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Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design Hardcover – May 31, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Bierut is a writer who balances equal dose of optimism and skepticism to draw readers in and let them find their own way out. Each of the 79 essays is printed in a different typeface, and though a reader could probably do without Bulmer and Danubia, reading the changing text is part of the enjoyable adventure as Bierut looks at ordinary circumstances of design that have the ability to create extraordinary consequences in life. -- Communication Arts, August 2007

Highbrow and brilliant. -- New York Magazine, The Approval Matrix, August 2007

I was rewarded every time I dipped into this elegant, thoughtful compilation of stand-alone essays. -- Adage, November 2007

In this lively collection of previously published essays, Michael Bierut provides a compulsively readable guide to all things design. While fonts and logos receive their expected due, so too do Eero Saarinen's TWA terminal, treadmill tripping, and enormous wild geese. -- Dwell, January 2008

Topics range from design-related discourses on how to become famous or deal with a client to art, economics, history, war, politics and books. Even the redesigned Food Pyramid gets a section. Regardless of the topic, Bierut's sometimes-bemused voice and peircing intelligence illuminate the central role of design in our lives. -- STEP Inside Design, August 2007

"A very well written, witty book that should find its way into any truly nerdy Dwell reader's bathroom." --Dwell Magazine

About the Author

Michael Bierut is a partner at Pentagram and a 2006 AIGA medalist. He is a design critic for the online journal Design Observer, the Public Radio International program Studio 360, and the Yale School of Art.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press; 1st edition (May 31, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568986998
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568986999
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #820,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Henry Beer Communication Arts on November 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Michael Beirut has collected many of the essays he has written for the Design Observer, a blog he founded with other designers with a focus on graphic design practice and process.

Michael's seasoned perspective on the education of young designers, the events and experiences he turned to his advantage as a young person are enlightening and entertaining. He all but pleads to get young designers to recognize that design revolves around life, rather than the other way around. This book may present a challenge for someone not familiar with the personalities, and particularities of graphic design's inner workings. It is a fascinating and well written perspective on the professional's life, which is notable in that Michael is highly successful designer and a partner in the estimable multinatiional design firm, Pentagram.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What an annoying, disappointing waste of money "Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design" by Michael Bierut turned out to be! Nearly all of the 79 essays are smug, self-congratulatory pap dressed up as profound insight.

In their original context the essays would have been targeted at a specific readership and perhaps those readers liked this stuff and were used to it. But when published as a collection, specialist "occupational" essays like these reach far broader audiences who may find the material and style not to their taste - if not downright silly.

Individually, the essays might be worth casually browsing if you have run out of soup can labels; but as a collection read through as a normal book they reveal their shallow superficiality only too graphically. Frankly, after reading the first five essays I already felt cheated.

Take the essay "How to Become Famous", for example. It is basically semi-humorous, insider nonsense that includes exhortations like "when in doubt, make it big. If still in doubt, make it red." OK, that's worth a knowing chuckle the first time you read it, but the humour palls after reading endless injunctions in the same vein.

Here's another example of the pretentious claptrap sprinkled throughout the book: "our traditional conception of graphic design history reduces what is actually a complex and ever-shifting melange of incident and influence to a falsely organised canon of images."

Some of the essays (eg essays 6, 7 and 11) are abbreviated book reviews; but book reviews used as a platform for the essayist to expound his own ideas. In fact, many of the essays seem to be more about their author, the pronoun "I" appears early and frequently, rather than about the subjects themselves.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Michee K. on April 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The first time I saw Michael Bierut was two years ago at Moore College of Art and Design as part of a lecture series hosted by AIGA. I believe Bierut's lecture that night was titled "Ten Mistakes I've Made as a Designer." Not only did he give excellent insight on the things he's done, but he was super funny. This first impression of a live Michael Bierut pressed me to go ahead and order this book. I have to say, although the book isn't as funny as I thought it'd be (though this impression may change once I read the rest of the essays), it's definitely brought up times where I've nodded my head or said "Mmhmm" out loud in agreement. So far the essay on the "process schools" has resonated with me the most because as a student at a prestigious arts institution, I can definitely say: "I am studying at a process school." He goes on to explain what a process school is (a design school based primarily, and sometimes solely, on Swiss design) and the entire time I was reading, the graphic design department at my school stayed in my head.

This book is worth a read, and the writing makes sense even if you've not seen Michael Bierut at one of his lectures (there's YouTube for that). It's just easier to read if you imagine him saying the words aloud. :)
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A. Fuhrman on May 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover
As an avid reader of Design Observer, I rushed out to buy a copy of Michael Beirut's essay collection "79 Short Essays on Design." Almost four years later, I think I have finally finished reading this collection. Beirut's collection, though not the most conducive to reading all in one sitting, is continually surprising, and entertaining.
What surprises me most is the depth to which the book reaches on a wide variety of topics on design--from a discussion of t-shirt designs, to falling off a treadmill, it seems that Beirut can find the design in almost anything. That quality in his essays challenges the reader to do the same. Each time I re-read the essays in the book, I come out with a different thing to mull over, a new idea to try in a design solution, or just a funny line to make me smile for a day or two. Few other books I have read rival the long-term rewards of this book.
Perhaps the most fitting way to describe Beirut's mastery of finding the design in the everyday is that same quality he discusses in the essay "What we talk about when we talk about architecture." He begins describing the radio program "Car Talk" where conversations about car troubles can range from philosophy to relationship advice--almost anything, excluding, of course, car trouble. Beirut challenges that design lacks that same kind of community where talking about design can lead to, and connect with, other things.
In this collection of essays, I think he may have found an answer to that.
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