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Design Practice


04.16.14: Francisco Laranjo

Critical Graphic Design: Critical of What?
A review of the current state of critical graphic design.
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04.09.14: Bonnie Siegler

Dear Bonnie: Frustrated in Florida
This week's advice from Dear Bonnie focuses on how to handle on those people who think graphic design is as easy as a 1-2-3 click. 
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04.04.14: Samantha García

Inalienable Rights, Wolfsonian-Style
A review of  the inaugural "Power of Design" ideas festival in Miami.
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03.18.14: Adrian Shaughnessy

Open Source Politics/Open Source Design
A review of the identity for the radical new Danish political party, Alternativet.
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03.13.14: Bonnie Siegler

Dear Bonnie: Confused in Connecticut
This week's advice from Dear Bonnie deals with aloof clients: Are they too cool or embarrassedly avoiding your questions because they just don't know the answers?
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03.06.14: Chappell Ellison

You’ll Never Guess the Amazing Ways Online Design Writing and Criticism Has Changed
A call to support better desgn journalism.
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03.05.14: Bonnie Siegler

Dear Bonnie: Women of Washington and Young in Youngstown
This week's advice from Dear Bonnie focuses on women: are there enough women represented on jury panels, in board rooms, anywhere; and is there any specific advice for young female designers?
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02.27.14: Michael Bierut

What Bill Knew
A 1991 speech by William Drenttel revealed what he knew about the business of design.
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02.26.14: Bonnie Siegler

Dear Bonnie: Cheated in Chicago
This week Dear Bonnie — our truth-telling advice column from Bonnie Siegler — advises independent artist "Cheated in Chicago" on the best course of action when her work is being used by a large brand without her permission.
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02.12.14: Bonnie Siegler

Dear Bonnie: Trapped In Toledo and Desperately Seeking Designers
This week Dear Bonnie — our truth-telling advice column from Bonnie Siegler — advises Trapped In Toledo on how to win over his client's communications officer and Desperately Seeking Designers on finding talented, deserving young hires.
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02.05.14: Bonnie Siegler

Dear Bonnie: Tips for Toyland
This week Dear Bonnie — our truth-telling advice column from Bonnie Siegler — takes a lok at the pitfalls of casual letter writing.
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01.15.14: Bonnie Siegler

Dear Bonnie: Bullied in Brighton
This week Dear Bonnie tackles bullying at the office.
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01.10.14: Gideon Amichay

No, No, No, No, No, Yes
In this excerpt from his book No, No, No, No, No, Yes. Insights From A Creative Journey, Gideon Amichay pushes past no to yes.
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12.31.13: Adam Harrison Levy

Designer’s Cookbook: Jake Tilson
Only in the layered, interconnected culinary world of graphic designer, artist, cookbook author Jake Tilson could huevos rancheros eaten in Los Angeles inspire someone to cook Baid Masus, or Baghdad Special Eggs, a 13th-century Arab dish.
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12.18.13: Bonnie Siegler

Dear Bonnie: Interested in India, Window Dressing in Wisconsin
This week Dear Bonnie tackles online vs. offline design studios, client retention and the future of retail window dressing.
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12.11.13: By Maria Giudice & Christopher Ireland

Rise of the DEO
An excerpt from the book Rise of the DEO by Maria Giudice & Christopher Ireland.
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12.04.13: Bonnie Siegler

Dear Bonnie: Troubled in Techworld, Befuddled in Buffalo
Our first Dear Bonnie — a new truth-telling advice column from Bonnie Siegler.
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11.19.13: Adam Harrison Levy

Designer's Cookbook: George Lois
George Lois designs iconic Esquire covers, but you should hear him talk about food.
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10.24.13: Chris Pullman

Remembering Alvin Eisenman
Alvin Eisenman received the AIGA Medal in October, 1991. Chris Pullman, a student in Eisenman's class of 1966 — and a member of the faculty ever since — gave these remarks at the event.
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10.23.13: An Open Letter to AIGA

Status Quo or Transformation? A False Choice
An open letter to AIGA.
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10.21.13: Alexandra Lange

Where We Work
A Kickstarter for co-working space Makeshift Society points to the light, space and tools creative freelancers need to be productive.
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09.25.13: Stephen Eskilson

Heteronormative Design Discourse
The question of sexual identity, a central focus of a great deal of thought in recent decades, has received scant attention in the design world.
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08.30.13: Alexandra Lange

A World of Paste and Paper
Today's obsession with digital renderings sparked two exhibitions that suggest a handmade, but far from quaint, corrective.
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08.19.13: Andrew Howard

A Manifesto for Higher Learning
Andrew Howard, MA course director in Communication Design at ESAD — Escola Superior de Artes e Design in Matosinhos, Portugal — shares this with his incoming graduate students each year.
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07.08.13: Alexandra Lange

How To Unforget
The straightforward logic of "A Handbook of California Design" makes it the first step in unforgetting two generations of makers.
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07.02.13: Rick Poynor

Inkahoots and Socially Concerned Design: Part 2
In the mid-1990s, Inkahoots became a graphic design studio with its sights set on social causes.
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06.26.13: Rick Poynor

Inkahoots and Socially Concerned Design: Part 1
The Australian design team Inkahoots is a model of community-based graphic design practice.
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06.20.13: Rick Poynor

From the Archive: Upgrade Yourself!
If appearances matter more than ever, as we are constantly told, the personal makeover has become our most fundamental design task.
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04.30.13: Owen Edwards

The 99 Factor: A Man About Town & Country
Owen Edwards reminisces about Frank Zachary, former editor-in-chief of Town & Country magazine.
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04.18.13: Alexandra Lange

Architecture Without Signs
If you can't find the entrance, there's a problem with the architecture.
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03.13.13: Kate Cullinane

The Original Paradox
The value of creating new designs, rather than being "original".
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01.14.13: Michael Bierut

Graphic Design Criticism as a Spectator Sport
Michael Bierut on logo redesign outrages, what they mean, and why we should demand more.
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01.07.13: Michael Bierut

Positively Michael Patrick Cronan
Michael Bierut remembers the late Michael Cronan.
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12.10.12: Mark Lamster, Alexandra Lange

Lunch With The Critics: Third-Annual Year-End Awards
Idiosyncratic awards bestowed on architecture, design and media.
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11.07.12: Alexandra Lange

“I Have Seen the Future”: Designer as Showman
The exhibition ldquo;I Have Seen the Future: Norman Bel Geddes Designs America,” hits all the high spots of industrial design within a single man’s oeuvre.
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10.19.12: Louise Sandhaus

Merle Armitage: Daddy of a Sunbaked Modernism
Louise Sandhaus's profile of book designer Merle Armitage.
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09.27.12: Alexandra Lange

Let's Talk About Women in Architecture
A panel on Women in Design, and questions about whether such panels should exist.
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09.22.12: Alexandra Lange

Just Keep Typing
An excerpt from the new book Breakthrough! Proven Strategies to Overcome Creative Block and Spark Your Imagination that involves Post-It notes, legal pads and baking. 
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08.07.12: John Thackara

What Is, Or Is Not, a ‘Green Job’?
Discordant information amplifies confusion about what is, or is not, a ‘green job’.
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05.23.12: Kolean Pitner

Peter Seitz
Peter Seitz, best known for his interdisciplinary approach to design and his award winning corporate identity programs.
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05.16.12: Amelia Lacy

Gene & Jackie Lacy
Gene and Jackie Lacy, Indianapolis-based graphic designers and illustrators practicing from the 1950s through the 1980s.
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04.13.12: Rick Poynor

The Closed Shop of Design Academia
Shouldn’t it be part of a design academic’s brief to communicate more widely with the design profession and public?
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04.04.12: John Thackara

Oil-Powered Thinking
Why is it that countervailing facts don’t change things in our evidence-based world? And what might we do about it?
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04.03.12: Laura Weiss

Woody Allen, Creative Management Genius
Woody Allen's movie-making process offers three insights that have application to anyone who leads a creative enterprise or manages a creative process.
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03.18.12: Center for an Urban Future

NYC Design Schools: Catalysts for Economic Growth?
Design schools may be the real engines of New York City’s innovation economy, according to a new report published by the Center for an Urban Future.
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03.09.12: Nancy Levinson

Design Indaba 2012
Design Indaba 2012 gathered creative people from graphic and product design, architecture and landscape, film and video, not to mention Danish gastronomy and Bollywood movies.
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02.29.12: Adrian Shaughnessy

When Less Really Does Mean Less
Since the banking crises of 2008, designers fromWestern nations are learning painfully to adapt to the new reality: less is the new normal.
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01.30.12: Owen Edwards

Designers Leap, Users Lag
Trying to meet the challenges designers and engineers set for us is pretty much hopeless, though we can have a lot of fun trying.
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12.05.11: Mark Lamster and Alexandra Lange

Lunch With The Critics: Second-Annual Year-End Awards
From Twitter to Apollo, Barbie to Occupy Everywhere: The best and worst moments in design for 2011.
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09.19.11: Alice Twemlow

Remembering Richard Hamilton as Design Critic
Alice Twemlow remembers Richard Hamilton, artist and design writer.
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08.09.11: Mark Lamster

An Interview with Laurence King
Mark Lamster interviews Laurence King, the publisher.
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08.02.11: Rick Poynor

From the Archive: Down with Innovation
Designers have too readily accepted the caricature of themselves as airheaded stylists. Visual form is a vital expression of culture.
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06.28.11: Alexandra Lange

Welcome to the Hall of Femmes
How should we celebrate women in design, past, present, future?
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05.17.11: Michael Bierut

Seven Things Designers Can Learn from Stand Up Comics
Stand up comedy, a high-risk creative enterprise, has interesting lessons for designers.
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04.26.11: Alexandra Lange

The Only Thing There's Just Too Little Of
What parenthood and artistic endeavor have in common: not enough time.
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03.10.11: Andy Chen

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Cub
Is design strictly a set of rules?
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03.01.11: John Thackara

Work Faster, India!
“Work faster, get time for life.” I just got back from a short trip to India where this insane slogan adorned a poster at a bus stop. It pretty much sums up a febrile mood in Delhi where it was announced during my stay that India's economy will grow by nine percent next year.
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03.01.11: Michael Russem

Postage Stamps by AIGA Medalists
It was not until 1958 when Lester Beall’s Freedom of the Press was issued, that a (future) AIGA Medalist would design an official government postage stamp.
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02.21.11: John Thackara

What Kind of Design Institutes for India?
An influential group of design thought-leaders has launched a campaign called VisionFirst that calls for a “rigorous co-creation process to bring clarity to the models of design education that India should seek.”
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02.11.11: Michiel Schwarz & Joost Elffers

Like the Word or Not, the Era of "Sustainism" Is Here
The idea of sustainism deserves more than a discussion about what we (dis)like about nomenclature.
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01.31.11: Michael Bierut

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mentor, Or, Why Modernist Designers Are Superior
Does a strict upbringing make you a better designer?
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01.07.11: Rick Poynor

How to Chew Gum while Walking
We go round in circles but the central issue doesn’t change: what can a designer add to a project beyond fulfilling the client’s brief?
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01.03.11: John Thackara

UnBox: Where Next for Design in India?
UnBox, a three day festival in Delhi, in February, brings together creative collectives from around India.
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12.22.10: Marian Bantjes

Plastics: An Apoplexy
I woke up in the middle of the night stewing about plastics. In particular, the continuing, insidious use of excessive and totally unnecessary plastics in packaging.
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12.10.10: Nancy Levinson

Pillow Culture
Beyond sleep: the exhibition Pillow Culture looks at the pillow as designed object and technological artifact.
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10.21.10: Andrew Blauvelt

Designer Finds History, Publishes Book
Andrew Blauvelt takes stock of the graphic design history movement that began in the 1980s.
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09.01.10: Michael Bierut

James Victore: Straight Up
"Few designers have done more to render typography foundries irrelevant than Victore. The human hand, his hand, is always in evidence." Michael Bierut on James Victore's work.
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08.08.10: Robert Grudin

The Bakers Table
Those tables taught me something. I realized that by designing them I had turned impoverishment into enterprise. I had transcended my own inhibiting academic world and briefly explored the material presences of daily life.
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08.03.10: Adrian Shaughnessy

Publishing in the Age of the Internet
Design/Research, published by Unit Editions, are collectable "papers" which, focus on design and visual communication, from the past, by placing it in a future context.
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07.19.10: Michael Erard

The Dream Job Project Part II
How do you conceive of the future work to shoot for, and how you'll do it? The results of these questions, part II.
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06.23.10: Jessica Helfand

The Next Great Graphic Designer
Tonight on Bravo's "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist" the winning Penguin book cover design will be unveiled, which begs a few questions. We hope our readers will weigh in with their opinions.
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06.14.10: Alexandra Lange

"We Can't Really Pay"
All of you print people who scorned bloggers but have moved into blogging and helm publications that “blog,” earth to you: You don’t pay.
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05.27.10: Ernest Beck

New Meaning at ICFF
A review of the 2010 International Contemporary Furniture Fair.
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05.10.10: Alexandra Lange

On Inksie: Good Design is Aesthetic
I was asked by the editors of Inksie to write about Dieter Rams and his ten principles for good design. Luckily they assigned me my favorite
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03.15.10: Andy Chen

The Lines That Divide
The debate continues over who will be the new Head of Department for the Communication Art & Design course at London's Royal College of Art.
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03.04.10: Dirk Wachowiak

Peter Bilak & Satya Rajpurohit: Interview on Typography
Dirk Wachowiak interviews Peter Bilak and Satya Rajpurohit on their recent collaboration, the Hindi version of Bilak’s Fedra.
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01.26.10: Meredith Davis

Who Owns Student Work?
The prevailing opinion at many design schools is that faculty and the university have some “ownership rights” in the output of any class. In other words, students don't own their own work. An opposing viewpoint.
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01.20.10: Alexandra Lange

Hands-On: The Gropius Touch
I couldn’t believe no one else had noticed that Ati Gropius Johansen was coming to the MoMA, and it seemed like a piece of history.
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12.21.09: Alexandra Lange

Exciting Multi-Generational Moment
An essay and slideshow on the design of James Joyce’s Ulysses by my mother, Martha Scotford, appears on Design Observer, where I was recently made a contributing writer.
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11.19.09: The Editors

Holiday Books 2009
Recommended books by Design Observer writers for the 2009 holiday season.
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10.05.09: Owen Edwards

Not the Same Old Same Old
It’s hard not to agree that cars, though better designed and engineered than ever, are often pressed into plebian duty.
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09.28.09: Roger Martin

What is Design Thinking Anyway?
Most companies today rely on analytical thinking. Roger Martin applies these principles to business practices.
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08.18.09: Chappell Ellison

Compulsion: Where Object Meets Anxiety
At the age of 30, my brother turned to our mother and said, “I never thought I’d make is this far.” In his early 20s, he was officially diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
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06.19.09: Michael Bierut

When Design Gets in the Way
When it comes to fulfilling simple human desires, can design get in the way? A call for more incrementalism in design.
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12.24.08: Michael Bierut

Designing Through the Recession
Here are three things that happen to designers in a recession, and five things they can do about it.
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11.29.08: William Drenttel

A Design-Oriented National Endowment for the Arts
A proposal for a design-oriented National Endowment for the Arts.
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11.23.08: Chris Pullman

What I've Learned
After 35 years working for the same company, WGBH in Boston, legendary design director Chris Pullman reveals the ten things he learned.
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11.03.08: Andrew Blauvelt

Towards Relational Design
Is there any overarching philosophy or connective thread that joins so many of today’s most interesting and increasingly diverse designs from the fields of architecture, graphic, and product design? I believe we are in the a third major phase in modern design history, moving towards an era dominated by relationally-based design activities.
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10.12.08: Michael Bierut

26 Years, 85 Notebooks
Since 1982, I have never been without a marble-covered composition book. I am now in the middle of Notebook #85. Together, these notebooks create a history of my working life that spans three decades.

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09.30.08: Michael Bierut

Mad Men: Pitch Perfect
AMC's ad agency drama Mad Men, from the producer of the Sopranos, is beginning its second season. Like The Sopranos, the show finds human drama in an unexpected setting. And where The Sopranos had whackings, Mad Men has client presentations.
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06.05.08: John Thackara

We Are All Emerging Economies Now

I recently received an invitation to discuss design and development with a wonderful group of design peers in a beautiful location. But I have decided to decline the invitation. Why?


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05.19.08: Dmitri Siegel

Credit Where Credit Is Due...Or Not
Dmitri Siegel explores the various practices of design attribution.
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04.22.08: Adam Harrison Levy

The Passion of George Lois
How adman George Lois chronicled the sixties with his cover designs for Esquire magazine, with a peek behind the scenes at the legendary famous Muhammad-Ali-as-St. Sebastian photoshoot.
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03.28.08: Matthew Peterson

The Cuckoo Bird and the Keyboard
Designers are famously nauseated by novices' use of neutral quotes — or dumb quoes — in place of true quotes. Why do we care so much? Should we?
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03.19.08: Matt Soar

Fail Again, Fail Better
So, what of productive failure with respect to graphic design and typography? The idea of failing again and again for a reason? Does it somehow help to define the limits of professional practice?
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02.11.08: Michael Bierut

The Smartest Logo in the Room
The birth, death, and debate around one of Paul Rand's last logos: the "crooked E" he created for Enron.
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11.30.07: Steven Kroeter

Design Thinking, Muddled Thinking
What does it mean when Harvard Business School makes a list of top design schools? Two words: muddled thinking.
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11.15.07: Andrew Blauvelt

Modernism in the Fly-Over Zone
The story of Peter Seitz provides one example, and we can rest assured that there are many more stories just like his in cities across the country — modernism in the fly-over zone, if you will — which add a critical human dimension to design's rich cultural heritage.
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11.11.07: Michael Bierut

How To Be Ugly
Whether reactionary spasm or irrevocable paradigm shift, the new trend is making design that looks ugly. The trick is to surround it with enough attitude so it will be properly perceived not as the product of everyday incompetence, but rather as evidence of one's attunement with the zeitgeist.
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11.01.07: Elizabeth Tunstall

What If Uncle Sam Wanted You?
What if I decided to apply design thinking to the U.S. military? What roles could design thinking play in war? A recent The New York Times article, "Army Enlists Anthropologists in War Zone," makes these questions especially relevant today.
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10.25.07: Adrian Shaughnessy

The Designer's Virus
Perhaps he was right and I was wrong? Perhaps it is dumb of me to believe that the only design worth bothering about is design born out of a mixture of personal enquiry and intelligent intuition? I realized I was suffering from the designer's disease: empathy.
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09.21.07: Michael Bierut

May I Show You My Portfolio?
My art school portfolio has sat in a box, largely untouched, in the closets and basements of the three places I've lived in the last 27 years, sort of like a slowly decaying design time capsule. A few weeks ago, I opened it up for the first time in a long time.
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09.05.07: Michael Bierut

You're So Intelligent
Wanting to be taken seriously, designers yearn to be respected for their minds. Yet they take their real gifts — a miraculous fluency with beauty, an ability to manipulate form in a way that can touch people's hearts — for granted.
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06.19.07: Steven Heller

Martin Weber in the Third Dimension
You may not have heard of Martin J. Weber, but he was a graphic artist, typographer, art director, and most important, inventor of various photographic techniques that gave two-dimensional surfaces the illusion of being reproduced in three dimensions.
READ MORE

06.11.07: Michael Bierut

Everything I Know About Design I Learned from The Sopranos
Last night, after eight years, 86 episodes, and untold quantities of gobbagool, The Sopranos finished its run on HBO. And this is what we've learned, from a design point of view.
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05.31.07: William Drenttel

Al Gore for President
Writing as a designer, as a writer, as a husband and father, but most of all, as a human being — I believe we should draft Al Gore to run for the Presidency of the United States.
READ MORE

04.06.07: Michael Bierut

Our Little Secret
The documentary Helvetica premieres in a world where everyone knows how to do something that once only very few did: how to set type.
READ MORE

01.23.07: Michael Bierut

Speech, Speech
The State of the Union Address is tonight. Messages, big ideas, careful details, second-guessing, refinements and revisions, anonymity: graphic design has a lot in common with political speechwriting. What kind of client do you suppose the President is?
READ MORE

12.11.06: Michael Bierut

The Graphic Glass Ceiling
A week ago, I was the moderator of a panel discussion at the 92nd Street Y with Milton Glaser, Chip Kidd and Dave Eggers. Afterwards, someone asked, "Why do you — all three of you — suppose there are so few female graphic designers — or at least so few female 'superstar' graphic designers?" There was a moment of uncomfortable silence. What would your answer be?
READ MORE

09.09.06: Michael Bierut

This is My Process
Designers often describe our work processes in terms that are dated and ill-suited for the activities that we actually undertake. Is there a model for the way that artists work that would be intelligible in a business context?
READ MORE

08.08.06: Michael Bierut

The Road to Hell, Part Two: That Elusive Silver Bullet
An online offer to teach anyone to do graphic designer raises the ultimate question: can we conclusively prove the value of design to the general public? We can't? Now what?
READ MORE

07.05.06: Lorraine Wild

Wassup, Beatrice
I've heard endless definitions and descriptions of graphic design: I can recite them all, and on any given day I can identify with one essentialism over another: e.g., "Today, I'm a conceptualizer." I can even be swayed by the argument that, in fact, we work in a moment when graphic design is devolving as a practice identifiable by any common standards. It makes me think of a woman who I have always found completely annoying in her assuredness — Beatrice Warde.
READ MORE

06.22.06: Michael Bierut

The Mysterious Power of Context
Some of the most effective graphic design is neutral and open ended, and acquires its effectiveness only through use and association. Is it possible to anticipate the power of context in design?
READ MORE

06.04.06: Michael Bierut

The Road to Hell: Now Paved with Innovation?
A new magazine from Business Week on design and innovation was created through an unpaid competition. If this is innovation, to hell with it.
READ MORE

04.06.06: Michael Bierut

When Design is a Matter of Life or Death
When structural engineer William LeMessurier realized that his work on Manhattan's Citicorp Center was flawed, he was faced with a choice: he could keep quiet and gamble with thousands of lives, or he could speak up. What would you do?
READ MORE

02.26.06: Michael Bierut

The Persistence of the Exotic Menial
25 years ago, writer Ralph Caplan said that designers are exotic menials: exotic because of the presumed mystery inherent in what we do, and menial because whatever we do is required only for relatively low-level objectives. Has anything changed since then?
READ MORE

11.20.05: Michael Bierut

Innovation is the New Black
Innovation is the latest buzzword to overtake the design profession. What does it mean?
READ MORE

09.30.05: Adrian Shaughnessy

"Can you make the type bigger?"

READ MORE

08.29.05: Michael Bierut

You May Already Be a Winner
Are graphic design competitions worthwhile?
READ MORE

07.22.05: Michael Bierut

Credit Line Goes Here
Design is essentially a collaborative enterprise. That makes assigning credit for the products of our work a complicated issue.
READ MORE

02.26.05: Michael Bierut

Designing Under the Influence
The similarity of a young designer's work to that of the artist Barbara Kruger provides the starting point for a discussion of the role of influence in design, and whether it is possible for someone to "own" a specific style.
READ MORE

11.18.04: Michael Bierut

The World in Two Footnotes
Writing in Eye Magazine, Nick Bell observes that designers too often act as "agents of neutrality" or "aesthetes of style" and suggests that they focus more on their work's content.
READ MORE

08.17.04: Michael Bierut

What is Design For? A Discussion
Rick Poynor and Michael Bierut discuss the purpose and promise of graphic design, in a conversation moderated by Creative Review editor Patrick Burgoyne.
READ MORE

06.16.04: Michael Bierut

The Idealistic Corporation
American corporations in the mid-twentieth century, such as IBM, Container Corporation, and General Dynamics, worked with designers like Charles and Ray Eames, Herbert Bayer and Erik Nitsche in the conviction that design was not only a tool for business, but an potent instrument for making the world a better place.
READ MORE

03.24.04: Michael Bierut

Michael McDonough's Top Ten Things They Never Taught Me in Design School
Architect Michael McDonough delineates the difference between educational theory and professional practice with "The Top 10 Things They Never Taught Me in Design School."
READ MORE

11.10.03: Michael Bierut

Graphic Design and the New Certainties
Graphic designers claim to want total freedom, but even in this intuitive, arbitrary, "creative" profession, many of us secretly crave limitations, standards, certainties. And certainties are a hard thing to come by these days.
READ MORE

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