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Comments (35) Posted 04.22.05 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Michael Bierut

Me and My Pyramid



MyPyramid, United States Department of Agriculture with Porter Novelli, 2005

This week, the Department of Agriculture unveiled a radical redesign of a beloved staple of American culinary life: the Food Pyramid. I feel sad.

The government's attempts to modify American diets have a fascinating history. I have fond memories of the old food pyramid, which was modified many times over the past years but maintained its basic configuration. Even as a child, I found it pretty easy to understand.

At the bottom sat the firm foundation: Grains. Six to eleven servings daily! That's a lot of Wonder Bread. Next tier up were two groups of things that were less fun to eat, Fruits and Vegetables. The idea of eating vegetables every day as a child seemed absolutely bizarre to me, particularly the three to five servings the pyramid suggested. That would mean eating vegetables for breakfast, for god's sake. I never heard of that. Above that, two more categories, Dairy and Meat. I liked milk, so that was fine. The interesting thing about the meat group was that it included meat, fish and beans. I often wondered what kinds of influence lowly beans had to exert to get elevated up there next to meat.

Finally, appropriately set at the very pinnacle of the pyramid, was the only thing that made eating any fun at all: Sweets. "Use sparingly," we were advised, subtly and appropriately casting us as "users."

While the principles of the old pyramid were graspable, it was sometimes hard to reconcile those principles with my actual diet. Where, for instance, would I fit in one of the foods I most enjoyed using, Oreos? The outside was cakey and crunchy, sort of like bread, so I guess they were partly Grain. The creamy white inside seemed like milk, so they must be Dairy as well. Obviously they were sweet, but not that much: I mean, I never actually put sugar on Oreos. Finally, I had never knowingly consumed oil or fat, both of which sounded disgusting. So I would count Oreos as two thirds Grain, one-third Diary, with a little bit Sweet thrown in. A serving was always hard to calculate, so I would simply estimate it was reasonably as possible: about half of one of the three rows in a full bag, or about eight Oreos.

The new pyramid has none of the bracing clarity of the old one. As a seasoned graphic designer, I find myself with the dismaying ability to look beyond any new design and see the interminable series of meetings that was its genesis. The brief the Department of Agriculture gave its consultant, Porter Novelli, must have been daunting.

First, it retained the beloved pyramid form, but eliminated its implied hierarchy to displace Sweets from its position as King of All Food. So now we have something that can only be described as a pie chart made from only one slice of (inverted) pie. The usefully vague "serving" unit has been replaced with specific measures like cups and ounces; this means that relative amounts can no longer be compared, rendering the barely visible differences between the various groups meaningless without a key. In the fancier version of the pyramid, the key is represented by an uneasy combination of drawings and photographs of food items that appear to be carelessly piled at the structure's base.

Finally, someone has dictated that exercise must be represented as part of the equation. So one side of the pyramid has been turned into a staircase, mounted enthusiastically by one of those odd, neutered sprites that you see everywhere in public sector graphics: neither young nor old, male nor female, raceless and faceless, representing everyone and no one. (I understand why they never have breasts or penises. But why do they never have hands or feet?)

I can clearly imagine this last transformative addition to the pyramid. There must have been one person in all those meetings who kept asking the same question: but how can we integrate exercise into the Pyramid? Finally: here, give me the pencil; what if you just did it like this? Can you just clean this up? Porter Novelli, who supposedly charged 2.5 million bucks for all their work on this project, which includes an interactive element to render twelve customized versions (hence, "MyPyramid") and a pretty zippy website, earned every penny.

Graphic designers are often asked to reduce complicated ideas to simple diagrams. Sometimes it's possible, but often it's not. In this case, what we're left with is something that is well-intentioned but dysfunctional. The new food pyramid is what a friend of mine would call a cat's breakfast, except it has vegetables in it. And everyone knows that not even a cat would eat vegetables for breakfast.

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One of the last food pyramids to be Designed
Not the one Michael is displaying was Designed by a Firm in D.C. whom has received a mumber of Kudos and Accolades, Greenfield Belser.
If memory serve me correctly.

Belser's Food Pyramid was Designed approximately ten years ago. It can be found on the side of old cereal boxes within two (2) three (3) years old.

Writing from the Public Library. I love you Guys and miss you.

Maybe I'll return in two weeks.

If my Probation Officer Drenttel allows it
THE ALPHA MALE
04.22.05 at 01:59

radical: yes
sad: yes

a rant plain and simple: at what point will we all get it through our heads (as citizens of a democratic republic) that this administration is absolutely hostile to "clear information" of any sort. corprations, bought this change in the food pyramid. Sugar Industry Lobbyists anyone? please let us notconect any dots to a larger consistent agenda, ie Rick Santorum sending up a bill this week that would keep the National Waether Service from releasing any weather info/forcasts/storm warnings to the public beacause it interferes with corporations making money of of their own forcasting. this is to name but one miniscule example...

when do we stop with this wide eyed "golly-gee" mentaility. i speak not as any sort of aligned partisan but as a petrified citizen. i want my American democracy back. i want my old clear food pyramid back...

a long time reader first time ranter
beta?
04.22.05 at 03:33

Beta,
Frightening indeed. A government that advocates the merging of state and business interests above the interests of its citizens resulting in "crony" capitalism cannot be trusted. All information coming from such a governing body should be looked at with the upmost skepticism.
Uniquephemera
04.22.05 at 03:49

The whole thing's just ugly. And what's scarier is the design brief that Michael brings up. Oh, the thought of how micromanaged this project could've been.
Jason
04.22.05 at 08:27

Without any knowledge of what transpired, I suspect this hilarious and sad train wreck of a diagram is probably more a product of compromise among the hens and the foxes than of either bureaucracy run amok or an administration bent on disinformation. More a painful review process than a bad brief by a dumb administrator or direct meddling from above (beyond letting the foxes participate in the process).

On the other hand, perhaps a religious fringe got involved: the drawing reminds me of the food offerings that appear early on Sunday mornings below the high tide line at the base of Sugar Loaf Mountain in Rio. Am looking forward to when the triangle washes out to sea.
Peter
04.22.05 at 11:14

It is indeed sad. The food prymid is rather disgusting
Mark
04.23.05 at 08:12

You have to wonder how hard could this be to present this information in a clear way.
Nicole
04.23.05 at 10:11

It's not horrible, but there is room for improvement. Considering they spent, what, over a million dollars to develop this project?

As a designer, it looks like a project I could have handled by myself, in a week or so. And I'm not that special.
Jamie Kayam
04.23.05 at 11:52

I'm shocked to discover that the pyramid contains a big wedge called "Milk". The milk lobby must have paid big bucks to get this 'Milk' wedge in there, since most of the planet is lactose intolerant, doesn't drink milk past infanthood, and most nutritionists consider milk to be a weak way to get calcium (the only stated rational in the pyramid for the category). Calcium is better garnered from kale, spinach, and a host of other vegetables than milk. The new pyramid designers don't even bother to use broader categorical "dairy" any more, making this new pyramid dovetail nicely with the industry's "Got Milk?" campaign.

Design issues aside, the pyramid's use of "milk" as a human daily need undermines any credibility in the whole endeavor. According to MyPyramid Planner, I need 3 cups of milk per day. Not only is this completely absurd, it's untrue and probably not the healthiest way for anyone to live. The pyramid does add a disclaimer to "use other sources of calcium" if one is lactose intolerant -- but that's a weak nod at best.

I suppose the same questions could be raised about the "Meats & Beans" category. What's essential from a nutritional point of view is "Proteins & Amino Acids", not meat per se. But at least they give a mention to Beans in the title, at least suggesting that there's not strictly one TYPE of food that you should eat.

No matter how lovely a piece of design (and I'm not saying it's lovely in this case), if it's not based on honest nutritional science, it's misguided. The 'design by committee' or the concessions to some graphically-inept cheerleader for "exercise sprite" pale in comparison to the concessions this pyramid makes to U.S. agricultural sector lobbyists. No wonder the American diet is such a mess.
Patrick Santana
04.23.05 at 01:18

This thing is absurd.

First, I didn't even see the difference between the size of the slices. Then I noticed the milk issue pointed out by Patrick. I guess cheese is now officially called milk? The worst part is the little yellow slice, which makes its way down to a bottle of vegetable oil. There is no explanation of what the yellow strip is at the bottom, and only with the help of the old pyramid can we understand that they are talking about sugar, sweets, etc. This diagram leads me to believe that approximately four percent of my diet should be vegetable oil.

Visual design aside, this diagram is terrible because it doesn't communicate, it makes a relatively simple concept more confusing, and it leaves out important information. Knowing Design Observer history, it is likely that someone from Porter Norvelli will make an appearance to talk about the diagram. With that in mind, I'm still not afraid to say it: what a pile of garbage. This is a key example of bad design doing people a disservice.

As a student, I am completely disconnected from the pressures of design by committee. I understand it must be a hard battle to fight, but we can't take part in confusing millions of people just to make a buck. If this is what design is used for, then I want out.
Ryan Nee
04.23.05 at 04:41

I can only begin to fathom the accumulation of words used to describe the earliest prospect of such an assignment:
It needs to be "cool", "hip", "should speak to todays youth" and of course "COLORFUL!"

This candy coated hodgepodge of information speaks for itself, it does nothing to advance or inform the viewer.
If ever asked "Wheres the beef?" I will now point to the floor in homage...Its somewhere in that mess of food.
Garrett Lubertine
04.24.05 at 03:03

Yeeeesh.

Not only is this thing hideous, imprecise and relatively unintelligible, the price tag is about as much as a new nutrition wing at Washington DC General Hospital.

I've actually been looking forward to this new food pyramid design, and this is my first time seeing it -- so forgive me for speaking perhaps a bit too candidly here...

1. Y'know, if the average citizen notices this new pyramid thing at all, they'll chuckle at its uselessness and ugliness... then disregard it forever.

Which is a shame. Because this incarnation is so impossible to understand (or at least handily memorize), whatever little influence it might've had will be squandered.

The old food pyramids, though disconcertingly hierarchical, at least made sense. So much so that, a few years ago, a conspiracy was going around at the peak of the now-waning Atkins craze, when some devotees were convinced the food pyramid was a malevolent government scheme to keep Americans fat (thanks to its carb-heavy foundation) -- and hence an apathetic and easily oppressed public.

A stupid theory, sure -- but at least it showed that people understood the pyramid. The only thing this one will do is make people go look at something else -- the candy aisle, for instance.

2. Doing a Google news search on it, I'm finding experts are confounded and complaining about it rather unanimously.

You can tell reporters are having a hard time finding somebody to say something positive about it -- supportive comments seem to be along the lines of: "Well... it's... ummm... very... uh... simple, so that's good."

Simple, eh? Like all the directions for understanding the new pyramid chart that come on page 2 of the downloadable poster PDF?

(That's right: this poster has a page 2! If only Cassandre or Capiello had exploited the heretofore unknown page 2 territory of the poster format in their day -- imagine the possibilities!)

3. Gosh, Michael, you really are much too nice, giving Porter Novelli so much benefit of the doubt. Your insight concerning the origins and creative process behind any given design grant you a rare wisdom about these things. (Luckily, I'm vastly less experienced and kinda dumb overall, so I have free reign to bitch.)

Yeah, sure -- the government meetings, compromises and public/lobbyist pressure we're undoubtedly hellish, a professional torture beyond anything most of us could imagine. And maybe the powers that be at Porter Novelli aren't particularly thrilled with the final outcome either.

But frankly, for a sum of money many design companies will never see in an entire year (or, in my case, an entire century), we now have a useless display that would receive a C- (at best) in any graphic design class.

(In fact, maybe this should now be a universal assignment for design educators: students have to come up with better versions of the food pyramid. In my opinion, few would make anything worse.)

I mean, seriously Michael, imagine if the U.S. government had asked Pentagram to re-make this thing. Y'all would've probably assembled a beautifully educational, broadly appealling and pithy masterpiece of informational design that would've directly reduced cardiac arrest in this country by 25 percent!

Sadly, I'd say if Porter Novelli and the USDA have accomplished anything, it's to confuse Americans into one more reason to be obese.

4. From the bigger Design Observer perspective:

At the risk of pontificating, I'd say this doesn't help the public opinion of the graphic design profession any.

For example: I can just imagine my old publisher boss -- a bottom-line finance kinda guy -- bellyaching: "Hell, I could've made this in PowerPoint in five minutes, and it would've made more sense. Taxpayers paid how much for this?"

Innovation wasn't necessary here -- just clarity. This sort of high-profile job, as insignificant as it may (or may not) be, is really a great platform for the instructive power of good graphic design to the public's benefit -- perhaps our discipline's highest calling.

But -- yet again -- the opportunity has been wasted, regardless of who's responsible. This redesign is just not up to snuff, and its public use -- however minimal even if it were any good -- will be severely limited as a result.

5. On the USDA site, it says that, in so many words, this chart was tested to death on consumers for maximum comprehension. If the testing sample was comprised of local D.C. bureaucrats -- well, then, I totally believe it!

6. My snippy (if admittedly completely wrong) partisan comment of the day:

Only when all three branches of government are dominated by the right wing would such a wholly lame -- yet no less expensive -- federally contracted design emerge.

Honestly, it looks like Karl Rove sketched this thing out on a napkin and handed it to a Porter Novelli lackey, barking: "Now go pretty it up, 'designer'!"

Apparently I'm not the only one who instinctively (if irrationally) felt Republican involvement added to the new pyramid's incoherence and overall lameness (which is unfair and incorrect, I know, but the concurrence is irresistible).

Chicago Trib columnist John Kass goes off on it pretty good from all angles, blaming the G.O.P. outright ("Republicans despise food as much as they despise sex") and deriding the strange little stick figure person running up its side.

And Kass makes hands down the best point about the new pyramid:

"The lack of food sense in Washington is revolting -- no Polish sausage or brats, no onion rings or Dr Pepper, which means the new pyramid is for savages."

Right on, dude.
Jon Resh
04.24.05 at 08:42

Bad design & politics: You can tell the bad guys almost before they show their true political colors, because they hate art, and don't appreciate good design. Long before 9-11, I knew the Taliban were bad news when they blew up the giant Buddha statues.

The new food pyramid is a case in point. And here's a link to more crappy design commissioned by the neo-cons: the Total Information Awareness logo (now disavowed). Crappy TIA logo Damn philistines.
Betsy K
04.24.05 at 11:03

Is that sad little hunchback of a man actually part of the pyramid? And what exactly is the pyramid? A raceway to the future of a healthier you? It looks as if one should be running through it into the beyond of heavenly health. But yet, the man is taking great strides (1.5 steps at a time it seems) to make it to the 'top.' But what's the top?...the least amount (narrowest piece the section) of each food group? How on earth does that little man on a stairmaster represent a "balance between food and physical activity"?
I'm laughing in spite of myself as I continue to indulge in playing out its absurdity. DoA can be good entertainment. Who knew?

Andrew
04.24.05 at 05:46

Congratulations to Michael and Armin on their terrific re-design of the food pyramid in today's New York Times! I knew it couldn't be that hard to visualize this information.
Nicole
04.24.05 at 08:54

Nicole, what we learned that it actually is a lot harder to visualize the information than we thought it would be. The biggest problem is that the proportions of the food groups are no longer expressed as "servings" but instead — perhaps more accurately — as cups, ounces, etc. That means expressing relative proportions of recommended food groups, which is the main thing the old pyramid did, is pretty much impossible to do in any kind of diagrammic way.

We fell back on simply stealing the now-familiar graphic language of Greenfield Belser's Nutrition Facts Label. Like Social Security, it is a rare example of a government initiative that actually works, and deserves to be copied more.
Michael Bierut
04.25.05 at 12:08

Well, I think the nutrition facts label is a tremendously appropriate format, and more important, the information is presented in an easily accessible manner. I'm planning to obtain my version of the MyPyramid from the government web site and plug it into the label format.

The complaints that the MyPyramid reads as McPyramid are so true. I'm not sure it was unintentional.
Nicole Ferentz
04.25.05 at 12:12

As one that is thoroughly entrenched in the design-by-commitee world of corporate design, I am willing to wager that the first incarnation of the new pyramid was actually rather legible and, at the very least, easy on the eyes.

I can see now, from what I have been through that over the period of time (and I imagine extensions of time) the concept had slowly degenerated into less than tasteful design. This has nothing to do with politics, creed, race or gender - it has everything to do with everyone on the commitee needing to feel as if they are 'being heard' as well as clients wanting to show off their Junior Graphic Designer patch.

This is why the androgenous sprite shows up: Todd in Marketing liked that from an ad he saw. The stairs were from Sara in HR - because she uses the stair-climber at the gym, and by the way, that is her drawing of the stairs - she will autograph it, if you want:) This goes on for each person in the commitee until the actual reason for the design has been crushed under the combined pressure of the commitee's personal pork-barreling.

Invaribly, the designer will be given up as the sacrificial lamb for the design's inablility to communicate it's primary purpose. "How can a designer give us such a horrible design?" the committee will ask, as their own (and other's) shoe-hammering had already faded from their memory ...

Alas, I do not know how to fix it. Some people and commitees care more about being heard than transmitting the idea. Perhaps the change must come from a better salesman who can better transmit the original concept or the establishment of better commitees who feel confident in their positions to get the point across rather than temper their own insecurities.

*As a side note to all you screaming 'Conspiracy!': I know that the only way you will understand what I am talking about regarding doing work for large groups is when you actually sit down yourselves and try to push through a project. Only then will you realize that no Men in Black with Bush (or McDonalds) pins on their lapels come in to sabotage your work. It is done over an excruciatingly long period of time (just like this post ;). Then, at some point in time, after they have thoroughly beaten you down, you will conceed and give them the crap they want.
Eric
04.25.05 at 02:00

another little problem with the new pyramid: there is a mysterious narrow yellow band next to the red one. But it is not labeled like all the others. Presumably it's fat.
Nicole Ferentz
04.25.05 at 02:40

(I'm sortof double-posting from Speak Up, though this entry has the benefit of more detail.)

All this talk of the labelling of food groups made me think of my friend Gillian, her husband, Steve, and her 3 kids (ages 4 and under). Gill and Steve are both scinetists: Gill at the College of Vet. Med, and Steve in Agricultural Science.

Mealtimes at their place are hilarious, as they regularly refer to the foods they are eating by scientific (or simplified scientific) terms. It's not uncommon for Steve to offer "simple sugars," "complex carbohydrates," or even "sulfer-containing amino acids" at the dinner table. The other day I brought some steaks over for dinner, and proudly announced "I've brought masses of protein!"

(A quick call to Gill to refresh my memory on this subject unleashed an amusing flood of detail on micro-nutrients, pulses (e.g. peas) a quick diatribe on "crystal gazing vegetarians" vs. "scientific vegetarians", something called "amego-3" ("vs. amego-9, which is bad"), the 21 essential amino acids in protein and the revelation (to me) that a peanut-butter sandwich (the peanut-butter and bread combined) contains a full complement of the essential amino acids.)

They also tell their kids what the foods are for, e.g. "It makes your bones grow." or "They give you energy." And the kids often ask, e.g. "Mummy, what does honey do?" (answer "Absolutely nothing, it just tastes good.") or "Daddy, do peas help you poop?" (Answer "Yes, they help you poop." which meets with approval.)

And the best part about it is it isn't done in a preachy, indoctrinating way, Gill and Steve are just having fun with it, joking around, and yet unwittingly or not, their kids seem to really be into eating things that "do" something for them.

Fancy that.
marian bantjes
04.25.05 at 03:02

Then, at some point in time, after they have thoroughly beaten you down, you will conceed and give them the crap they want.

As a designer, I hope that my role is never to make people confused and unhealthy. I'd rather get a job bagging groceries -- I'd probably have a more positive impact on the world.
Ryan Nee
04.25.05 at 03:54

Haven't had time to browse through all the comments, so forgive me if I'm repeating... another very valid criticism of this pyramid that I read recently is that of accessibility. Considerations of the validity of the nutrition information aside, those most in need of sound nutritional advice in this country are the lowest on the socioeconomic scale, those least likely to have access to the internet for their own personal 'My Pyramid profile.' And, the agencies who serve that segment of the public are the least likely to have color printers/copiers by which to distribute the information to their clients. The accessibility of the information, as well as the design itself, should have been considered. It does seem needlessly complicated.
flygrrl
04.25.05 at 04:22

As a 16-yr veteran of the design-by-committee war, I can whole-heartedly confirm the assertion made by Peter, and sympathize with the feelings expressed by Ryan Nee above. This pyramid was most certainly the product of micromanagement, and concessions to individuals, organizations and offices. And as Ryan and others have implied: if this is how our clients are going to use us, then we need to find better clients. I once read a manifesto by an edgy design firm: "we only work for cool people." Wow. That should be the entire design community's manifesto; those unable to understand how good design is achieved, or unwilling to give the process its due, are those that cannot afford design services, and therefore must yield to those who can.

How hard would it be for concerned parties (AIGA, NANP, etc.) to organize a redesign effort, and publicize something backed with science. I mean, I doubt it would replace this one, but at least the public would have something meaningful, and the nation would know that the design community doesn't approve of it. Or maybe something just as simple as a "we don't approve" campaign (stickers, t-shirts, etc.) ... ranting about it in these private forums won't get us anywhere but the state of depression.

Tired of being depressed,
Sara
Sara
04.25.05 at 08:03

"Even as a child, I found it pretty easy to understand"... How old are you (insert smirky-emoticon here)? I remember the "Basic-4" fondly from a faded poster pinned to a classroom cork-board in the late-70s... however, I blame my my higher-than-ideal body fat on my own fondness for less-healthy foods more than I blame poorly-conceived information graphics. If it's true that "design cannot rise above it's content", any designer has an uphill battle when trying to convince folks that brocolli is better than nutter-butter cookies (peanut shapes = meat group, right?).
hunter
04.25.05 at 11:48

It's striking that the "redesign" of the food pyramid took the initial logic of the shape (form and content, happily hand in hand: wider band=more servings) and, in the FDA's own words, turned it on its side. Now every colored stripe is a highway to oblivion. It's as if the notions of "food" and "pyramid" were forever wedded, regardless of the arrangement of details. In addition, there is only an occasional logic to the color choices (purple meat? Yeeesh!). At least the old pyramid enabled one to tell at a glance "Wow! I'm supposed to eat a LOT of cereal!"

The staircase tries to add a dimensional perspective to a very flat shape... badly. Do they honestly believe someone will see this graphic, jump to their feet, and run up 6 stairs?

I want my (tax dollar) money back.
Marty Blake
04.26.05 at 02:09

Clearly, the notions of "food" and "pyramid" are forever bound together. Maybe the next logical event is for cabinet & refrigerator manufacturers to acknowledge their responsibilities in the food system by producing products which mirror the pyramid organization.

What fun.

The loss of the spirit of "serving size" is unfortunate, but at least this particular trade off seems to be based in actual human insight.

The food assorment lovingly dumped at the base of the pyramid initially struck me as a production mistake. I wondered if it might spring to life as a South Park animation, considering the mixed media collage.

Viewing the actual animated pyramid, I realized how poorly the static version communicates much of the intended story.
Oils?
Did anyone else figure out what the thin yellow stripe indicated? Unaided?
Foods higher in fat at the bottom of the pyramid? Are consumers supposed to get this at a glance?

I'm empathic with the team who accepted this challenge, but like many others, let down by the result.






Jeff Tull
04.27.05 at 12:53

I am one of those tiring people who actually used the old food diagram in my daily planning of meals. It stems from the fact back in the old days when cooking was taught in school and called home-economics, I chose that as my major. The new diagram is not as clear visually and simplistic in it's presentation as the old diagram and will therefore be abandoned. The new diagram is less about the food we need for daily healthy living and more about visual inpact.
Diana Downey
04.27.05 at 01:00

But, who's about to steal the cookies from your cookie jar?

My favorite piece of Michael's commentary is the historical reflection. Ah, remember when the original OREOS could give you heart desease? Those were the days, man.

An empirical form of the food pyramid has had to have been around in some form for as long as there have been humans, long before graphic designers made it visual. The thing that is really curious to me is the absurdity that humans need a diagram for the food they eat to be healthy and successful. More specifically, that Americans need a diagram. And why does it take millions of dollars to make one? Is it a fad diet under the guise of the "government-approved" brand?

In the larger scheme, the old pyramid seemed to be entirely adequate and originated in common sense. Even without a diagram, Betsy managed to sew the first flag together. Edison still ate breakfast the day he mastered electrification. And Henry Ford ate lunch while they worked out the kinks in the production line. Martin Luther King Jr. hopefully ate something during the week he marched from Selma to Montgomery, and I doubt he concerned himself to look at a diagram that day. Christa McAuliffe no doubt had a final non-dehydrated meal before she boarded her fateful shuttle flight, even without an updated, visual food pyramid.

What this exercise really reveals for me is the "dysfunctional design" of our Governance and the lack of vision from the Bush administration. We should stop "investing" so much in diagrams for what we eat for lunch, and be more concerned about who's "eating our lunch" every day.

According to folks much smarter than I, our country is in a technological "silent crisis" right now. In terms of intellectual power and innovation, India and China are gobbling up and the main reason jobs are being off-shored is for brain power, not cheaper labor. Anyone working on global intellectual supply chain diagrams out there? As Americans, that's a diagram that would really serve us well right now.
G Duell
04.28.05 at 12:20

There are four other possible directions for the USDA diet diagram on Slate. These reconceptions contain a bit more information that the "logo" that was recently settled upon. With various degrees of complexity, the diagrams raise the question of how much information is necessary for people to make health choices about their diet. First, choices in its design must be made. Is the diagram specific to their age, gender and fitness? Does it include other information like digestion time (one does) or what constitutes a dairy product? Is the information accessible to a child, a non-English speaker, or even at a glance? The original design and the reconceptions, as a group, are a testament to how hard this distillation process is because there is so much information to include and so much to leave out.
Wesley Gott
04.29.05 at 02:38

And since when did meat and beans fall under the same category? I'm vegetarian, but even then meat is not replaced with beans. I'm not surprised this is a US diagram...
Leanne
05.05.05 at 12:30

It's clearly evident by the number of responses to this article the current redesign of the nutritional pyramid has generated a large amount of disgust and disappointment. Perhaps a 're-re-design' is called for to see what alternatives can be created from the communication's food fight that is MyPyramid.
Mark.S
05.06.05 at 12:56

What really makes me chuckle, is when I see all these 'seniors' eating breakfast at a local casino-buffet,and they invariably pick the most god-awful items for their first meal of the day ,such as sausages- eggs-bacon-with greasy gravy on white toast and coffee.They have no idea of how idiot-minded they believe this to be.... 'correct'.
I can just see them as 'toddlers' in school being shown the 1930s 'food pyramid' with these
'corprate' influenced selected items,as 'whats good for you.'
Today, this very same -new 'corprate' manipulated pyramid of the 2005 age,is still reeking of lies and blantant brainwashing bullshit.
The 'clogged arteries' biz wil continue to flourish because of our corrupt system and "jimmy Dean' dudes will go laughing all the way to the bank!
DAWK
05.08.05 at 03:17

If you haven't seen, the US Department of Agribusiness has it's own subtle Food Pyramid.
www.mypyramid.org

(Via Sivacracy + Stay Free! Daily)
Michael Surtees
05.12.05 at 08:51

Look more like a dogs dinner to me. What is it? does it go on packaging? what it saying? I feel sad to Michael!
lee newham
05.20.05 at 02:30

The Swedish version which is based on a dinner plate, could it be easier?
Peter Sjöberg
05.26.05 at 10:49


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Bierut studied graphic design at the University of Cincinnati, and has been a partner in the New York office of Pentagram since 1990. Michael is a Senior Critic in Graphic Design at the Yale School of Art.
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DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









BOOKS BY Michael Bierut

Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design
Princeton Architectural Press, 2007

Looking Closer 5
Allworth Press, 2006

Looking Closer 4
Allworth Press, 2002

Looking Closer 3
Allworth Press, 1999

Looking Closer 1
Allworth Press, 1994

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