Michael Bierut – Graphic Designer

Michael Bierut is well known as a graphic designer, design critic and an educator. He was born in Cleveland Ohio in 1957 and studied graphic design at the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning. He became the vice-president of graphic design at Vignelli Associates and since 1990 became a partner in the New York office of the famous Pentagram designers. One colleague commented of him there:

micheal bierut

‘Bierut is responsible for leading a team of graphic designers who create identity design,  environmental graphic design and editorial design solutions’

Pentagram is a very well known American graphic design studio with clients such as:  Benetton (who recently were denounced for having put up posters of politicians and the Pope kissing in their shop windows showing that controversy continues to stalk the realms of graphic designers), Walt Disney Co, Motorola, and the Museum of Sex.

Michael Bierut Awards and recognition

micheal bierut designerMichael Bierut has received numerous design awards and accolades and his work is represented in numerous collections including: The Museum of Modern Art, Cooper Hewitt (The National Design Museum in New York), the Library of Congress (Washington DC), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art besides foreign collections in Canada, Germany and Switzerland.Between 1998-200, he became the National President of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, and the Yale School of Art’s Senior Critic.

Michael Bierut received the AIGA medal in recognition of his distinguished achievements and contributions to the field of graphic design and in 2008 the Design Mind Award in National Design Awards which are presented by Cooper-Hewitt, the National design Museum and the Smithsonian Museum.

Writings, film and radio

bierut saksMichael Bierut has also been involved with the independent film ‘Helvetica’ based on the font of the same name. It is a film about typography, with the larger conversation involving how type affects our lives. The film has been seen in over 200 places such as museums, festivals, conferences and cinemas.

Bierut is also an accomplished author being involved in several works. He was a co-editor of an anthology series called ‘Looking Closer: Critical Writings on Graphic Design published by Allworth Press. He is also a co-founder of the online journal called Design Observer. In 1998 he co-edited and designed the monologues ‘Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist. He has also produced commentaries about Graphic Design in everyday life in keeping with the modernist slant he puts on his work. In 2007 he also wrote a book ‘Seventy nine Short Essays on Design’ published by Princeton Architectural Press.

He can be heard regularly on the national radio station Studio 360 which is a Public Radio International Programme.

The distinctiveness of Bierut’s work is demonstrated by his use of conceptual twists that create messages we have to think about showing his deep intellectual understanding of the subject combined with his natural humour.

Examples include his design for the exhibition of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. The key phrase was ‘I want to take you higher’ illustrating the different ways in which Rock and Roll could take its followers through music and/or the use of psychedelic drugs. A particularly interesting piece of his was a poster that was called ‘The Light Years’ (1960) for the Architectural League. The poster was placed in a portrait position and there was a psychiatrist’s couch which in the portrait position looked like a landscape but when placed in the horizontal position was the couch. Above are the words Architecture and Psychoanalysis. Above the word Architecture you see a few lines in a timeline formation and above the psychoanalysis word you see many lines also in timeline formation.  This demonstrates Bierut’s flair for humour and also the need to examine his work closely to understand the joke.

More recently, Bierut has been involved in serving as a design consultant with United Airlines, development of environmental graphics for the New York Times Building and development of brand strategy and packaging for the luxury retailer Saks Fifth Avenue.

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