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How to use graphic design to sell things, explain things, make things look better, make people laugh, make people cry, and (every once in a while) change the world

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This is a monograph, manual and manifesto by one of the world's leading graphic designers. Protege of design legend Massimo Vignelli and partner in the New York office of the international design firm Pentagram, Michael Bierut has had one of the most varied careers of any living graphic designer. The 35 projects Bierut presents in this book illustrate the breadth of activi This is a monograph, manual and manifesto by one of the world's leading graphic designers. Protege of design legend Massimo Vignelli and partner in the New York office of the international design firm Pentagram, Michael Bierut has had one of the most varied careers of any living graphic designer. The 35 projects Bierut presents in this book illustrate the breadth of activity that graphic design encompasses today, his goal being to demonstrate not a single ideology, but the enthusiastically eclectic approach that has been a hallmark of his career. Each project is told in Bieruts own entertaining voice and shown through historic images, preliminary drawings (including full-size reproductions of the notebooks he has maintained for over 30 years), working models and rejected alternatives, as well as the finished work. Along the way, he provides insights into the creative process, his working life, his relationship with clients, and the struggles that any design professional faces in bringing innovative ideas to the world. Inspiring, informative and authoritative, How to...is set to be the bible of graphic design ideas.


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This is a monograph, manual and manifesto by one of the world's leading graphic designers. Protege of design legend Massimo Vignelli and partner in the New York office of the international design firm Pentagram, Michael Bierut has had one of the most varied careers of any living graphic designer. The 35 projects Bierut presents in this book illustrate the breadth of activi This is a monograph, manual and manifesto by one of the world's leading graphic designers. Protege of design legend Massimo Vignelli and partner in the New York office of the international design firm Pentagram, Michael Bierut has had one of the most varied careers of any living graphic designer. The 35 projects Bierut presents in this book illustrate the breadth of activity that graphic design encompasses today, his goal being to demonstrate not a single ideology, but the enthusiastically eclectic approach that has been a hallmark of his career. Each project is told in Bieruts own entertaining voice and shown through historic images, preliminary drawings (including full-size reproductions of the notebooks he has maintained for over 30 years), working models and rejected alternatives, as well as the finished work. Along the way, he provides insights into the creative process, his working life, his relationship with clients, and the struggles that any design professional faces in bringing innovative ideas to the world. Inspiring, informative and authoritative, How to...is set to be the bible of graphic design ideas.

30 review for How to use graphic design to sell things, explain things, make things look better, make people laugh, make people cry, and (every once in a while) change the world

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    It's probably not "cool" for someone in my position to admit this, but I say it all the time. I love reading about all kinds of things, and all kinds of people and events. But nothing bores me faster than reading about graphic design. It's like reading about music instead of listening to it. Ugh! Having said that, Michael Bierut is one of the very few designers whose writing and whose talks about his work does not bore me. He either avoids or directly refutes the designer tropes that (in my view It's probably not "cool" for someone in my position to admit this, but I say it all the time. I love reading about all kinds of things, and all kinds of people and events. But nothing bores me faster than reading about graphic design. It's like reading about music instead of listening to it. Ugh! Having said that, Michael Bierut is one of the very few designers whose writing and whose talks about his work does not bore me. He either avoids or directly refutes the designer tropes that (in my view) over emphasize the importance of design. Lets admit it. Lots of people in lots of professions are prone to exaggerating the importance of whatever profession they're in. For a long time I have found Bierut's matter-of-factness refreshing. And he has it here, too. For the most part, graphic design exists to sell things, explain things or make things look better. Occasionally it does more than that. Bierut's frank, straightforward, and humble explanations of the work he's built in his career was an enjoyable read for me.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Cami

    Not really "how to", more like "look what I did", but interesting nonetheless. Not really "how to", more like "look what I did", but interesting nonetheless.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Samanta

    As well as being one of the world’s leading designers, Michael Bierut writes brilliantly about graphic design. He teaches how to use graphic design to sell things, explain things, make things look better, make people laugh, make people cry and (every once in a while) change the world. Every chapter is wonderfully written and elegantly illustrated. Michael Bierut explains the whole design process, the struggles, the collaboration and the beauty of finding the final solution. My favourite chapters As well as being one of the world’s leading designers, Michael Bierut writes brilliantly about graphic design. He teaches how to use graphic design to sell things, explain things, make things look better, make people laugh, make people cry and (every once in a while) change the world. Every chapter is wonderfully written and elegantly illustrated. Michael Bierut explains the whole design process, the struggles, the collaboration and the beauty of finding the final solution. My favourite chapters are: 1. How to become a graphic designer in the middle of nowhere 2. How to save the world with graphic design. Favourite quote: "For design can't save the world. Only people can do that. But design can give us inspiration, the tools, and the means to try. We left determined to keep trying." Michael Bierut's book makes me smile every time I see it on my coffee table. Highly recommended!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Love reading the 'behind the scenes' of the design processes. Really intrigued me about the whole branding side of graphic design, as this is mostly if not entirely) what is talked about in the book. Quite different to what I do at the moment, but certainly something I'd be interested in leaning towards more. Also really interesting learning of how ideas come about. Months of work can be thrown in the trash because a much better idea is thought of. Everything becomes clear, and you realised how m Love reading the 'behind the scenes' of the design processes. Really intrigued me about the whole branding side of graphic design, as this is mostly if not entirely) what is talked about in the book. Quite different to what I do at the moment, but certainly something I'd be interested in leaning towards more. Also really interesting learning of how ideas come about. Months of work can be thrown in the trash because a much better idea is thought of. Everything becomes clear, and you realised how much you hated the original ideas.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Farhan

    A wonderful, amazing journey into the head of a genius graphic designer. I must confess that I know nothing about graphic design, nor I'm going to be any better in it after reading this book. But the essence of it is the ideas and the process of forming the ideas. I guess every creative genius can teach you something about creativity and how diverse ideas can be. That should suffice; the rest you'll understand after you've read the book. :) A wonderful, amazing journey into the head of a genius graphic designer. I must confess that I know nothing about graphic design, nor I'm going to be any better in it after reading this book. But the essence of it is the ideas and the process of forming the ideas. I guess every creative genius can teach you something about creativity and how diverse ideas can be. That should suffice; the rest you'll understand after you've read the book. :)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Pablo Porfirio

    Great book to stop and open to any page. Grab some wisdom or inspiration and get back to work.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    Recently, Michael Bierut came to my school in which he spoke to a full [class]room. For someone so important, they should have gave him an auditorium, but I digress. It was informative and exciting to hear a well-known graphic designer speak about the projects he/and his team worked on at Pentagram (the wet dreams / holy grail of graphic designers). Some of which he spoke about is also in the book. Every time I saw a project of a brand I knew, I honestly wasn't shocked anymore. I mean of course, Recently, Michael Bierut came to my school in which he spoke to a full [class]room. For someone so important, they should have gave him an auditorium, but I digress. It was informative and exciting to hear a well-known graphic designer speak about the projects he/and his team worked on at Pentagram (the wet dreams / holy grail of graphic designers). Some of which he spoke about is also in the book. Every time I saw a project of a brand I knew, I honestly wasn't shocked anymore. I mean of course, Pentagram had their sticky fingers in it. It is fascinating to see how Pentagram has shaped my city, NYC as well. I think this is the perfect design book. There was a great balance of imagery and text. A brief page explaining the project and captions accompanying the images. I can't stand design books in which they have more text than visuals.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    I really enjoyed browsing Bierut's collection of works in this book. It's interesting to get a little behind the scenes on some of his design choices, motivations, etc... At times I wanted more meat to the discussion on certain pieces. Other times I wanted more graphics of their applications. He is a talent in the field and a great advocate for the design process. Worth a read and worth a shelf spot for frequent inspiration. I really enjoyed browsing Bierut's collection of works in this book. It's interesting to get a little behind the scenes on some of his design choices, motivations, etc... At times I wanted more meat to the discussion on certain pieces. Other times I wanted more graphics of their applications. He is a talent in the field and a great advocate for the design process. Worth a read and worth a shelf spot for frequent inspiration.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sherry

    A collection of stories from the author’s design portfolio featuring lots of fun clients — museums, art galleries, cultural institutions, and the iconic NYC Department of Transportation. The most enjoyable parts are when the author shares snippets of his process in the form of sketches, logo iterations, and stories about stakeholder meetings.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Margo

    Less of a book than it is a catalog of Bierut's work. Nonetheless, it is extremely interesting book to have around with stories about how famous graphics that we all encounter on a regular basis came to be. Less of a book than it is a catalog of Bierut's work. Nonetheless, it is extremely interesting book to have around with stories about how famous graphics that we all encounter on a regular basis came to be.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tim Lapetino

    I've never met Michael Bierut, but through his writing and insightful commentary about design I've read over many years (and his own work), I sort of feel like I know him. This monograph is the perfect distillation of his style -- thoughtful, understated, not taking itself horribly seriously, and incredibly unpretentious in the most wonderful way. Even though Mr. Bierut is a longtime New Yorker, to me he exudes a certain kind of Midwestern outlook and thoughtful approach to design that I resonate I've never met Michael Bierut, but through his writing and insightful commentary about design I've read over many years (and his own work), I sort of feel like I know him. This monograph is the perfect distillation of his style -- thoughtful, understated, not taking itself horribly seriously, and incredibly unpretentious in the most wonderful way. Even though Mr. Bierut is a longtime New Yorker, to me he exudes a certain kind of Midwestern outlook and thoughtful approach to design that I resonate with, as a lifelong Illinoisan. (And yes, my coastal friends, that is indeed a compliment.) His work at Pentagram is excellent, with very few overreaches or clunkers. This book has very little grandstanding for a monograph, and has many small, important design lessons tucked away in it, as it should be. Bierut's work continues to inspire me as a designer, just as his writing nestles me as a communicator and author myself. If you understand anything about American graphic design, you must be utterly familiar with Michael Bierut and his work. This book is a great place to begin.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    Maybe it was the title, maybe it was not reading the description, but I definitely thought this book was going to be more "how to" and less "look what I did." This is really just a collection of the author's past design projects with about a half page of text accompanying each one to give a bit of context. Maybe the target audience is experienced designers, but as someone who's just "designer curious" I didn't find it particularly helpful, and only a handful of the projects were even very intere Maybe it was the title, maybe it was not reading the description, but I definitely thought this book was going to be more "how to" and less "look what I did." This is really just a collection of the author's past design projects with about a half page of text accompanying each one to give a bit of context. Maybe the target audience is experienced designers, but as someone who's just "designer curious" I didn't find it particularly helpful, and only a handful of the projects were even very interesting.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    I’m embarrassed to say that I got this book right when it came out—even got it signed by the author himself—and then promptly shelved it after a cursory look-through. I guess I’ve been at this design thing long enough that how much could Mr. Bierut teach me to do at this point I didn’t already know? Oh dear, was I wrong. (Sorry, Michael.) Pretty damn insightful and inspiring for this fairly grizzled veteran while surely indispensable for the young, up-and-coming designers out there.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alex Beige

    Not really a how-to (unless you learn entirely by example), nor is the kind of book your read in one sitting. Graphic design is more so something to be experienced than read about, but because this book is so beautiful with full-page illustrations, and takes a hugely biographical approach to exploring Michael's work, the book totally comes together. It's really a kind of read-one-chapter-before-bedtime kind of book. But still great! Not really a how-to (unless you learn entirely by example), nor is the kind of book your read in one sitting. Graphic design is more so something to be experienced than read about, but because this book is so beautiful with full-page illustrations, and takes a hugely biographical approach to exploring Michael's work, the book totally comes together. It's really a kind of read-one-chapter-before-bedtime kind of book. But still great!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Zoran Zelenika

    This book was a joy to read and gaze upon. Every little detail is crafted and purposeful, yet it never feels 'over designed' in a way that would choke the content from breathing. Bierut's work is varied, interesting and one can learn a lot from the way he takes, often a very simple (but well placed) idea, and expands it into a whole story that guides the design through different mediums. This book was a joy to read and gaze upon. Every little detail is crafted and purposeful, yet it never feels 'over designed' in a way that would choke the content from breathing. Bierut's work is varied, interesting and one can learn a lot from the way he takes, often a very simple (but well placed) idea, and expands it into a whole story that guides the design through different mediums.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Terry Sieting

    From the size of this book, most would think of this as another coffee table, picture book. However, I️ would challenge the viewer to judge this book by it’s cover. This book is full of knowledge of “How To” approach a bevy of topics surrounding problem solving and graphic design. An outstanding collection of some of the most influential graphic design of our time.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Karl

    Bits and baubles from the best of the best. Touching passion, refreshing humility, and genuine laughs from one of today's most important minds in graphic design. If you're wondering what's inside, it's a collection of short notes from Michael's favorite (or at least, most memorable) projects. If you're wondering if you should read it, well...like yeah, read it. Bits and baubles from the best of the best. Touching passion, refreshing humility, and genuine laughs from one of today's most important minds in graphic design. If you're wondering what's inside, it's a collection of short notes from Michael's favorite (or at least, most memorable) projects. If you're wondering if you should read it, well...like yeah, read it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Shirleenwong

    Great read in some of the content I think it was a great read especially the part about the New York train station. Some of the designs are classic, however I would want to know more details of the design process of each branding. It seems the book is just an overview of his portfolio.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Was nice to see a collection of Bierut's work over the years. I thought the sections where he talked a bit about his process were the most informative, but these pieces weren't especially common – I do wish it had been more of a "how to" book rather than focusing quite so much on the finished product. Was nice to see a collection of Bierut's work over the years. I thought the sections where he talked a bit about his process were the most informative, but these pieces weren't especially common – I do wish it had been more of a "how to" book rather than focusing quite so much on the finished product.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Naved

    Its a good book to have in your collection as a designer. Its collection of authors best work over the years. You might get inspiration or a spark for a new idea here and there. Won't recommend this for a proper HOW TO. Its a good book to have in your collection as a designer. Its collection of authors best work over the years. You might get inspiration or a spark for a new idea here and there. Won't recommend this for a proper HOW TO.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Drew Lawrence

    I love reading Michael’s insights and process notes about design work he and his colleagues at Pentagram have created. This is definitely a “keep at your desk and break glass in case of creative emergency” type of book. I imagine I’ll revisit it whenever I’m stuck!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jessie Brown

    This is an easy read with great advice from in the trenches. It will help you to understand the process of evaluating and acting on a creative brief. Also really solid advice on the graphic brainstorm and iterating through and evaluating ideas.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Synaps

    A versatile designer, Michael Bierut pulled together a lifetime of projects in a book itself skilfully designed. Each chapter unveils the thought process behind impressive outcomes, with just enough background and illustrations to pin down the problem and grasp its solution.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Judith Davison

    A friend gave me this book when I graduated from design school. Excellent read. Think I read it cover to cover in the first sitting (clearly didn’t have much work at that point!). Such an interesting insight into what a very successful graphic design career path might look like!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Samuel

    Not what I thought it would be. Title is a little misleading. Less of a “How to” book and more of a collection of short stories on some of the projects he partook in. I enjoyed reading them but was actually looking for an actual explainer.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Maria Mihaltan

    An amazing book about design. It's sooo inspiring to find out what's behind all those concepts, fonts, directions. I totally recommend. An amazing book about design. It's sooo inspiring to find out what's behind all those concepts, fonts, directions. I totally recommend.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marius Černuševičius

    So many thoughts about design and process with behind the scene information/visuals. One of my favorite books on design will always have place in my library to reread from time to time.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Stef Hamerlinck

    lovely book with great stories and anekdotes from a design legend

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anisha

    Thus book housed a great collection of designs. I liked the way Michael shared his thought process behind some of the designs. This was a visual treat.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Maya Man

    Great overview of his amazing and diverse collection of work!

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