BOHEMIA: It’s a Graphic World

By Shannon Brien

Graphic design surrounds us. From shopping bags to tube signage, these images inform and entertain us, beautifying the world we live in.

Michael Bierut is one of the leading names in graphic design, whose portfolio includes new signage and identity for the Morgan Library Museum, environmental graphics for the New York Times building and the redesign of The Atlantic. Throughout his long career he has worked with football teams, museums and  research scientists, gaining greater insight into the power and diversity of graphic design with each project.

28_MITML_Business_cardsThe MIT Media Lab logo, shown on a collection of business cards. © Pentagram

His book, How to…use graphic design to sell things, explain things, make things look better, make people laugh, make people cry and (every once in a while) change the world, shares his work and illustrates how audiences are affected by it. He injects his own personal experiences when working on these projects, sharing prelimanery drawings, notes and insights into his creative process.

mb_notebooks002Detailed sketch of a poster for a Yale symposium on the architect Charles Moore. © Pentagram

Bierut highlights the nature of the design business, sharing his personal designs and the processes behind them as well as detailing his relationships with clients and design roadblocks that any artist might face. His tone reveals his passion for graphic design and helps consolidate what he claims in the title, that graphic design can change the world.

NY_MB_Nuts_19The new packaging for the company Nuts.com © Pentagram

“It seemed to me that the whole city of New York was a permanent (Massimo) Vignelli exhibition [around 1981]. To get to the office, I rode in a subway with Vignelli-designed signage, shared the sidewalk with people holding Vignelli-designed Bloomingdale’s shopping bags, walked by St. Peter’s Church with its Vignelli-designed pipe organ visible through the window. At Vignelli Associates, at 23 years old, I felt I was at the center of the universe.” The protégé of graphic design genius Massimo Vignelli, he has also saturated New York with his designs, particularly with the packaging for Saks Fifth Avenue.

bags_silhouetted_NY_SAKSaks Fifth Avenue different bags. © Courtesy of Saks Fifth Avenue

During his extensive career, he has received over 100 awards and his works are part of permanent collections in various museums throughout the U.S as well as publishing many books on the topic, including How to… which is available here from Thames and Hudson. There is no denying the impact he has had, and will continue to have on graphic design, an art form which permeates and dominates the entire globe.

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