June 13, 2023
3 min read

Into the mind of designer & educator, Michael Bierut

Whether you're part of the design world or not, you've seen Michael Bierut's designs. As a partner at the revered design studio, Pentagram, he's worked on everything from the logo for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign to the redesign of The Atlantic magazine.

We've long respected Bierut for his voice and leadership in design, so we were curious to know what's been on his mind of late.

What’s the best compliment you received recently?

This very morning a stranger told me I looked like James Bond. I was wearing a dark suit and dark glasses, but otherwise I assure you that I look like no incarnation of James Bond that I know of.

What’s the last thing you read?

"The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War" by Louis Menand

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What book do you want to read next?

"Trust" by Hernan Diaz

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A quote that’s meaningful to you?

“The sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our spontaneous cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully, to look round cheerfully, and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there. If such conduct does not make you soon feel cheerful, nothing else on that occasion can.” - William James

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(Yes, I know this is a recipe for self-delusion.)

Best gift you’ve ever given?

I am a notoriously horrible gift-giver – ask my wife who has been variously disappointed and puzzled at my surprises over the past 43 years. She, on the other hand, is a fantastic gift-giver.

Where do you want to travel to next?

Cape May Point, New Jersey

What would you buy, if money weren’t an issue?

Accent Grave by Franz Kline, 1955

What hobby would you take up, if you had the time?

Bird watching

What’s an image or piece of art you can’t get out of your head?

I recently had to look up James Jamerson’s isolated bass guitar track for the 1967 Four Tops song, “Bernadette.” I first heard it years ago in a documentary about the Funk Brothers, the legendary Motown backup band, and I never forgot it. Jamerson is a genius and his work is behind (or beneath) every Motown song you’ve ever loved. It was as good as I remembered.

Any product of any kind you’re appreciating lately?

A year or so ago, I put my vanity aside, succumbed to my audiologist’s advice, and finally got hearing aids. They have changed my life. I had heard that a lot of the problems associated with aging (like disengagement, confusion and even forgetfulness) can be related to hearing loss. Now I believe it.

I asked my doctor for the closest thing to “what if Apple designed hearing aids” and she prescribed a brand called Oticon. They are discreet, lightweight, elegant and even have a surprise Bluetooth function so I can listen to podcasts undetected.

The funniest thing you’ve seen lately?

Coming out of “Succession,” I found a number of discussion groups where people were recommending shows that might fill the void. A number of people suggested a late-20-teens spy dramedy I had never, ever, even remotely heard of called “Patriot." I started watching and it is now my new favorite show. There are harrowing scenes of violence in beautiful world capitals, but the best part is watching the protagonist desperately cling to his cover identity as a midwestern businessman. I won’t go into details, but trust me, you will never think of industrial piping the same way again.

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