CreativeMornings Video: Michael Bierut on Clients

Our speaker at the January 2010 CreativeMornings was Michael Bierut of Pentagram hosted at the fabulous Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn. It was our biggest CreativeMornings audience yet with 300 (!) NYC creatives attending. Enjoy Michael’s insightful presentation in the video below. It’s a brand new talk on the subject of “Clients”. A big giant thank you to Roland Lazarte who once again has been generously offering his video and editing skills.

38 Comments leave a comment below

  1. Perhaps the most valuable “exit video” any matriculating design student could ask for. Should be required viewing before even thinking about picking up the diploma.

  2. I love it! Thank you so much for posting this.

  3. they should have more of these kind of talks for design students !

    thanks for the post

  4. This is excellent! The guidelines & outlook Micheal provides are not only for a designer, but outstanding for many service providers who have to deal with clients. I would love to reference this video for my analytics blog, Zimanablog, and would love to send a thank you note to Michael for preparing a straightforward outlook on operating with clients.

  5. Apologies to one and all for the spelling error on the slide that appears at 19:37 (“then” should be “than”).

    And thanks again to Tina for inviting me to do this, and to everyone who attended that morning for being a great audience.

  6. Micheal’s presentation should be required watching for anyone who has clients. We all have “clients”.

    Michael, thank you for your candid dialog.

  7. Great post! Thank you!

  8. Micheal great preasintation! Tina thanks so much for posting the video. Even thou I moved from NYC 18 years ago, watching the video makes me feel like I am still part of the scene.

  9. Boring. Training for future designer snobs. This is why design is dying. Learn to accept work with grace and humility. You are not indisposable rocket scientists after all.

  10. Awesome! Sending it to every design AND client I know… thanks for posting so quickly.

  11. I love this! Wow! Thank you for posting it, Tina.

  12. Great talk on one of, if not THE most important and most underrated aspects of design.

    The sooner we designers understand this, the better off we’ll be. Thanks a bunch for posting and sharing this!

  13. Fantastic stuff. Inspiring and insightful.

  14. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Michael Bierut!! Awesome presentation. I have his book, too. A terrific read! Thanks Michael.

  15. Thank you for posting this. This topic is so rarely spoken, I respect Michael Beruit for taking about his approach, and with such clarity!

    In a similar context, Paul Rand had also written about the quality and meaning of a client / designer relationship. There is a Steve Jobs video somewhere on YouTube where he talks about his experience working with Paul Rand, which is worth a watch. Paula Scher had also written about it in her book, “Make it Bigger”.

    Thank you swiss miss!

  16. Great video. I loved this commentary. SO many great quotes I don’t even know where to start. One thing for sure is that his positive perspective on the on the client/designer relationship reminds me of the infinite possibilities out there.

  17. I love my family
    I love my dog
    I love my friends




  18. Hahaha, look at all these people kissing Michael Beirut’s ass.

    Design is bullshit because people like Michael Beirut are making it that way.

    I declare the emperor is wearing no clothes.

  19. Mara,

    If you have to work, and you don’t work with people you love, you’re likely to spend five days a week watching the clock and feeling miserable.


    You spelled my name wrong.

    Carry on, everyone.


  20. Michael,

    Perhaps that is indicative of something?

    I don’t think design firms should ever be as large as Pentagram.

    They are killing all the other talented designers who are trying to make a living by charging exorbitant fees. Companies are outsourcing and the best these “design companies” can do is come up with a Tropicana box?

    It was good while it lasted Michael. You really squeezed out all the juice. But the commerce of design in America is dead.

    Thanks alot,

  21. Thanks for the terrific presentation, Michael.

    I appreciate how universal these experiences are for designers and you did give some very prudent and practical points of view.

    By the way, did you really squeeze out all of the juice?



  22. Thanks, Daniel. I’ve never worked on juice packaging myself, so I have to do my squeezing elsewhere.

  23. I always enjoy watching Bierut speak of about design related topics and this video is no exception. I rather found this video quite interesting and identified myself in most of the situations Michael pointed out. I don’t quite understand why Mara and Bobby are frustrated with firms like Pentagram. So far, Pentagram has done some amazing work. To be honest, not everything Pentagram does is my cup of tea, but they seem to be pushing projects that are moving in the right direction. It almost feels like a battle between modernists vs. the world.

    What still amazes me about some of the projects Bierut has done is the way problems were solved throughout the entire design process. It makes me want to watch a full documentary on the design process from start to finish at Pentagram. Creative problem solving is usually one of my biggest obstacles when I design things because, unlike Bierut, I began doing things out of freedom and truly doing things that came up to my mind. I guess college did kind of spoil me in that sense, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for doing it all the time. Fortunately, this way of thinking works when I do things for most of my clients, but obviously this isn’t always the case. At the moment, I feel like a fine artist trapped in a graphic designer… I’m still trying to exercise my brain and train it to think the way it should be thinking when designing.

    … oh, and I believe Bobby is confusing Bierut with Peter Arnell (pepsi rebrand, tropicana rebrand), of whom I’m not a big fan of either.

    Great video, and a great find. I was wasting quality time on the internet until I stumbled upon this video and pretty much made my day :-)

  24. Perhaps I was a little too harsh with my criticisms of modern design and Michael Bierut. For that I apologize.

    I just feel that Helvetica will not save the world and we need to be realistic. That’s all.

  25. It’s funny you say that, because Bierut hasn’t used Helvetica in years man.

    Helvetica won’t save the world, but modern design is certainly cleaning up all of the grungy leftovers from the 90s. Some say things may look monotonous and stale with modernist aesthetics… I beg to differ. It all depends on how you execute things. In my opinion, the Scandinavians have been doing a fantastic job so far.

    Modernism and modern design has its place in only certain aspects. I’m not saying we should all be pushing towards a modernist approach when designing, but do not blame those who are doing it.

  26. What I appreciate about Pentagram is they (seem to) work hard to find solutions that work for their clients and communicate with clarity. So design isn’t produced for the sake of design or the designer, but is the driving force behind their deliverable.

    A good designer sells good processes that yield appropriate (if not magnificent) results. Our commonality is that clients aren’t always the most helpful to that end.

  27. Hey D,

    First of all, I wasn’t being literal when I said that designers take themselves too seriously and that they think Helvetica will save the world. Think about it.

    The second thing is that you proved what my idea that designers are full of themselves by going into a monologue about how modern design cleaning up this and that, yadda yadd, and modernist this and that. WHATEVER!

    Open your eyes. Designers like you (if you’re even a designer) are the ones responsible for the poor quality and nasty design solutions that i’ve been seeing over the years. It’s ones like you who think minimalism is creating products like saltshakers out of text blocks that spell “SALT”, the whole time you don’t even get what minimalism is about since that idea has been hijacked by lazy western designers like you, it’s designers like you who create the Olympic logo 2012 (look it up) and call it the work of geniuses.

    You take yourselves too seriously. The clients are not the one’s who should bow down and worship you, the relationship runs the other way. My boss outsources his design work these days and guess what? We are satisfied with the work! The designers in India work hard, come up with really CLEVER solutions, and are respectful 100%.

    The company I work for doesn’t pay them $10 to get the job done, we have a budget which we use anyway we wish but i’d say that getting our briefs complete at a fraction less what we used to pay is well worth it.

    I know my boss will not fund your snobby lifestyles and NO I will not lick your shoes. Get over it. WE are the ones paying you and if you don’t want to play ball, than i’m more than happy to work with people that WANT to work with us. Get your head out of your asses and get on with the program. Quit complaining you sniveling, ungrateful, egotistical people.

  28. “Quit complaining you sniveling, ungrateful, egotistical people.”

    This made me laugh

  29. Because it’s so true.

  30. The irony is strong here.

  31. Do you guys really know each other? This is why no one will take you seriously (if this be the case).

    There’s some rather broad brushstrokes being applied and it seems certain nonconstuctive aspects are being inserted into a degenerative spat.

    After multiple posts, I still don’t understand the crux of your rants other than pay scale issues. Please understand, there is plenty of design out there for designers of all sizes and disciplines. Yes, there are plenty that don’t promote the design field very well and you can insist that some work is not as apt to your subjective taste.

    Also bare in mind that NONE of this actually has anything to do with this post so, yes, I’m wasting my time. But take a step back before you begin pushing opinions that you feel are beyond reproach.

  32. I agree, it seems Bobby needs to take a chill-pill.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  33. The best presentation I have ever attended. Sublime.

  34. Loved the talk and Michael’s little air kick during the second question at the end.

  35. Always the way that the bad clients take up more time than the good ones.
    Great talk.
    I love the story about the fake ficus. So telling.