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William Drenttel

Diversity as Form: The Yale Architecture Posters



Cover detail, Forty Posters for the Yale School of Architecture, 2006.

Since 1998, Design Observer's Michael Bierut has worked in close collaboration with Robert A.M. Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture, designing more than 40 posters for open houses, conferences and public programs. Mohawk Fine Papers has published a book celebrating this collaboration: Forty Posters for the Yale School of Architecture.

As acknowledged in his introduction, Bierut was inspired by Willi Kunz's long design relationship with Columbia University's School of Architecture, where Univers was the single typeface used over many years. Bierut went in the opposite direction, insisting that every Yale poster use a different typeface: diversity, in this case, "could represent its own form of consistency."

Such sustained graphic intervention between designer and patron is indeed notable. Beyond the work of Willi Kunz, one is reminded of other designers who maintained long relationships with institutions: Willem Sandberg and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam; Armin Hofmann and the Basel State Theater; Josef Müller-Brockmann and the Zurich Tonhalle; and, more recently, Paula Scher and the Public Theatre in New York City. Such collaborations are interesting precisely because the work evolves over time, as do the institutions they represent. It is the relationships that remain constant.

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Comments (58)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT >>

Consistent differences, I love it.
Rocco Piscatello
01.05.07 at 11:34

This is a great example of how the presence of these relationships allow the designer and institution to continue to feed off one another and inspire.
Jeff Sanchez
01.05.07 at 11:58

next week; micheal beirut waxes winterhouse with big willi drenttel his book series. Click on the Borders Books button if you're feeling inspired. C'mon fellas, theres already a fresh Beirut on his assistant's blog.
felix sockwell
01.05.07 at 12:05

This post reminds me of google's branding.

I wonder how the discriminating archi students/ alumni/ targeted audience perceived the differences? I wonder if they've noticed them change through the years?

Or do they just remember an "encircled Y"?!
Sheiko
01.05.07 at 01:16

Well executed posters can be one of the most beautiful vehicles for immediate communication, stirring the senses and emotions alike. When the synergy between client and designer has been built by mutual trust over a span of years, it can be just as beautiful. In fact, such collaboration results in a better design and so the cycle spins into eternity, or at least until the partners go their separate ways.

While I enjoy the underlying grid structure of Kunz and strict typography of Müller-Brockmann, it is the visual interplay of word and image, type and photography so wonderfully expressed in the work of Scher and Hoffmann before her that I find stunning to this day.

As I recall, Mr. Bierut has previously chatted about these posters, citing the occasional homage, intentional or otherwise, but he is in his best form when focused on the reinterpretation of established visual "rules," as in the eighth slideshow poster, or creating compelling new work, such as the last poster in the series featuring the beautiful calligraphy of Marian Bantjes; a wonderful combination of elements indeed. Too bad it is not included in the book.

Is the latest poster available for purchase?
James D. Nesbitt
01.05.07 at 08:58

Issues of self promotion and the undermining of objective critical credibility aside, that last poster is awful.

'Beautiful calligraphy'? Or clumsy and forced? There is neither the elegance of balanced and sensitively weighted forms, nor any intelligent, organic relationship btw letterforms, let alone any individually accomplished characters. Some forced geometry and wispy flourishes do not beautiful calligraphy make.

Actually, back to the self promotion. There's also the crass hypocricy of the current 'Observed' postings. Making fun of:

---
Press Release of the Day: "Elf Design, a national award-winning brand identity and graphic design company, today announced that seven of their letterhead designs will be published in the upcoming book 'The Big Book of Letterheads.'" Included are letterheads for Change Catalysts, Absolutely, Inc. and Forward Progress. Wow, we can't wait — especially for Absolutely, Inc. [WD]

---
after posting your own press release:

---
A new identity for New York retailer Saks Fifth Avenue launches today. [WD]

---
Is DO to be taken seriously as a critical blog? Surely the worthiness of the contributor's work can be more objectively presented and received outside this context?

Is a journalistic term like 'conflict of interest' perceived to be relevant to designers? Does anyone care?

Emma
01.06.07 at 05:33

To Emma: you have a point. Because me, Bill and Jessica (not to mention Lorraine, Dmitri and Adrian) are all practicing designers, I'm not sure it's possible for Design Observer to be a truly independent critical voice, and I don't think we should pretend to be.

I've written in the past here about issues in which I've been a participant, sometimes as a designer, sometimes as a business person. I am always uneasy in cases like these, and try to be clear about what my role has been so that any conflict of interest is, at least, fully disclosed.

This particular article can be rightly considered self-promotion, and we hesitated before publishing it. However, putting one's work out in public has some risks as well as benefits, as your critical comments have demonstrated.

To Sheiko: I don't actually think the audience for the posters pay that much attention to the "branding" element, which functions more as a grace note and occasional inside joke on each poster. The format and use of black-and-white probably do more to identify each poster with Yale Architecture at this point than does the Y-in-a-circle motif.
Michael Bierut
01.06.07 at 08:18

The Yale Architectural Posters need a serious article and discussion, and whether or not this is the place for it isn't that interesting.

What's interesting about them is the fact that they are better as a collective than they are individually, and more is more. They'll be even stronger next year. Individually, they are rather unimpressive. Their scale is small and initially they looked like cheap black and white flyers that had some sophisticated typographic moves. When four of them were completed they didn't seem to hang together all that well. If you decide to crit them individually you can really have a field day because they have all kinds of clutsy moves.

But a wall of them is magic. The book is a gem, and the next sixteen or so produced, regardless of what goofy face is used will make the series only richer. It works because of the controls which are size, black and white, and some indescribable combination of elegance and awkwardness in the way Bierut lays out his typography.

I've never seen a series work this way before. The Public Theater poster were bigger, color, silkscreened and I think they had real high spots, but I have to say that they were better individually than collectively. There were good and bad years. They were show dependant, to a degree. Also, if you hung them together, or put them in a book, pacing and position mattered. They need editing.

The Yale Architecture posters can go on forever as long you have whitish paper, black and white ink and Michael Bierut. The increasing amount of them insure the consistency. Unreal.





Paula Scher
01.06.07 at 10:05

Conflict of interest? Self promotion? Who cares?

I read DO to learn about design. These posters are inspiring and I'm better off having seen them, so I'm grateful this post appeared.

That's the bottom line.
Chris Johanesen
01.06.07 at 10:22

Some people might not be aware that there is a long tradition of architects being savvy to provocative graphic design. If one looks at the posters in the book, "The 20Th-Century Poster: Design of the Avant-Garde" by Dawn Ades, Robert K. Brown, Mildred S. Friedman, a large proportion of them are on architecture or for architects, from the 1900s through to the 1990s.

The contemporary interpretation of that self awareness is what William Drenttel already touched upon: that some institutions will align themselves with a particular designer in the creation of a graphic identity. But that identity is intended to project more than a consistent image, it is intended to connote and reinforce the fact that it is a quality, interesting place to be. I used to collect architecture posters (I am still kicking myself for not keeping the two that Marlene McCarty and Donald Moffat of Bureau NY did for the Princeton Architecture lecture series but I was ignorant.) And for a while, one could expect printed materials from SCI-Arc to be by April Greiman; from Princeton, 2x4; from Columbia, Willi Kunz; from UCLA, Rebeca Mendez...

As objects, the Yale posters are pretty amazing, but I think that in fact, what is more amazing is Micheal Beirut. Consistency of vision tempered with a drive to innovate is a difficult skill to develop, and harder still to acquire. And Yale's School of Architecture, thanks to Michael Beirut, has it in spades.
David Cabianca
01.06.07 at 03:46

Michael,
It appears to me you're conflating the 'possibility of ... a truly independent critical voice' with your inability to be truly objective. There's a huge difference btw calculated self-promotion and ordinary critical subjectivity.

Paula Scher thinks the posters 'need a serious article and discussion, and whether or not this is the place for it isn't that interesting.' Of course what she's interested in I'm sure is fascinating... But to this observer the posters are ok, and the claims for their greatness not only seem very exaggerated, but in the context of DO appear pretty worthless.

So I'd asked if designers care about the value of maintaining criticality and principals of 'conflict of interest', and Chris Johanesen replies:
"Conflict of interest? Self promotion? Who cares?"
I didn't think so.

Michael, would it be that difficult just to not post on content that would directly benefit you commercially? Why is this so hard? It's just a basic journalistic principle. And contrary to Scher and others assertions who are bored by the idea and would rather talk about composition and typefaces, I'd bet that applying these basic standards would make for a more interesting and enduring critical forum.
Emma
01.06.07 at 07:15

I highly doubt that Michael Bierut will be retiring in Boca based on the profits of a $20 book with a small press run.

The ability to theorize and design is very rare. How many of us have been to a lecture by a famous designer only be disappointed at how lousy a speaker they turn out to be? What makes Rem Koolhaas and Bernard Tschumi so interesting is the fact that they can design in addition to being good writers. In graphic design, we have Lorraine Wild, Michael Rock, and Ellen Lupton, to name just three other individuals who also have the ability to cross practices.

The architects Le Corbusier and Robert Venturi did it best. If their writings (and their architectural designs) were not so good, their books on theory — which included monographs of their work as the last chapter — would have been relegated to the dustbin of oblivion. But they are still widely read today as part of an architect's education. Rather than dismissing Corbu's and Venturi's writings as mere self-promotion, they are seen as prefatory material to the examples at the end of their respective books.

It is silly to maintain rigid distinctions based on assumed conventions when, in fact, history tells us those "conventions" never existed.
David Cabianca
01.06.07 at 10:29

I agree with Emma. If I want this kind of promotional information I can go to the Pentagram web site. I think this blog is really missing Rick Poynor - I can't imagine these dubious postings with him still on board. Design Observer has slipped in his absence - it is less rigorous, and yes, less interesting...
Phil Leslie
01.06.07 at 10:46

Aw c'mon David Cabianca. This is either lazy rhetoric or intentional obfuscation. There was no suggestion Michael Bierut will be making a pile from this promotion, as you say sarcastically 'retiring in Boca based on the profits of a $20 book with a small press run'.

What I'm suggesting is that promoting yourself and honest criticism are potentially mutually antipathetical. It seems bazaar I would need to argue this principal with an intelligent, informed educator (however it would help explain the general standard of design graduates). We could argue about degrees of commercial benefit (although this sidetracks the issue), but Michael Bierut's commercial gain would be unquestionably enhanced by the promotion of his (and uninterested Paula Scher's) studio, Pentagram.

'The ability to theorize and design is very rare'. On re-reading my post I couldn't find the bit where I claimed that designers shouldn't also write critically.

No I wouldn't dismiss 'Corbu's and Venturi's writings as mere self-promotion' but that doesn't mean I wouldn't dismiss the profiling of Pentagram's work here as mere self-promotion. There is not necessarily equivalence.

Maybe it is 'silly' to expect higher standards of criticality (especially when 'history tells us they never existed'- excuse me?), but in a world where commerce and culture are increasingly undifferentiated, I just crave some clarity. I can't be the only one?
Emma
01.06.07 at 11:51

Michael, would it be that difficult just to not post on content that would directly benefit you commercially?

This was not stated in the article, but in the link where the book is available: all proceeds from the sale of this book will support the AIGA Winterhouse Awards for Design Writing and Criticism. Thanks to the generosity of Mohawk, this means all proceeds.

I encourage Emma and everyone else to buy as many copies as possible.

Finally, I appreciate the observations about journalistic principles, but I would never pretend to be a journalist. I'm a professional designer who writes for a blog in my spare time, and anything I say should be viewed in that light.
Michael Bierut
01.07.07 at 12:30

It does seem a shame though that those principals aren't even being aspired to...
Phil Leslie
01.07.07 at 12:54

I hate to get petty, but since it seems to be a topic of such interest, I offer this distinction as a public service.

"Principals" run high schools. "Principles" are those things to which I appear to be failing to aspire.

You can remember this by telling yourself, "The princiPAL is my PAL."
Michael Bierut
01.07.07 at 01:15

Unlike Paula, I too think the issues raised here about criticism and credibility are much more interesting than the actual posters.

Now can any flawed position or post be excused by claiming that you're a part time blogger and a full time designer? Michael is this your excuse - that you're only really accountable for your full time work? I guess it explains Bush's part time presidency!

In light of the issues raised here the irony of the book's proceeds going to the AIGA Winterhouse Awards for Design Writing and Criticism is wonderful. But it doesn't counter Emma's concerns, which I share.
Jenelle Johnson
01.07.07 at 01:25

Now can any flawed position or post be excused by claiming that you're a part time blogger and a full time designer? Michael is this your excuse - that you're only really accountable for your full time work? I guess it explains Bush's part time presidency!

I guess I wasn't clear what I was getting at when I said, "I'm a professional designer who writes for a blog in my spare time, and anything I say should be viewed in that light."

I spend a lot of time (too much, according to my loved ones) on the articles that I post here, and I take them seriously. However, believe me: I don't consider the writing I do for Design Observer to be authoritative, impartial design criticism, simply because I am not an authorative, impartial design critic. I hope that our readers are capable of judging for themselves where my biases lie; having done so, they can hold me accountable for anything they want.
Michael Bierut
01.07.07 at 02:17

....and "Bazaar" is the name of a tourist attraction, or a magazine. "Bizarre" is a principal who can't tell the difference. Not to nit pick.

Just a comment: hasn't this whole conflict over the issue of commercial conflict been the reason why design writing has always been so...constipated? No designer (who wrote) would bad mouth anyone else's work in public because it's a threat to the other's livlihood, and a designer (who writes) is not supposed to tout their own work, since that is supposed to be bad taste. (We'll just ignore the topic of designers' monographs here). I thought the whole point of this blog and others like them was to break that down a bit (just check out "Brand New" if you really want to see confict of interest in action!). Are there different standards for blogs versus print (it sure seems that way on a number of other issues,like foot notes, attributions, etc., etc.)? I mean, how funny to get all upset about ethics in a format in which you can say what ever you want ....under a fake name.

So maybe Paula is right, the posters, and the collection, are interesting despite all that. Back to the subject?
tarpitizen
01.07.07 at 02:20

I agree with tarpitizen, back to the post. I think Mr. Beiruit's posters are problematic (I'll get to this in a moment) and while I would not want to discourage Emma from buying a lot of copies to support the Winterhouse Award, if the Drenttel's are really relying on this as a sourse of funding, well, they must be investing the proceeds in a very aggressive hedge fund.

Back to Beiruit. My contrary view of these posters is that they are a bit too self-indulgent, basic design exercises that benefit the doer and his client the Dean who is on a silly search to "brand" an academic department. In this sense it is possible to at first glance see them as well-done, but with further gazing they seem to have more to do with Beiruit's personal interests than in any attempt to address the Yale School of Architecture, architecture in New Haven, the state of architecture and architectural technology, or even the the state of graphic design and its means. Yale Architecture is vastly more interesting, diverse, experimental, humanistic, and complex than these posters. With their graphic consistency, black and whiteness, and flatness, they keep repeating the same look or theme in similar ways and say little about what is actually happening at a school that is in constant flux.

Consequently, as a recruiting tool and identity tool, they end up smelling corporate and poorly compare to the more varied, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad, output of many other schools of architecture such as UCLA, SCI-Arc, Cornell, etc. At these schools there is at least an attempt to speak of and to the audience for which the content is produced. At Yale the posters are to this eye distancing (or perhaps the brand has just gotten tired), they engage the subject matter of the school in the sense that they cleverly convey information, but they barely represent the ever evolving spirit of the discourse and interests of the school community. The school thus becomes secondary to the subject matter of the posters thmselves. How this helps the school in the long run is beyond me. It is as if Beiruit has both invented and been given the time to cleanse of content his own personal Swiss style.

I also sometimes wonder, given the engagement of the output that is occurring simultaneously at the Yale Art School in the design department (output I have not always been thrilled with, but critical output nevertheless), why the School of Architcture does not gaze more directly at the creativity of the many members of its sister department. This seems an institutional shame and a lost opportunity for collaboration and further conversations that should be of mutual interest.

Stern has done a brilliant job at strengthening Yale School of Architecture's reputation as one of the pre-eminent liberal/humanistic architecure departments in the country, but his choice and continued support of Beiruit to create an identity for the school seems to this observer a rare blind spot that weakens rather than promotes interdisciplinarity.

Lastly, in contradistinction, to my good friend Emma, I think the best poster of the lot shown in the slide show is the one mucked up by Marianne Bantjes. At least this one has a sense of energy, freshness, and engagement with contemporary issues in the graphic design world that believe it or not are of interest to architects. Mr. Beiruit has a very good eye for talent and he is well served when he indulges it.
Bernard Pez
01.07.07 at 03:26

I'm a professional designer who writes for a blog in my spare time, who has chaired nearly every major design exhibition in this country, is very respected and has invaluable insight into the profession. all of the authors on this sight are top notch design journalists. add: blatant self-promoters.

Do you think anyone reads (or cares) what real journalists have to say about the Saks redesign (much less our profession?)

If you answered yes, you're an executive working at a marketing firm in Texas.
felix sockwell
01.07.07 at 12:17

[The posters] engage the subject matter of the school in the sense that they cleverly convey information, but they barely represent the ever evolving spirit of the discourse and interests of the school community. The school thus becomes secondary to the subject matter of the posters thmselves.

Bernard, thanks for these comments, which I think expose a deliberate (and perhaps ill-advised, from your point of view) choice that Robert Stern and I both made about the purpose of this graphic program.

Upon his arrival, Stern initiated an ambitious agenda: up to 30 evening lectures and four comprehensive multi-day symposia over the course of a 9-month school year. You're correct that the posters do nothing more or less than communicate the (fairly complicated) specifics of these events to a largely professional and academic audience.

So, guilty as charged. Our intention was to "represent the ever evolving spirit of the discourse and interests of the school community" simply by communicating the specific content of those programs — who's speaking, what the issues are being addressed by the symposia — rather than by searching for formal analogues that would demonstrate the poster designer's "engagement with contemporary issues in the graphic design world."

I agree, moreoever, that these posters provide a kind of "top down" view of what's happening at Yale, and underrepresent the vitality of day-to-day life there as its lived in the studio. For that, I'd refer you to another component of the School's publishing program that is not discussed here, the annual publication Retropecta.

It's edited and designed each year by a team of students drawn from the architecture and graphic design programs, who together produce a kind of "annual report" of each year's intellectual and physical output. (In the past here I've discussed the voyeuristic pleasures to be had in reading the transcripts of Yale's studio critiques.) It's student led and interdisciplinary in exactly the way you prescribe.

At the outset, I intended to function as an active design director of Retropecta, but I've discovered to my embarassment that the less influence I exert, the better the product is. It changes from year to year, attends to "contemporary issues in the graphic design world" in a way I sense I'm less than capable, and provides with a vengence the element of vitality you have searched for in vain in these posters.
Michael Bierut
01.07.07 at 01:58

all of the authors on this sight are top notch design journalists. add: blatant self-promoters.

Mr. Frequently-Blogging Sockwell, would you include yourself in the list of self-promoters? And if you do, just what are the fruits of that self-promotion? I haven't seen you celebrity promoting X-Acto blades or anything. And does that make those who blog under noms des plumes the Mother Theresas of the design writing world?

I think these sorts of smears, and that is what Mr. Sockwell's comment is meant to be, are silly. (Not to mention anti-intellectual: since when is writing about the field in which one is engaged automatically self-promotion?) To remind you: we are talking about a book, the proceeds of which are going, 100%, to the fund for a writing award, for which NONE of the people involved in the publication, or in the production of this blog, are eligible. In this big bad world of 2007, this is what is worth arguing about?
Lorraine Wild
01.07.07 at 02:24

Having this book discussed and/or critiqued on Design Observer is, in my mind, the same type of conflict of interest Paula Scher accused Armin Vit of when he discussed/critiqued the Urban Forest Project. If Vit was wrong to do this, then the publisher of the Yale School of Architecture book (William Drentell of Winterhouse AND a DO founder) should be held to the same criteria.
An Observer
01.07.07 at 02:37

Michael, thank you for your tranparent explanation and reference to Retrospecta, which I am familiar with. Now my dilemna - I have always thought Retrospecta looked vital, and certainly conveys the energy of the school in the sense that both of us have referenced - though typicaly with tiny, tiny, tiny type and too many images. Nevertheless, isn't there a happy medium between the two on the part of the outside designer, i.e. you? Why not occasinaly engage from the bottom up? Why perpetuate an identity program for a decade that creates distance between the subject matter and the subjects? Is this truly appropriate for the long-term vitality of an architecture program that celebrates criticality? This is the nut of my critique.

I also want to weigh in on the conflict of interest issue. I have no dfficulty with the designer or the publisher writing about their work and products in this venue as long as they use their real names and clearly state their position of interest as part of their discussion. The former we will never truly be able to know - the problem of blogs.

In the original post it was not stated absolutely explicitly by the poster their involvement though clearly most of the subsequent posters knew. I attribute this more to oversight and exhaustion with the travails of maintaining this site than overt self-promotion. Nevertheless, the value of this site in the long run is that the contributors are each known to be people of integrity as demonstrated both by Beiruit's response to my criticism and Drenttel's and Helfand's altruism in both creating the Wnterhouse Award and maintaining this site. I guess we should give thm a break even as they should be urged to maintain standards.
Bernard Pez
01.07.07 at 04:31

I agree with Bernard Pez that this post could have been clearer about the involvement of Design Observer participants. As the author of this post, this is my error.

In the future, we will do a better job of noting that Michael Bierut and I are associated with Design Observer; that we are promoting a book; that any funds from the sale of this book will support the AIGA Winterhouse Design Writing Awards; that Winterhouse is the studio of Helfand and Drenttel; that Mohawk has been a past client of both Pentagram and Winterhouse; that Bierut and I are both past presidents of AIGA; that Helfand and Bierut both teach at Yale School of Art; and, most importantly, that we are all friends; no that's not accurate, that we are all close friends.

Hence, Design Observer.

We will continue to post writings and items about Design Observer participants. Most of the sites I can think of support or promote the activities of their authors, whether Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen Johnson, Coudal, 37 Signals, Core77, John Maeda, Ellen Lupton or Bruce Mau. There seems to be a presumption on the part of handful of our readers that we are The New York Times. We are not.

We are a group of designers and writers who like to write about design. We will occasionally post recommendations for books by participants and friends; and Observed items about participants and friends. We write and post about things we like and about which we care.

When we post items as main posts, you, our readers are encouraged to comment, and critical discourse is encouraged. In posting a slideshow of Michael Bierut's posters for the Yale School of Architecture, I opened a window for our readers to comment about the posters, positively or negatively. We welcome your comments.
William Drenttel
01.07.07 at 06:13

Paula Scher: 'The Yale Architectural Posters need a serious article and discussion, and whether or not this is the place for it isn't that interesting.'

Chris Johanesen: 'Conflict of interest? Self promotion? Who cares?'

David Cabianca: 'It is silly to maintain rigid distinctions based on assumed conventions when, in fact, history tells us those "conventions" never existed.'

Michael Bierut: 'I don't consider the writing I do for Design Observer to be authoritative, impartial design criticism, simply because I am not an authorative, impartial design critic'

tarpitizen: 'I mean, how funny to get all upset about ethics in a format in which you can say what ever you want ....under a fake name.'

Lorraine Wild: 'In this big bad world of 2007, this is what is worth arguing about?'

William Drenttel: 'There seems to be a presumption on the part of handful of our readers that we are The New York Times. We are not.'

So it seems my expectations for this forum where just too high? I can accept that. In parting though, I'd like to address Lorraine Wild's comment, and suggest that this actually is worth arguing about. A lot of the bad in the big bad world of 2007 will be the continued loss of cultural integrity to commerce.

I accept my expectations of Design Observer were too high. Can anyone recommend a blog with 'authoritative, impartial design criticism'? Or is it back to the bookshelf?
Emma
01.07.07 at 07:55

Even as I've been contributing to this particular discussion, I've had the same question in the back of my mind, and — for whatever reason — no answer.

What draws me to a blog, whether whether the subject is design or anything else, are strong opinions, intelligently expressed. These seem pretty easy to find, although I suspect each of us will have different favorites.

Finding authoritative impartiality is more difficult, partly because blogging seems to favor idiosyncratic partiality by its very nature. Terry Teachout's About Last Night blog is about the arts in general, not design; I suspect you would like its tone.

I'd be interested to hear if any of our readers have recommendations for Emma. (Here's mine: start your own blog.)
Michael Bierut
01.07.07 at 08:27

"A lot of the bad in the big bad world of 2007 will be the continued loss of cultural integrity to commerce."

To Emma: I agree with you, except that in this episode that has you so disappointed, I believe it has been established by my colleagues that the commerce part is somehow missing.
Lorraine Wild
01.07.07 at 09:01

Note to "Observer"

I criticized Armin because he was an invited participant in a design show of pro-bono work (the Urban Forest) featuring many other colleagues and competitors, and then reviewed the show. His review praised the work of his boss, Michael Bierut, and was critical of competing designers (Milton Glaser, Paul Sahre, and Stefan Bucher.) Because Armin was a participant in the show, and because he set a criteria for judgement that his poster,mercifully, escaped, it did appear to present a conflict of interest.

I don't see that conflict here. Bill presented the Architectural Poster series that he published and Michael designed. While he mentions other poster series that are similar projects, he is completely respectful of them. He hasn't used it as a forum to denegrate anybody else's work in order to elevate his position or gain benefit in any particular way that I can see. If anything both Michael and Bill seemed to have done nothing more than open themselves up to a lot of ridicule on all sides.

I know people seem to think there is some huge promotional benefit from having this thing on Designobserver. Why doesn't everyone who feels that way simply post a piece of their own work in their responses.

paula scher
01.07.07 at 09:16

'Why doesn't everyone who feels that way simply post a piece of their own work in their responses.'

huh?
raw cup
01.07.07 at 09:35

Designing lecture posters is no easy task. Content is always provided late, therefore the luxury of time does not exist (Josef Müller-Brockmann hated this and this reality drives Willi Kunz nuts) and the budget for both design and production is always very small (hence the black and white). Two very big obstacles to overcome.

Try it sometime, better yet, try it for 9 years.
Rocco Piscatello
01.07.07 at 10:36

I have to appologise to Micheal for addressing the Saks project when it had nothing to do with this particular post. (Sorry MB) I've been hamming it up with your slutty sister (Speak Up) and distant cousin (logolounge) that readily made mention of your newest wares. It's apprently Micheal Week on the design blogs. Perhaps the weight of the trifecta was twisting, torquing and crashing my anti-intellectual pea brain. (Marsha, Marsha, Micheal?)

Mr. Frequently-Blogging Sockwell, would you include yourself in the list of self-promoters?

Definately. I'm a total whore. But not a conscientious observer of a more serious nature the likes of a Design Observer. My intellectual endeavors are indeed sad as you suggest. Perhaps sadder.

As per Scher's recco, here is the work of an incredibly good-looking and bonified graphic designer who happens to be saving lives in Africa. I understand he worked free for an entire month free, chastening his wife and kids in the process. I expect an order from you, Lorraine. I know somewhere in your big brain is a heart of gold.
felix sockwell
01.07.07 at 11:21

This posting was never an attempt at personal gain or profit, not was it an attempt to obfuscate a hidden agenda. It was a post regarding a book designed by two of DO's founders, that may or may not be of interest to you, and whose content and history may be worthy of discussion. Oh yes, and if you indeed choose to purchase the book, all of the proceeds go to a good cause. This was not and should not be offensive. The posting was quite clear to those who read it.

I find the expression of such passion for our little online community wonderful and amazing. However, such passion would be better spent discussing the merits, context, and minutia of design, architecture, and art; not this.
James D. Nesbitt
01.08.07 at 01:07

I must have come in late... a) bloggers are not meant to write about their own, or a colleague's work? b) bloggers should adhere to journalistic principles? huh? it's the very personal (and sometimes quite idiosyncratic - and non-journalistic) insights and reflections upon interesting design created by anybody, anywhere, that make design blogs so compelling and refreshing. What's the problem again?

Andrew Haig
01.08.07 at 01:29

Andrew, you have come in late, and should probably more carefully read some of the concerns raised. No one has suggested designers shouldn't comment on their own work - only that there are potential issues of conflict of interest when that commentary is little more than self-promotion. For example, it's hard to see how announcing the redesign of a department store identity by Pentagram in the Observed section is anything other than a press release (and as Emma noted, another studio's press release has just been ridiculed).

Reading these posts it seems many can't, or for what ever reason, don't want to, acknowledge the subtleties of this issue.
JayJay
01.08.07 at 02:04

JayJay, the subtleties of the proceedings here have been fully grasped... I just think mountains are being made out of molehills. The Yale and Saks projects mentioned are very, very interesting ones. If the 2 entries concerned don't seem exceedingly 'impartial' - well, so be it... this is a relatively informal, community-based blog, not a refereed journal overseen by UNESCO... I'm glad these 2 projects have been given some air - I'd be disappointed if they hadn't.
Andrew Haig
01.08.07 at 06:21

can someone explain to me why a blog needs to be intrinsically dumber than print? why does a glowing screen automatically mean lower editorial/writing standards than an inky page? please don't give me that refreshing, very personal and sometimes quite idiosyncratic line as if these qualities and higher critical standards are mutually exclusive.

also andrew haig, mountains out of molehills is what is being made of the importance of these pentagram projects. can we get UNESCO involved here? maybe the UN with a small peacekeeping force?
stepup
01.08.07 at 04:51

dear stepup: good questions! but don' t the problems with expectations of higher critical standards for blogs
start with things like corresponding under names such as "stepup"?
tarpitizen
01.08.07 at 05:28

tarpitizen: you could be right. but i'd still be more interested in what's said than what the person saying it calls herself.
stepup
01.08.07 at 05:49

I'd be interested to hear if any of our readers have recommendations for Emma.

Emma, or whoever you are, I don't think I'm exaggerating if I say that there is no such thing as an impartial or objective viewpoint. Not where human beings are involved, at least. Any critic has a point of view; some will state it and some will not, but that doesn't mean it's not there. In this sense, maybe you are expecting too much.
Ricardo Cordoba
01.08.07 at 10:03

This is probably one of the first posts that I've actually read completely in sometime at DO. I think it's perfectly acceptable to share work that you're proud of. If you can't do it on your blog - where can you? But my biggest issue is that with each pat on the back post whether directly or indirectly implied, questions about intentions come to mind for me. Is what being discussed really that noteworthy or are people talking about it for other reasons? I just hope hope designers in the not so distant future can get back to looking at things from a fair pov instead of looking out for their own interests.
Michael Surtees
01.08.07 at 10:56

ricardo cordoba, or whoever you are, emma, or whoever she is already made the point to mb that: there's a huge difference btw calculated self-promotion and ordinary critical subjectivity
is this your point, that humans aren't perfect? seems a less than constructive observation.
stepup
01.08.07 at 11:02

I guess it's easy to hide behind a made-up name and criticize -- what have you got to lose? And if mountains are being made out of molehills, as you say, why are you still here?
Ricardo Cordoba
01.09.07 at 12:00

The poster ON THE WATERFRONT SYMPOSIUM reminds us of another glass of water, designed by Franco Grignani, while designing the 1955 magazine cover RASSEGNA GRAFICA Franco Gringnani became thirsty and decided to immerse the title in a glass of water. Re-printed in Typographic Communications Today by Edward M. Gottschall (Please scroll down on link to Franco Grignani)

Note the reference to the circle or base of the glass which Michael picks up on in his Yale logo.
Great work Michael.


Carl W. Smith
01.09.07 at 12:17

ricardo cordoba: virtual identity politics probably are a little off topic here, so i'll resist that thread. but to answer your question, i'm here because faith can move molehills.
stepup
01.09.07 at 12:41

personally, im a fan of the purely typographic posters of josef mueller brockman, particularly the Juni-Festwochen, Konzerte, and Opernhause Zurich posters. these are the closest to music for me, in that they are purely formal and meaningless while also invoking an emotional response. the most 'plain' posters (Juni-Festwochen 1957 and 1965) are my favorites.

i remember seeing MB's posters when i was at yale. the entire series is (or at least was) framed and hanging in the YSOA administrative offices and its deifnitely worth it to check them out if you are in new haven. i even appropriated one of them (not shown above) for a project while i was there. i love the more purely typographic / geometric ones (only one of which i recall, from feb 2005, is shown in the slideshow above) more so than the typo-illustrative ones, and i find the 'clever' pictorial ones a bit repellent.

as a set, i think they work well in that they show the designer's exploration of his modernist inheritance. clicking through the links above, one readily sees traces of hoffman, kunz, and mueller brockman. there is also a tendency towards 'visual puns' and 'big ideas' that one can associate with new york design work of a certain time period. and finally there is a consistent element of 'play' in a modernist framework that relates to the architectural work of people who've taught at YSOA, including venturi and scott-brown, as well as robert stern.

i dont find doing self referential work in this context at all problematic. using a few basic formal rules, you see how the designer's interest holds the series together. i agree designing lecture posters for a specific univserity department is not an easy task, but late content for a poster is definitely not as bad as late content for a book or exhibition. doing a poster series for an academic department is actually a luxury in many ways, because one, posters as communication tools (as opposed to marketing or branding tools) are pretty much dead, and two, its a straightforward graphic design project that deals purely with type (as well as sometimes image and forms) that starts and ends with itself. how many designers under 30 have had the luxury of being commissioned to do posters that werent 11 x 17 and digitally printed?
manuel
01.09.07 at 12:53

I will be buying a copy. And here's a suggestion for Winterhouse: How about another book containing Michael Bierut's posters for the Young Architects Forum?

http://archleague.org/ya/25/
Ricardo Cordoba
01.09.07 at 08:44

I would love it if Robert A.M. Stern and Michael Bierut would both comment on their collaboration—designing the posters for the Yale School of Architecture.
Did this close collaboration lead to any other outside projects other than Wavehill?

Robert A.M. Stern + Michael Bierut = Wavehill?

Thank you for putting this book of posters together.
Carl W. Smith
01.12.07 at 12:52

So here I am, enjoying Michael Bierut's terrific posters on the slideshow, marveling at how nicely they revel in the most basic of design formats (i.e., black ink on white paper), when I decide to take a gander at the comments section...

Bummer. Once again, on a seemingly wholly innocuous and otherwise pleasant subject (to me anyway), a minor gripe-fest erupts -- this time with this site's ethical credibility in the crosshairs. Hmph.

Emma, Phil, et. al. -- c'mon y'all, cut the nice folks behind Design Observer some slack. I doubt they're sleeping in mattresses filled with $100 bills from any income generated by this site. Nor are they willing to shun critical, political or weighty subjects that would otherwise be deemed too touchy or controversial or arch by other design sites.

As I understand it, D.O. is a purely avocational pursuit which the contributors undoubtedly put a lot of hard work into in their spare time. Occasionally they'll throw something into the mix that may seem a little askew or less relevant than other topics, probably just to try something new for the hell of it. I say good on 'em. Such whims tend to make for pretty interesting and eclectic subject matter.

Emma: if ethical fortitude is on your mind, I need not remind you that there's a war going on based on questionable pretenses -- among many, many other giant lapses all around us (really, take your pick) that are far more worthy of your scrutiny.

May I humbly suggest focusing your strong convictions and obviously formidable intellect in those directions of broader significance (if you aren't doing so already), considering the much greater affect they have on our lives.

Thanks.
Jon Resh
01.12.07 at 06:47

Here is the source: Yale: School of architecture.

But what the heck does "Yale" mean? And where does the word come from? Its strange in and of itself.

Here's something funny along those lines, but nothing definitive.


VR/
Joe Moran
01.13.07 at 09:03

Just found it: Elihu Yale, 1648-1721, English colonial official, born in America: governor of Madras 1687-92; principal benefactor of the Collegiate School at Saybrook, Connecticut (now Yale University).

It's a guys name.

VR/
Joe Moran
01.14.07 at 02:09

In our blog socialdesignzine, the on line magazine of AIAP, italian graphic design association, we have just published a short new about Michael Bierut's book.

http://sdz.aiap.it/notizie/7227
socialdesignzine
01.25.07 at 12:22

The new site looks great!!
Giovanni
01.31.07 at 08:26

This one makes sence "One's first step in wisdom is to kuesstion everything - and one's last is to come to terms with everything."
Tristian Harkness
06.14.07 at 06:22

One's first step in wisdom is to kuesteon everything - and one's last is to come to terms with everything.
Alyson Stone
08.21.07 at 01:35

I think the middle one on the far right (the "Y" shaped in the form of the football posts) is pretty creative. The shortened "Y" at the bottom doesn't agree with me, though.

- Best Multivitamin for Men
Mark
11.11.10 at 07:04



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ABOUT THE SLIDESHOW

A slideshow of some of the posters featured in Forty Posters for the Yale School of Architecture.
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William Drenttel is a designer and publisher, and editorial director of Design Observer. He is a partner at Winterhouse, a design consultancy focused on social change, online media and educational institutions, and a senior faculty fellow at the Yale School of Management.
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BOOKS BY William Drenttel

Looking Closer 5
Allworth Press, 2006

Looking Closer 4
Allworth Press, 2002

Looking Closer 2
Allworth Press, 1997

Looking Closer 1
Allworth Press, 1994

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