Michael Bierut on Honesty, Taste & Intelligence

I loved this book: a visually rich and smartly narrated collection of case studies exploring all parts of creative communications (logos, naming, typography, photography, illustration, messaging, client presentations…). 

Bierut is an intelligent thinker and a terrific, crisp writer (beyond his obvious world-class design chops). Yet he knows the readerly pleasure in having an accomplished instructor (recall the book’s title) chronicle his own missteps en route to delivering a gem. 

Here’s a passage I underlined and circled, a lead-in to a section on logotypes and symbols: 

Everyone tends to get overly excited about logos. If you’re a company, communicating with honesty, taste and intelligence is hard work, requiring constant attention day after day. Designing a logo, on the other hand, is an exercise with a beginning and an end. Clients know what to budget for it, and designers know what to charge for it. So designers and clients often substitute the easy fix of the logo for the subtler challenge of being smart. When we look at a well-known logo, what we perceive isn’t just a word or an image or an abstract form, but a world of associations that have accrued over time. As a result, people forget that a brand-new logo seldom means a thing. It is an empty vessel awaiting the meaning that will be poured into it by history and experience. The best thing a designer can do is make that vessel the right shape for what it’s going to hold. 

Stephen Schenkenberg @schenkenberg