Graphic Designers

Michael Bierut needs no introduction. As a partner at Pentagram since 1990, he’s worked on projects ranging from logos and environmental signage systems, books and packaging for clients including Verizon, The New York Times, MIT Media Lab, and Hillary Clinton. But Michael is also a prolific writer, having co-founded Design Observer in 2003 and co-editing the Looking Closer series, and in this episode, I talk with Michael about that writing. We talk about the origins of Design Observer, how he started writing, and how the public’s growing awareness of graphic design has changed the discourse.

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On this week’s episode, I talk with the designer and writer Michael Rock. Michael is the co-founder and creative director at 2×4, teaches at Yale and Columbia, and writes for The New York Times T Magazine. This summer, I visited Michael at 2×4’s New York headquarters to talk about his own history, how he thinks about his roles as a designer and writer, the importance of theory in design practice, and writing about design for a general audience.

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Mitch Goldstein is a designer, artist, and educator based in Rochester, NY. He is an Assistant Professor the School of Design at the Rochester Institute of Technology, works in collaboration with his wife Anne Jordan on client projects, and maintains an ongoing art practice focusing on experimental darkroom photography. He also co-hosted the design podcast Though Process and has written and lectured extensively on design and design education. In this episode, Mitch and I talk about our evolving definitions of the words ‘graphic design’, critique methods in the classroom, and the problems with contemporary design discourse.

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Paul Ford is a writer, programmer, educator, and technologist. He is currently the co-founder of Postlight, a digital product studio in New York and teaches at the School of Visual Arts. He’s written for publications like Harper’s, New York, Medium, and The Morning News and is a frequent commentator on technology and the internet. In 2015, he published “What is Code?” for Bloomberg Businessweek, an issue-length essay explaining programming to a mass audience. In this episode, Paul and I talk about his childhood interest in computers and books, the early days of the web and building his own blogging software, ...

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Paul Soulellis is a designer, writer, and educator. After spending twenty years working as a designer, fifteen of those years under his own studio, Soulellis Studios, Paul recently has shifted his work into a more expanded and experimental practice. In 2014, while part of the New Museum’s incubator, he started Counterpractice, his new design studio, and began publishing his now-ongoing project Library of the Printed Web. He also recently joined the faculty at RISD in their graphic design department. In this episode, Paul and I talk about the significance of blogging to his work, building new types of graphic design ...

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Peter Bil’ak is a designer, writer, type designer, and publisher based in the Netherlands. My introduction to Peter’s work was through Dot Dot Dot, the magazine he co-founded and published with Stuart Bailey in the early 2000s and in this episode, we talk about the origins of that magazine as well as his new publication, Works That Work. We also talk about how he started writing and how that influences his work as a designer, shifting designing criticism from the perspective of the maker to that of the user, and the general representation of design magazines.

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Peter Mendelsund is a graphic designer, writer, musician. Until recently he was the associate art director at Alfred A. Knopf where he designed book covers for everyone from James Joyce to Franz Kafka, Stieg Larsson and Simone De Beauvoir. In 2014, he published What We See When We Read and Cover and will publish his first novel, Same Same, next year. In this conversation, Peter and I talk about his relationship to graphic design, working across mediums and disciplines, and the differences between writing fiction and nonfiction.

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Prem Krishnamurthy is a designer, curator, and writer. He is a founding principle, with Adam Michaels, of the New York design studio Project Projects and founder and curator of P!, an experimental exhibition space in New York’s Chinatown. Additionally, Prem is an editor for the art journal Paper Monument and on the board of directors for Triple Canopy. In August, I visited Project Projects’s office to talk with Prem about these range of projects. Over the course of the conversation, we talk about the relationship between design and writing, the role of authorship, the false divide between form and content, ...

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Rianne Petter and Mark Mulder are designers and researchers from the Netherlands. The couple operates independent practices that span graphic design, research, writing, and education. Last fall, the couple visited Baltimore to lead a weekend workshop on design research of Maryland Institute College of Art’s graduate graphic design department and I sat down with them at the end of the weekend to talk about their own practice, the role of research in the graphic design process, and the differences between the design discourse of the Netherlands and the United States.

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In the first episode of Scratching the Surface, Jarrett talks with designer and writer Rob Giampietro. Rob is currently the Design Lead for Material Design at Google New York. In this conversation, we talk about how Rob approaches writing and designing, design as a critical activity, and the design writing he’d like to see more of.

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Robin Sloan is a writer and media inventor based in Oakland. He’s the author of two novels, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and Sourdough. He’s also written a variety of short stories and internet projects, dabbles in programming and machine learning, and makes extra virgin olive oil with his partner Kathryn Tomajan. In this conversation, Robin and I talk about what it means to be a media inventor and how this is similar to being a designer, his early career working at Twitter and Current TV, and the value of pursuing diverse creative projects.

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Ruben Pater, working under the name Untold Stories, describes his work as creating “visual narratives about geopolitical issues” and creating “new relations between journalism and design”. He most recently is the author of the book, The Politics of Design, where Pater explores the cultural and political context of the typography, colors, photography, symbols, and information graphics that we use every day. In this conversation, I talk with Ruben about the book and the relationship between design and journalism, showcasing his process as the artifact, the importance of studying design outside of the traditional Western canon, and why he still calls himself ...

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Sara De Bondt is a designer, educator, and publisher. She runs her own independent design practice working with cultural clients and is the co-founder of Occasional Papers, a small publishing company focusing on publishing affordable books devoted to the histories of architecture, art, design, film, and literature. The Walker Art Center called Sara “the epitome of a cultural designer, combining a love of contemporary typography with a deep investigation into the history of graphic design. Through her design practice, which consists of client-based work, designing and editing books, and curating conferences, she is consistently contributing to the critical discourse.” In ...

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On this week’s episode of Scratching the Surface, I’m joined by the design writer Steven Heller! Heller is the author or co-author of over one hundred books on design and visual culture, co-chair of the School of Visual Arts MFA Designer as Author program, and helped start SVA’s Design Criticism and Interaction Design programs. Steven and I talk about his career, design writing, and why most publications don’t need graphic design critics.

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Stuart Bertolotti-Bailey is a designer, writer, editor, and publisher. He co-founded Dot Dot Dot with Peter Bil’ak in 2000 and began working with David Reinfurt, under the name Dexter Sinister, in 2006. Along with Reinfurt and Angie Keefer, he’s the co-founder and publisher of The Serving Library. Late last year, he was appointed Head of Design at the ICA in London. In this conversation, Stuart and I talk about his early design career and working with Richard Hollis, the relationships he sees between design and writing, and how his career is influencing his approach to his new job.

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PublisherO-R-G2018
In 1965, Bruno Munari designed a small black box — the austere 15-cm steel cube housed four aluminum cones, each painted half-red and half-green and set to spin at four distinct speeds on an 18-minute cycle to produce a very slowly turning composite color moving from red to green. Munari called it the Tetracono and its function was to show forms in the process of becoming: The art of the past has accustomed us to seeing nature as static: a sunset, a face, an apple, all static. People go to nature looking for images such as these static things, whereas an apple is in ...

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PublisherInventory Press2015
This supplement to The Electric Information Age Book reproduces two rare interviews conducted by Steven Heller and Abbott Miller with graphic designer Quentin Fiore, the designer/co-author of The Medium is the Massage and War and Peace in the Global Village, in addition to a reprint of Fiore’s 1969 collage essay “The Future of the Book.”

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