Event Recap | Michael Bierut: Secret Messages

Presented by: Design Arts Society of the IMA + AIGA Indy
Thursday, February 7, 2019
Location: Toby Theater at Newfields
Sponsors: Studio Science + Funnel


If you’ve read Michael Bierut’s book How to Use Graphic Design to Sell Things, Explain Things, Make Things Look Better, Make People Laugh, Make People Cry, and (Every Once in a While) Change the World, then you would understand the subject matter he presented during his talk. And if you haven’t read his book, you should have come to his talk at the Toby Theatre. He spoke about some of his successes and failures as a designer. He also shared some stories, which had the nearly sold-out audience falling out of their seats.

Over his long design career, somehow the charismatic Michael Bierut has managed to stay self-aware and humbled by how non-designers perceive design work. One story he told us was about his daughter’s take on his job. He came home excited about being asked to redesign graphics for the popular video game Guitar Hero. His daughter’s response was, “What are you gonna do? Take what they give you, give it a tweak, and give it back to them?” Queue audience laughter…

In all seriousness Michael Bierut is one of the greatest logo designers alive today. He has won hundreds of awards, and his designs have shaped the world of branding as we know it. He left us with a few takeaways that we’ll remember forever.

  1. Never forget the grid. When in doubt use a grid for your designs. The grid was used in many of his projects, like Saks Fifth Avenue, MIT Media Lab logos and more.
  2. If you’re digging a hole in the wrong spot, it doesn’t help to dig it deeper. Sometimes you may have the best idea, but it doesn’t fit the project you need it for. Even when the client wasn’t on board with an idea, he spent a lot of time developing supporting material for a project to convince the client that it was a good idea. At the end of the day, the idea didn’t work. 
  3. Just do a lot of work. Throughout his career, Michael Bierut loved doing design and did it every chance he could. He made mistakes but who doesn’t? Try to find time to do things you love.
  4. Challenge yourself. In order to stay excited about your work, avoid the same kind of problem to solve, even though you’re good at doing it.


Check out the event photos on our Facebook page.


This event couldn’t have happened without the support of our co-host, Design Arts Society, and our sponsors, Studio Science and Funnel:



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By Ashleigh Lay
Published February 19, 2019