In a video interview with The Atlantic, Michael Bierut talks about typography, including Stanley Kubrick’s favorite font, the cover design of The Catcher in the Rye, and the link between phototypesetting and Free Love.
The interview accompanies an article about typography by Virginia Postrel in this month’s issue.
Michael Bierut’s Seventy-Nine Short Essays on Design has been recommended by Very Short List. “If your main exposure to the world of graphic design consists of swapping between Arial and Helvetica in Microsoft Word, then you need to read Michael Bierut,” says VSL.
Michael Bierut’s Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design charts on the Approval Matrix in this week’s issue of New York magazine, sharing space—somewhere between “Highbrow” and “Brilliant”—with David Lynch’s Inland Empire, a Malcolm Lowry compendium and videos of artists’ Moleskine sketchbooks.
Friends, family, clients and colleagues gathered in New York’s Madison Square Park Tuesday night to celebrate the release of Michael Bierut’s new book, Seventy-Nine Short Essays on Design published by Princeton Architectural Press. Appropriate for the sultry summer evening, guests were served Shackburgers, hot dogs and frozen custard from the park’s popular Shake Shack. Congratulations were heard all around for both Bierut’s accomplishment and Abbott Miller’s design in which each of the book’s 79 essays is formatted in a different font.
The 272-page hardcover book brings together twenty years of essays on subjects that range from New York’s faulty “Push for Walk Signal” buttons, to the disappearance of the AT&T logo, to the implications of Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire for interaction designers. Many of the pieces first appeared on Design Observer, the popular blog that Michael edits with Jessica Helfand and Bill Drenttel, including favorites like “Designing Under the Influence,” “I Hate ITC Garamond,” and “The Road to Hell: Now Paved with Innovation!” Seventy-nine Essays also includes pieces that appeared elsewhere and pieces that have never been published in other collections, like “Waiting for Permission,” “How to Become Famous” and “Ten Footnotes on a Manifesto.”
Michael’s writing is marked by its accessibility, its wit and its almost maniacal eclecticism. For instance, a survey of the entries under the letter “D” in the book’s index turns up, among others, Jacques Derrida, Stuart Davis, design by committee, Cameron Diaz, Walt Disney, Dr. Strangelove, Mort Drucker, Marguerite Duras and W.A. Dwiggins. If you seek a design book that navigates with aplomb between French semioticians, typographers, movie stars and Mad magazine cartoonists, Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design is the one for you.
While the book has no pictures, Abbott Miller’s design provides its own form of visual interest. Each essay is set in a different typeface, and readers can attempt to make real or imaginary connections between essay subject and font selection. We can guess why the essay on AT&T is set in C.H. Griffith’s Bell Gothic (it was designed in 1938 for the Bell Telephone Directory) or why the essay about Stanley Kubrick is set in Paul Renner’s Futura (it was reportedly the director’s favorite typeface); the rationale behind other selections may be a bit more obscure, or even completely nonexistent.
Michael points out that the list cover price of $24.95 works out to less than 32 cents per essay. “Design books are luxuries, especially for students,” he says. “I hope that this one provides something for everyone, at a price that anyone can afford.”