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 76: Taking License
A proposal to license designers, Black Panther, Legally Black movie posters, NASA’s Pluto site

Episode 75: Dressed and Obsessed
Phantom Thread, John Perry Barlow, Cleveland Indians to retire Chief Wahoo, Obama portraits, riotous schnauzers

Episode 74: Eyes and Hands
Cræft by Alexander Langlands, doctors and design, Sean Tejaratchi’s LiarTown, a pair of iRi NYC sneakers

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, 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

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

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....

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 | March 19

We are all “curators” now. Is it simply a vain attempt to sprinkle fairy dust over something quite ordinary? [BV]

How do you boycott a building? Our Jessica Helfand has a suggestion. [BV]

Observed | March 16

The Sydney Opera House is one of the most iconic images from down under. A new book reports on the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the resident arts companies, rock musicians, and chefs influencing the building’s evolution. [BV]

What are you doing this weekend? The future of leisure. [BV]

Observed | March 15

The dying electric guitar: What the decline of Gibson and Fender tells us about music. [MPL]

Machines are getting better at literary analysis. [MPL]

Observed | March 14

Women designers on Instagram: From architects to color specialists, Curbed has selected 30 accounts to follow. [BV]

The MIT 24-hour challenge: Honor a design legend with a gift to the MIT press. [BV]

Rare and familiar colors. [MPL]

Observed | March 13

The rise of ‘cynical’ packaging? [JH]

A coffee lid pub crawl. [JH]

New Mexico’s chile pepper design claims the 2017 license plate crown. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]

Observed | March 12

What single image represents the entire human race? The story behind the image on the “human” entry on Wikipedia. [BV]

Rizzoli‘s book on the life and work of midcentury children‘s book creator Miroslav Sasek. [MPL]

Observed | March 09

Science as a visual pursuit. [JH]

Observed | March 08

The Danish Design Center recently surveyed 800 Danish companies and nearly 75 percent said that the use of design in their company has a positive impact on their bottom line. [JH]

Overlooked obituaries of famous women. [JH]

Observed | March 06

The best things found between the pages of old books. [BV]

Observed | March 05

When successful design is not beautiful. [JH]

In Singapore: Fortune, Time, and Wallpaper jointly host a conference on design and business. [JH]

In Sydney: crime storytelling expert Peter Doyle tells the story of a mysterious serial attacker in his new mini-documentary, Slasher Patrol. [JH]

Observed | March 02

Frank Lloyd Wright is not God: Moving into an American architectural masterpiece is not for the fainthearted. [BV]

October 18, 1973: Sotheby‘s auction. The moment “when the art world collapsed.” [BV]

Observed | February 28

Two years after “the Great Instagram Logo Freakout,” it turns out that everything is fine. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]

Observed | February 27

At Cornell‘s legendary Food and Brand Lab an Ivy League food scientist collected data first, then turned it into viral studies. [BV]

Lego’s imaginary gas station branding comes to life in Russia. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]

Observed | February 26

For centuries, lexicographers have attempted to capture the entire English language. Technology might soon turn this dream into reality – but will it spell the end for dictionaries? [BV]

Why nerdy white guys who love the blues are obsessed with a Wisconsin chair factory. [BV]

Observed | February 24

Design microsites. [JH]

RISD is looking for a creative director. [JH]

Jobs | March 20