards. [MPL]

Up next: countertop dishwashers. [MPL]

What Google Street View tells us about income. [MPL]


Observed | January 09

If we do say so ourselves, the brilliant Craeft review from Michael Bierut on NYTBR is worth a read. [BV]


Observed | January 08

Raising Places: how the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is helping to support design. [JH]

Probably 2017’s best song about furniture design. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]

What will graphic design look like in 2018? [JH]


Observed | January 05

Intelligent design—for robots. [JH]


Observed | January 04

In the wake of the net neutrality decision, should cities build internet networks? [BV]

The most stolen books according to indie bookstore owners: Joan Didion, Kerouac, Vonnegut, Bukowski, and somewhat surprisingly, ethics books from the philosophy section. [BV]


Observed | January 03

The design of the City of Oakland’s tree logo was inspired by a pair of cufflinks. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | January 02

In Malawi, a Dutch firm uses local materials to create affordable equipment for hospitals. [JH]

In Brooklyn, Smith and Reed maintain Order, and Standards: a terrific write-up in Hyperallergic. [JH]


Observed | December 22

The pitfalls of office design. [JH]

Gifts made of books. [MPL]


Observed | December 21

Design is everywhere. Even—and especially—Belgium! [JH]

Expressive typography for the titles in the new Errol Morris Netflix series, Wormwood. [JH]


Observed | December 20

Design as curated serendipity. [JH]

Dutch Design Week: in Eindhoven, the Embassy of Intimacy includes a caravan of cuddles and “please touch” stickers. [JH]

Is design a ... hidden hero? [JH]



Jobs | January 17