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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Insiders Perspective
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...
Published on November 15, 2007 by Henry Beer Communication Arts

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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars smug, self-congratulatory pap dressed up as profound insight
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...
Published on November 2, 2010 by Robert Muirhead


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Insiders Perspective, November 15, 2007
This review is from: Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design (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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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars smug, self-congratulatory pap dressed up as profound insight, November 2, 2010
By 
Robert Muirhead "Bob" (Melbourne, Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design (Hardcover)
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. Personally, I find that sort of egotism distasteful, not to mention disrespectful to the putative subject of an essay.

Essays 9 and 10 are obituaries - of a sort. Essay 10 is particularly crass in that the author uses the occasion of another man's death to talk about himself - yet again.

Most of the essays are mercifully short, often only a page or two, so I was able to heave a sigh of relief after reaching the end of one of these forgettable pot-boilers, hoping that the next essay might be better. Such hopes were invariably dashed, and my heart sank ever lower as the interminable pages of the book ground on to the end. Eventually I was able to read one of these essays in about 45 seconds with no loss of comprehension.

Each of the essays is set in a different font, which is not obvious at all if you just flick through all the pages. That's rather novel and I suppose it has some mild curiosity value for the reader.

The design of the book itself is sparsely minimalist. I rather liked that - it's in keeping with the content of the essays.

General readers might glean a few interesting insights into the self-absorption of the author, but I doubt if professional designers would get anything insightful (or even useful) from the book at all. It goes without saying that design students should give this light-weight pot-boiler a miss and spend their time and money on more worthwhile publications.

I suppose I should try to end on a positive note. The Appendix lists all the essays, the fonts used and the original sources. That's helpful in case the reader wants to check out the references, and to note authors and publications to be avoided in future. Oh, and the paper has a nice, heavy feel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Michael Bierut--The Reason I'll Continue to Look At Design In a Humorous Light, April 19, 2011
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This review is from: Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design (Hardcover)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Michael Bierut, what more could you ask for??, May 6, 2010
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This review is from: Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design (Hardcover)
This is one of my absolute favorite design books. The essays are fantastic - informative, fun, relatable! It really is a great collection of the best designers out there. They have so much to offer and the essays are the perfect length - concise and informative - quick reads packed with a punch!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, essential read for the modern graphic designer., February 2, 2010
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This review is from: Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design (Hardcover)
This book provides great insight into design thinking. The hopping movement between stories creates a great motion in learning about typical situations in design. There is more than meets the eye here and I recommend the book to anyone looking for a great coffee table piece.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, January 17, 2010
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This review is from: Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design (Hardcover)
Love the humor. Theres a lot of content, I love how the subjects of essays vary. I must say that when I bought this book a year ago (senior year in high school) I will say I have learned a lot from this book and recommend it to everyone.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, May 9, 2010
This review is from: Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design (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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wow!, August 25, 2008
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This review is from: Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design (Hardcover)
Hello Amazon,
the content of this book is basically very similar to what you'll read in the blog, funny, intelligent and informative BUT this book is AMAZINGLY built, designed and crafted. I took my internship in a bookbindery and I'd rate the craftsmanship behind this book as A+, EXCELLENT JOB and a pleasure to read, if you don't own it, YOU TOTALLY SHOULD!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read, May 28, 2014
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This review is from: Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design (Hardcover)
Short, easily digested essays from one of the smartest designers working today. Great for a quick read during commute or on the can.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, April 19, 2013
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I bought this on a whim as a Kindle bargain. It turned out to be an interesting book. It was worth the purchase for his Arnold Newman story alone.
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Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design
Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design by Michael Bierut (Hardcover - May 31, 2007)
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