Michael Bierut (@MichaelBierut) is one of today’s most renowned and respected graphic designers. Since 1990, he has been a Partner at Pentagram, where he works with clients like MIT Media Lab, American Airlines, and the New York Jets. In addition to his work at Pentagram, he is a Senior Critic in Graphic Design at the Yale School of Art and co-founded the online publication Design Observer, where he writes about design and creative culture.
Together we discuss Michael’s feelings in becoming a business owner, how he divides work duties with his team, the clunky process of learning business skills as a young designer, and the exhaustive routines which power his morning. We also learn the 19-syllable-order Starbucks order he buys each working day, and how long it takes him to run 3 miles.
Read more about Michael via his lengthy biography on Pentagram’s website
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- Download The Busy Creator Podcast, Episode 30 (MP3, 53:14, 25.8 MB)
- Download The Busy Creator Podcast, Episode 30 (OGG, 53:14, 47.2 MB)
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Show Notes & Links
- Pentagram’s New York Office, and its library, where we recorded this episode
- Michael [still] thinks of himself as a “working graphic designer”
- Michael’s previous — and only — employers were Massimo & Lella Vignelli
- As a young designer, he “never spent a minute lying in bed wondering if a client was going to pay an invoice.”
- Michael writes his own proposals; there is no “behemoth” behind the scenes
“I thought I was ready to be a business owner, but I really didn't know much about it.”
- Pentagram Partners “really like to do the work.”
- Michael currently works with 6 designers, 2 project managers, and 2 interns.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
- Teaching business skills to designers isn’t “baked in” to Pentagram’s ethos, but it happens through close collaboration
- Without cultural context, working as a designer can be a “long road to carpal tunnel syndrome.”
- Knopf Doubleday, publisher
- Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
- New York Times
“The world we live in was created by people no smarter than us.”
“Designers are actors playing a part. We have to learn about X and show the world X.”
- Michael is a Lazy Designer
“The time I invest in proposals is always intense and personal.”
- Michael’s famous
sketchbooksnotebooks. Currently working with #104.
- Make It Bigger by Paula Scher on Amazon
- Oversee a single designer, bring on a second only if you need it
- Keep your pitches/responses to briefs short but purposeful. Don’t participate in theatrics.
- Ponder a problem during your morning run. Solve it during that time.
- Wake up early (5:15a–5:35a)
- Jog 3 miles every morning
- Use vacations as a time to focus on a particular project
- Build writing into your routine. Chunk it down and don’t give yourself a chance to escape.
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