“Now you see it. And Other Essays on Design by Michael Beirut

Michael Beirut is a graphic designer, critic and design educator from the United States. Awarded the AIGA medal – American Institute of Graphic Arts. Partner of the design firm Pentagram. He has collaborated with Benetton, Motorola, Walt Disney Company and other world famous brands.

You can find many interesting facts about Michael’s biography and achievements on the Internet. For example, about how he worked on the logo for Hillary Clinton’s election campaign in 2016. But we recommend, first of all, to learn more about the author directly: by reading his book, which we will talk about today.

“Perhaps design is just a way of making everything new every time.”

The reading we bring to you this time is ideal for weekend reading. The structure consists of 54 essays with warm stories from Michael about life, childhood, work and the world around him in its graphic sense. Such storytelling behind typography and design.

For example, in an essay about a new house in Parma (to which the author moved with his family when he was 10 years old), he talks about both the memorable quirky layout of streets on the site of former farmland and the tradition of hanging some kind of decoration on the garage door.

He also talks about himself and refers to a book by John Edwards: “In the introduction to his book, Edwards describes home as “a place that helps determine how we perceive ourselves and choose our path in the world.” I became a designer, but at first glance, this house on Sarasota Drive does not seem to be able to teach you that. But somewhere behind his suburban façade he is the same as he was 40 years ago: full of hope and untouched by time, disappointment or death.” And he sums it up: “Perhaps design is just a way of making everything new every time.”

Dot in title

Do you often see advertisements with a dot in the title? So we don’t. Graphic design has its own rules, and usually in titles there are no “.”s. But sometimes this little girl still appears on the layout, poster or ad.

In the essay “Helmut Krone, Period,” Michael Beirut shares just such a story. Be sure to check out the illustration in it: a 1959 ad for Volkswagen from copywriter Julian Koenig and art director Helmut Krone, with a thumbnail side view of the car on a light background and a dot at the end of the title. It’s amazing.

And if you are interested in learning more about Beirut’s opinion on the points, then also watch the documentary “Helvetica” with his participation. At the same time, you will be able to form a deeper understanding of the author: he is a rather emotional and charismatic person.

Oreo cookies and patents

Michael Beirut’s book includes a snippet of a patent image of an Oreo cookie! The same one that is printed on every shortbread. The author expressed his thoughts about this brand in the essay “The First-Class Factor,” in which he discusses the role of design in creating an image. It is impossible not to quote.

“I remember, for example, my dismay at visiting a neighbor’s house, where the main products were not Oreos (“the quintessence of Oreos—a mysterious and unpredictable balance”) and Coca-Cola (“nothing compares to Coke. Not even water”), but Hydrox cookies and RC Cola. It doesn’t matter that Hydrox predates Oreo; no matter that I secretly thought they tasted better. For some reason, this family, which so selflessly distanced itself from the American mainstream, inspired deep anxiety. If I knew that these people were sacrificing live goats on their basement pool table every Friday night, I wouldn’t be too surprised,” Michael writes. Funny:)

Each author’s essay has a story, examples, and moral. We can say that Michael Beirut put a lot of effort into writing: the book definitely deserves attention. And those image captions: “reproduced with permission from so-and-so,” “courtesy of so-and-so,” “designer so-and-so,” “copywriter so-and-so” are a delight for anyone who asserts copyright.

Finally, here’s another quote from Michael: “I was once asked whether it is important for a graphic designer to be able to draw. I replied that it was better to know how to read.” Why this is so, you will find out from the book.

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