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79 Short Essays on Design

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating details ·  1,327 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design brings together the best of designer Michael Bierut's critical writingserious or humorous, flattering or biting, but always on the mark. Bierut is widely considered the finest observer on design writing today. Covering topics as diverse as Twyla Tharp and ITC Garamond, Bierut's intelligent and accessible texts pull design culture into cr ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published May 31st 2007 by Princeton Architectural Press
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Mar 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed most of these essays which have been compiled from Michael Bierut's blogs on I love that each is set in a different typeface. i found myself looking to the back of the book each essay to see if i was correctly identifying them. Each one is only a couple pages so if you arent very interested in one of them you can quickly move on to the next. I keep this book on my desk at work for quick amusement and enlightenment. Absolutely a great book for any d ...more
Jan 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Michael Bierut is one of the few famous graphic designers who is also a genuinely nice guy. And one of the best critics, I've ever had. I spent the whole time reading this book, smiling and nodding, laughing to myself and thinking, "Yes! Thank you for saying that!" I recommend it to everyone I know who is not a graphic designer so they'll know what all us designers are nodding and laughing about.

Plus, every essay is set in a different typeface.
Aug 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art-design
Don't let the title fool you. This book could just as easily be called 'Seventy-nine Short Essays on Life'. Michael Bierut is a designer & co-founder of the blog Design Observer, where the majority of these essays were culled. Like that blog, this book touches on just as many non-design aspects of life. That is until the reader realizes how much design we actually do come in contact with on a daily basis. The lead essay, 'Warning: May Contain Non-Design Content' sets you up for what is in st ...more
Nov 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: design
Not all articles were relevant to me but it was still a good and interesting read!
The majority of what's collected in this book are reviews, but they sometimes read like essays. Because of this, Bierut's writing refers to controversies and hot topics at the time and they occasionally show their flaws in the light of the passing years. Some are remembrances of influential designers, artists, photographers, and creative persons who have recently passed away and played some role in shaping Bierut's life. But the best work comes in the form of the more recognizable essays, that i ...more
Jun 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: design
Though most of the articles hover between snobby graphic designer insider banter and thoughts on kerning, grids, Massimo Vignelli's preferences for writing implements, gossip between different graphic design camps and movements, there are about five articles that save this book:
a) the essay on bullshit wherein Beirut admits openly that a lot of work that involve creativity and aesthetics involve a creative leap (all of which are counter to whatever rationale aka bullshit you'll have to come up
Salomé Esteves
Mar 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
To read this book while being a designer is to be faced with two realities: the first is that familiarity you have with some of the stories and, on the other hand, to be confronted with the million of other things you have left to learn. I love Michael Bierut's work as a designer, and, turns out, he can be a good writer too: simple, to the point and with a bit of humour that always makes a good impression when you talk about design.
For me, as a designer who is writing a master's project on desi
Viktoriya Tsoy
Oct 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art-design, favorites
This book was recommended to me by my typography teacher. What I really appreciated from him [teacher] was the way he connected design to life and life to design. Well I guess this recommendation is not surprising because this book does just that. Michael in a brilliant and eye opening way tells a story of life. It's the life most creatives are familiar with - judging your role in society, anxiously working on things that are to be unique and creative and battling stubborn clients. (This book ho ...more
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
Yes, short essays indeed. Short essays that don't really say much of anything. To me, his book is a waste of time. I was forcing myself to read it hoping it would get better, but couldn't really bring myself to finish it. The fact that it wasn't design heavy wasn't the issue, he warns you he's going to veer off into different topics, hoping to open your eyes to more than design, but that can't really be done in an average of 2 pages with type that constantly changes without the perspective const ...more
May 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art-design
Before: I've wanted to read this since it came out, but it's not available at our library and I kept putting off purchasing it. This week the e-book was marked down to just a few dollars so I finally have it in my hands! I hope the layout doesn't suffer from the e-book format, but the content should be great regardless.

After: The design didn't suffer at all. From what I could tell by looking up the paper version online, the two are very similar. There aren't any images in the book, and it was fu
Feb 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
A collection of very short (2-4 page) essays on design ~ mostly graphic design, but also the culture of design, designers, advertising, architecture, and life in general. Bierut, of Pentagram and Design Observer fame, astutely notes that design is about life, not just typography and style. I'll admit I skimmed a few of the essays, as some caught my eye more than others. The book itself is a visual pun, with each essay in a different font. Good observations. Could make a nice gift for the right d ...more
jonathan berger
Oct 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: designers. duh. also: everyone
Good clean fun. Beirut may be a little eager to fall in line with the establishment, but that's kind of refreshing in an industry glutted with self-congratulatory nonconformists and wannabe revolutionaries. He's a talented writer, and has a nice way of drawing substantial connections or narrative arcs in two- and three-page pieces. Also, the gimmick of the book--79 typefaces for 79 articles--works surprisingly well.
Ramon de Santiago
Sep 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
Most of the essays were worth putting up with some of the lesser ones. After all, this is a compilation of blog postings (mostly) so some of the chapters are very, very short and come off as "throw-away." The book is invaluable as a collection of type specimens; each of the 79 chapters is set in a different typeface, so you can see how each face performs and behaves within the layout design of the book. Pretty cool.
Jan 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Michael Bierut's collection of essays provided an interesting peek into the mind of one of the most renowned graphic designers, but I often found the writing pedantic and slightly mediocre. It did, however, affirm my hope that design involves a lively intellectual and historically-based discourse. For the breadth of subjects broached, it was still a worthwhile read!
Suzie Hunt
The essays were interesting (if ad-hoc -- there was no sense of organisation or theme, instead it just felt like reading a blog with a selection of random but interesting posts) but the kindle version had no images and when reading an essay about a particular design or designer or building... you really do want to see it!

Mar 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, read-2013
Very, very short pieces written for a graphic design audience. Wide ranging (Wilson Pickett?) & interesting, but too short. most essays left me wanting either more info or more than a surface treatment.
Aug 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
Collection of 2-4 page essays about design with a focus on graphic design. Took me about a year to read this, picking it up when I needed something to tire my eyes at the end of the day and didn't have a new magazine next to the bed. Some nights it was harder to put down than others.
Matt Stolze
Apr 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
so far, so good. Definitely not like design books i had to read in college, which is a good thing.
Kosh Koshover
Mar 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
mostly interesting book, enjoyed the articles pertaining to design, didn't care for the few side motifs.
Nov 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
"Graphic design is the fiction that anticipates the fact." (168)

"But we travel through time every day of our lives. It's simply at a pace too slow to notice." (203)
Nov 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
This was great!
Widgets &
Sep 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Nice collection of essays by the witty and thoughtful Michael Beirut. Great insights into lots of topics, but also a good deal about design.
Feb 01, 2013 rated it liked it
Enjoyable collection of essays on design, ranging from typography to album covers, buildings and beyond.
Debby  Debryana
Jun 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
It's not only about design; it's also about life.
Mar 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A fairly humorous look at the design profession and its clichés.
Jul 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic look into the design process from one of the industry's most respected current leaders. I re-read this every so often to reaffirm my career choice.
Craig Thompson
Jun 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very good book for learning some of the hard to grasp culture and decision making that some of the best designers use.
Darren Hoyt
May 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: design
Fun, insightful essay collection about designers, design trends, and the role of design in our everyday lives.
Emily Weigel
Nov 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Great insight into the thoughts of designers who have made major contributions.
Nov 29, 2011 rated it liked it
Pretty good!
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Michael Bierut studied graphic design at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning, graduating summa cum laude in 1980. Prior to joining Pentagram in 1990 as a partner in the firm’s New York office, he worked for ten years at Vignelli Associates, ultimately as vice president of graphic design.

Bierut’s clients at Pentagram have included the Alliance for Downto
More about Michael Bierut...

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“designers actually can change the world for the better by making the complicated simple and finding beauty in truth.” 4 likes
“the great thing about graphic design is that it is almost always about something else.” 3 likes
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