Mr. Shaughnessy describes this video as ‘Bald guy drones on, and on,’ but I love this bald guy’s droning! His books are so unique, yet it seems like a surprise that no such books existed until he created them, since their topics are so relevant. I would like to hear him speak again, because he’s so intelligent and brimming with ideas and information without being condescending at all.
This newest book, Graphic Design: A User’s Manual, is available on Amazon. It looks like there is also a foreword by Michael Bierut, also an amazingly intelligent speaker. What a perfect combination. There are too many books waiting to be bought on my Amazon wishlist — but first, I’ll need more shelf space.
True story: I got to say the word ‘dildo’ to graphic designer, design critic, former AIGA president and current Pentagram partner Michael Bierut. But he started it. Back in September when he spoke at AIGA/NY‘s My Dog and Pony II about the pitch he gave for the new Museum of Arts and Design logo. He’d said that despite the museum, then called the American Craft Museum, not wanting to change its name, he came up with an almost identical logo to the one used now, and convinced them otherwise. The logo seemed like such a great idea when he was designing it, but he said that the more he looked at it, the more uncertain he got — and the more it began to resemble either a whale or a dildo. The people at the museum had another thought, that it looked like a sarcophagus — at this point in the presentation, Michael said, ‘There are two things that you don’t want your design to look like. First is Nazis. Second is death.’ But the logo, as we all know, is a hit, and Michael Bierut was such a hilarious presenter that the audience couldn’t sit still for laughing.
Here is the logo in question:
I’d really admired the logo on my first visit to the museum in the summer. Sadly, the hilarious presentation left my mind tainted, and when Adri, Jessica and I made a trip to Sleepy Hollow the night before Halloween, I had to tell him that the logo would never be the same for me. His response was to laugh and admit, ‘Some things you’re better off not telling people.’ Luckily, the rest of the conversation consisted of more appropriate vocabulary, and he was so amazingly nice to talk to the three of us.
The gathering was for AIGA Metro-North‘s first official event. Metro-North is a new chapter, with a concentration on branding, so the night’s fittingly named event was Dead Brands. I’d planned on being a hermit all Halloween weekend, but this was too compelling to pass up. Luckily, Jessica lives in Tarrytown. The event took place in Sleepy Hollow, of which Michael Bierut is a resident, and the venue was the James House Mansion, a beautifully spooky place. Michael, standing on chair and lit from below, gave a list of seven of Sleepy Hollow’s most important dead brands.
Scott Lerman, board member of the new chapter and founder of Lucid Brands (also a very nice designer we got to meet), posted a video of the event here:
If you haven’t the time to watch the video (it’s only half an hour long), here are the seven dead brands:
1. Washington Irving
Yes, a person, but a wily self-promoter/brander of the early 1800s. He posted ads all over the place about the disappearance of Dutch historian Diedrich Knickerbocker, claiming that if this man did not return to make the payments he owed, the manuscript found in his hotel room would be published. Irving published his own book under this pseudonym, and needless to say, it was a huge hit, grabbing the attention of those who followed the case of the imaginary missing person.
2. Croton Aqueduct
A water system that used to run from upstate all the way into Manhattan.
There used to be a huge GM plant in North Tarrytown, and they produced Maxwell-Briscoe cars. Michael actually used to live in Benjamin Briscoe’s house (he gives the address in the video, and good-naturedly invites you to drive by). This house, Michael said, ironically had a ‘miserably tiny garage.’
4. Kraft Fudgies
There used to be a Kraft factory nearby, and these treats are supposedly amazing. But dead.
5. Pocantico Expressway
This expressway cost $7 million to build, and was funded by the Rockefellers. It is now part of a freeway. I’m not too familiar with the roads upstate.
6. Gory Brook Road
The groundskeeper for the Rockefellers wrote a book called Pocantico, which included lots of sketchy stories of happenings on this road (where Michael lives now).
7. The Village of North Tarrytown
When Michael first moved to the area in 1984, he said that there was a vote happening to change North Tarrytown’s name to Sleepy Hollow, in honor of Washington Irving’s tale. This was a huge deal, because there was a huge rivalry between the North Tarrytown High School and Sleepy Hollow High School (which was located in Tarrytown). Michael said that it seemed to him and the other ‘yuppies’ in town like a good idea, and they didn’t get why it was such a bad thing. He said things about wanting to go in and change the stationery and be able to rebrand the entire town. The vote went through in 1996.
My really scant explanations don’t do Michael’s stories justice. It’s amazing how much knowledge is in that man’s head! When we talked to him afterwards, I said that it would be so interesting if he’d do something similar for Manhattan, and he mentioned that there are two expert historians who compete with one another to know the most about the city’s history, and he would not want to get into that. I think he could surely give them a run for their money.
And now, some photos. Here’s Adri with the honor of shining the light on Michael Bierut’s face.
There was a costume contest!
I believe Frieda took second.
And, of course, Tropicana took first. The wonderful Debbie Millman was there, and we got a chance to talk to her for a moment. She’s so sweet!
More photos (better ones, taken by Scott Lerman) can be seen here.
It was a really fun event, especially for our first time attending another chapter. Michael made the announcement that he is now officially a member of the Metro-North chapter, instead of the New York chapter. The food was amazing as well. I’ve never seen such a well-catered AIGA event before! As great as everything was, for us little students, the best part was the chance to talk to so many amazing designers.
To say I’ve had an amazing weekend is quite the gross understatement, and to say that I’ve had a kick-ass couple of months is also an understatement.
Today I stopped by the studio of Oliver Jeffers and Mac Premo and got some advice from them regarding the ups and downs of freelancing. They are such awesome artists and people, and just being around them is enough to make a confused art student quite content.
On Friday Adri, Jessica and I attended the first official event of the new branch of AIGA, AIGA Metro-North. It was called Dead Brands in celebration of Halloween, and Michael Bierut, a longtime resident of Sleep Hollow, gave the top 7 dead brands of Sleepy Hollow along with their backgrounds.