By Michael Bierut
320 pages, hardcover, $50
Published by Harper Design
The full title of Michael Bierut’s book is 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. Whew. That’s a lot to take on. But some-how, Bierut succeeds. In one short chapter after another, with titles like “How to Raise a Billion Dollars,” “How to Have an Idea” and “How to Save the World with Graphic Design,” he digs into his own archives—pulling work from a career that spans decades—and in clear, cogent prose, he describes his solu-tions to provocative challenges.
Anyone who has strolled around New York City has been surrounded by Bierut’s design programs. Just by ambling through the streets, you’ll see his work—at Saks Fifth Avenue, at the Museum of Arts and Design, and even in the wayfinding systems that provide directional maps for the lost. Stop in at Bobby Flay’s restaurant, visit Governors Island, attend a show at the Brooklyn Academy of Music or take in a Jets game, and you’ll encounter a bit of Bierut.
The work is eclectic, the styles are far ranging and the career is prolific. A few through-lines span the 30-plus years, including a love of clean, legible type solutions, an affinity for black-and-white treatments, and a belief in the power of wit to communicate an idea.
Those ideas are displayed in hundreds of photo-graphs that capture Bierut’s thinking, and they are explained in writing that is generous, funny and insightful. He writes, “If you have a great idea, but can’t make it work, it isn’t a great idea.” Fortunately, this 300-page monograph is full of great ideas. Do they all work? You be the judge. —Sam McMillan