Book Review - Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design - Michael Bierut
When I was at university everyone was excited about Pentagram - it was THE design studio to get a placement at or work at. I wanted to get to know more about their work and the partners and I found this book by Michael Bierut and basically one summer holiday I devoured it. I read every essay. This book is very different to the last two that I reviewed but it is the similar in the sense that it is made up of a collection of small essays which don't take too long to read and which makes it really easy to dip in an out of. So over the last few years that is what I have done.
Some people have criticised it saying it just seems like a collection of his blog posts - and basically it is - if you want to try before you buy you can check out some of the essays on www.designobserver.com. Now don't get my wrong I love blogs and reading blogs but the experience of reading on a screen and reading an actual book are still pretty different...especially when it is a beautifully laid out book.
I really like the way that Bierut writes and I also like the topics that he tackles. They are well thought through and really highlight that as designers we need to be interested in the world around us and learn about all sorts of things to make us good at our jobs. Although most of the essays focus on design and from the perspective of a designer, Bierut's interest in the world around him beyond design really comes through. His first essay for example is called 'Warning: May Contain Non-Design Content'. I like that and I think I find it challenging as a designer. I think sometimes I can get a little bit stuck in a 'design bubble' and forget to be interested in and explore the rest of the world, because it is all linked and pretty much everything has a design element.
Each essay is laid out in a different typeface which I think adds a fun twist to the book. You can see my copy above is a bit battered and has little tags on the essays that I particularly like. There are essays on famous designers such as Paul Rand, David Carson and Massimo Vignelli but he also tackles so many other topics such as politics and whether graphic designers lean left and how to be a famous graphic designer. Obviously it is very centred around the American world of graphic design but I don't really mind that as that is the context that Bierut is working in and it gives a glimpse into his life and career and he is a designer to be admired with a long and impressive career.
I would really recommend this book to professional graphic designers but I think if you are someone who is interested in design Beirut has a way of interpreting the world that shows the breadth and importance of design in a way that would interest anybody.