On any given day, the average person is quite likely to encounter the quiet brilliance of Michael Bierut. The logos or identity systems he has created for countless businesses, organizations, and institutions—among them Saks Fifth Avenue, Verizon, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign—exert an untold influence over the visual landscape.
Bierut worked with legendary designers Massimo and Lella Vignelli for ten years before leaving to join Pentagram as a partner in 1990. He has accumulated a client list that’s as impressive as his awards and earned a reputation as a designer-philosopher who generously shares his insight and wit in lectures and writings. His ruminations appear regularly in DesignObserver, an online magazine he cofounded. His book 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 encapsulates his belief that design is about the ability to make connections between things. “Not everything is design,” he has said, “but design is about everything.”
In preparation for his residency, Bierut has been learning Italian, though he confesses the language is not sticking. “I only know one little phrase,” he shared at an AIGA conference last November. “Ancora imparo, I’m still learning.” It’s a note that Michelangelo scribbled on a drawing he made at the age of 87—a lesson Michael carries, and shares.