Michael Bierut is one of the leading American graphic designers, design critic and educator. At Vignelli Associates, he was the vice president of graphic design. He also served as a senior critic at the Yale School of Art. He had close association with the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and Pentagram, as well.
Born in 1957, Michael Bierut grew up in Cleveland Ohio. Graphic design was not as popular in those times that it would be promoted to young adults. His love of fine art, drawing and music helped him find only two books in the library on the subject. He finally decided to study graphic designing at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning. He interned for another AIGA medalist, Chris Pullman, at a Boston public television station, WGBH. Upon graduation in 1980, he on to work for Vignelli Associates and in the span of a decade he became its Vice President. He had serious industry clout there but it also helped him form the key principle of his career. According to him, things that get designers really interested are in actuality not that significant.
Bierut is visionary who understands the company’s readership and audience. Working at Vignelli Associates he acknowledged the fact that the annual reports and corporate brochures created by designers are not read keenly. So he altered his strategy as he strove to create the kind of content that people feel interested in reading. When Beirut began to work for the company, he had to do most of the work manually because the technological advancement had not yet arrived. He credits the first four years working for Vignelli Associates for empowering him to achieve what he has today. He used to design invitations for his friends’ parties, freebies for non-profits, unique birthday cards and packaging for mix tapes. Massimo Vignelli assigned him more and more work as he observed he grew efficient with time.
In 1990, Bierut became a partner with the New York office of Pentagram. There he served clients such as Alliance for Downtown New York, Motorola, Alfred A. Knopf, the Walt Disney Company, the Toy Industry Association, Yale School of Architecture, Princeton University and New York University. Exhibition on the psychedelic era for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was one of the projects that Bierut managed. Moreover, he offered his services as a design consultant to United Airlines. Dwell sought his assistances on design book recommendations, while Fast Company required his valuable opinion on corporate branding. Morgan Library Museum recently sought his expertise on the development of a new signage and identity as it expanded. The New York Times building and Phillip Johnson’s Glass House hired him to create the environmental graphics for them. Besides redesigning The Atlantic magazine, he developed marketing strategies for William Jefferson Clinton Foundation.
Michael Beirut’s innumerable and invaluable contributions to graphic designing had him earned over hundreds of accolades. Also his work is in permanent collections in several museums across the globe including cities like New York, Montreal, Germany, and Washington D.C. During late 1980s, he was appointed president emeritus of the New York Chapter of the AIGA and currently holds the presidency of AIGA national. Additionally, Princeton Architectural Press has published his book Seventy-Nine Short Essays on Design, in 2007. Being a senior critic at Yale he also co-edits the anthology series Looking Closer: Critical Writings on Graphic Design.