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Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design Paperback – February 29, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


"Bierut is the most perceptive and wittiest writer about design working today." -- Aaron Betsky, Architect magazine

About the Author

Michael Bierut was born in Cleveland, Ohio and studied graphic design at the University of Cincinnatiris College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning. Prior to joining Pentagram as a partner in 1990, he was vice president of graphic design at Vignelli Associates in the U.S.A.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press; Reprint edition (February 29, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616890614
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616890612
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #544,237 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.
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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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