Michael Bierut | Essays

Credit Line Goes Here

Light Years, poster for the Architectural League of New York, Michael Bierut and Nicole Trice, 1999

Who designed this poster? Well, I did, of course. Basically. More or less.

Design is essentially a collaborative enterprise. That makes assigning credit for the products of our work a complicated issue. Take the poster above. When it's published, it's often credited just to me. But its genesis is a little more complicated.

Like a lot of widely reproduced graphic artifacts, the poster has become separated from its original purpose; most people have no idea that it's an invitation for an annual benefit for the Architectural League of New York called the Beaux Arts Ball. I design one every year. Each one has a different theme. That year the theme was "Light Years," for reasons I no longer recall. What I do recall was my pleasure in discovering, after doing some sketching, the rather obvious fact that the two words have the same number of letters. I thought we could take advantage of that by somehow superimposing the letters of the two words. I took some sketches of this idea and others to Nicole Trice, a design student from the University of Cincinnati who was serving a three-month internship with us, and told her to try some variations to see what would work. The version I liked the best was the one you see above. I asked her how she did it, and she told me, but I've forgotten. I never touched the Mac.

So, the formal attribution for the poster goes to me and Nicole. But I've done one of these every year, and seldom as successfully. This particular one works because that year's ball committee (Walter Chatham, Cristina Grajales, Frank Lupo, and Allen Prusis) picked a theme we could really work with (or at least that was mathematically convenient); the management of the Architectural League (Rosalie Genevro and Anne Reiselbach) approved the design and paid for its reproduction; and the printer (Rich Kaplan at Finlay Brothers) did a beautiful job printing it, with no one supervising on press (couldn't afford the trip to Hartford for a freebie). Also, what about the letterforms, which play such a large part in the design? Interstate, by Tobias Frere-Jones. Finally, I'm not sure this poster would have looked exactly like this without the influence — a complicated subject to be sure — of artists and designers I've admired like Ed Ruscha and Josef Muller-Brockmann. That's a lot of people, and I probably left someone out.

When a design artifact becomes more widely known, it grows ever distant from the complications surrounding its birth, and sometimes, as in the case of the poster above, even its context and meaning. Continually referencing endless lists of collaborators seldom serves the purposes of journalists, curators and design historians, who want clarity and simplicity. I can't say I blame them: that long roll call of people that appears every time I open my copy of Adobe Photoshop 8.0 must be significant, but to me the names are as unreal and fantastical as the people who attended parties at Jay Gatsby's house in the summer of 1922.

Lone authorship corresponds more neatly to the popular image of personal creativity, so even objects that could not possibly be the handiwork of a single person, like the iPod, nonetheless become associated with a single name, like Apple's Jonathan Ive. Likewise, although Emotion as Promotion: A Book of Thirst lists Rick Valicenti as editor rather than author, and a long list of collaborators on one of its early pages, in a review like the one below, it's hard to think of it as anything but a compendium of Rick Valicenti's work. This is even true in a book like Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist, in which efforts are made to bring in the voices of collaborators and to credit everyone involved in the design of every reproduced image: perhaps in the end the only picture that really matters is the big smiling face of Tibor on the cover.

Tibor is the classic example of a non-designer who managed to exert an influence on — and get credit for the work of — a generation of talented designers, without really doing any hands-on design himself. Another is the late Muriel Cooper from the legendary MIT Media Lab. I was talking the other day to my partner Lisa Strausfeld about the time she was a student there. "I used to wonder why Muriel got credit for so much of the work that came out of the Media Lab. But now it strikes me how pervasive she was," Lisa said. "She picked all the typefaces that we worked with. She set up the structure of the problems and guided the way we solved them." Like Kalman, Muriel Cooper authored a vast body of material just by force of intellect and personality, while all the while other people thought they were actually "doing the work."

And none of those people — some of whom have names you might recognize — are listed in the captions for the images that illustrate Cooper's biography on the website of the American Institute of Graphic Arts. It's not fair, of course, but what's an ambitious but anonymous young designer to do? The solution is almost too simple. Filling out the information forms for design competitions and publications is tedious work. Chances are good that whoever is stuck with doing it would love to be relieved of the responsibility. Volunteer for the job. That way, you can make sure that the credits are scrupulously accurate, with one exception: no matter what, make sure your boss gets listed as creative director.

That worked for me way back when. Come to think of it, it still does.

Posted in: Business, Media

Comments [73]

Thanks for "sharing." You will be happy to know that a "Pentagrad" who recently gave a talk at our school (her alma mater), spoke of you and your positive influence in much the same way Ms. Strausfeld speaks of Muriel Cooper.

I'm drooling over that poster. Sooooo beautiful. And I love your site. Thanks for all the hard work.

Michael, it is great that you to acknowledge the degree to which design is a(n increasingly) collaborative effort. But I'm struck by what seems to be a romantic view of the designer as the one who does the typography — as opposed to the one who has the idea. You refer to Tibor Kalman (and Muriel Cooper) as non-designers: "a non-designer who managed to exert an influence on — and get credit for the work of — a generation of talented designers, without really doing any hands-on design himself." Without taking credit away from Nicole Trice, isn't the Light Years poster designed in the expression of, and the simplicity of, the idea? Isn't the typography merely execution? (We obviously wouldn't be talking about it if it was badly executed.) Return to Tibor's work. Is the design of the "10-1-4" watch in the idea, or in the selection of the typeface? Is the design of the "Everybody" billboard in Times Square in the bravado of the idea, or in the selection of the font and how well it is kerned? Aren't you romanticizing "hands-on design" ("I never touched the Mac.") as being real design. In this context, to refer to Tibor as a "non-designer" understates the power of ideas in creating design(s).
William Drenttel

These days I try to avoid getting into discussions about the "who did what" thing but here I think I can add some insight. There's a difference between romanticizing hands-on work and making a distinction between creative direction and design. In the case of the Light Years poster, Michael came up with an idea, made a sketch, and then also art-directed Nicole as she designed the (beautiful) poster. At M&Co. the situation was usually very different, as it sometimes is at many studios, including mine and I'm sure at Pentagram too.

Bill cites the Everybody sign, a project on which I worked. As was customary, the designer--um, me--spent weeks thinking about it (often on the sidewalk on 42nd Street) and came up with many ideas, one of which was to paint it yellow with a big black EVERYBODY on it. At that point Tibor zeroed in on that sketch and identified it immediately as the concept we should go with. Andy Jacobson (M&Co's producer at the time) suggested bolting chairs to the wall, to make the piece "interactive." So the genesis of that idea was more complicated.

After that I did all the things that Nicole did on Michael's poster: I can't remember if the type was set on the Mac or by Joe at Trufont, but then I picked the colors, dealt with the painters, found a bunch of old chairs in Joe Franklin's old office on 43rd Street (our budget was $800), etc. My point is that the relationship between the "creative director" and the "designer" is often assumed to always mirror the particular process that Michael described: the boss comes up with an idea and then asks somebody to figure out what it looks like.

But this assumption oversimplifies the process. Back in the day I resented that. But now I understand that the selection and direction of the idea is distinct from the conception and design of it. They're just different tasks. I often find myself showing work from my studio and explaining who did it (i.e. not me). Sometimes I came up with the idea and/or was involved in the design, and sometimes all I did was direct it. And in those cases I'm happy to have been able to facilitate the work--if not to "do" it--and get credited accordingly.

Part of Tibor's genius was incubating an environment in which we were allowed and encouraged to come up with good ideas. Although the designers were "doing the work," we would have done very different work had we not been there. His ability to pick the best idea out of hundreds of others was also brilliant. I realize how easily people assume the boss "did it"--it's comforting to consistently credit one person every time than a shifting group of collaborators--but it's our duty to point out the complicated realities of the process.
Scott Stowell

Thanks for that comment, Scott. It's just as common for outsiders to assume the boss does everything as it is for the rank-and-file designers to spend their days fuming that they never get the credit. The reality is somewhere in between, and in a million different variations.

When I think of how graphic design history gets written, it's those "complicated realities" that tend to evaporate as time goes by. You can be sure that down the road (if not already), the credit for the EVERYBODY sign that Bill and Scott discuss above will get reduced to "Design: Tibor Kalman" or, slightly more accurately — if unhelpfully — "Design: M&Co." It seems to be a process as inevitable as beach erosion or global warming, but is similarly dismaying.
Michael Bierut

Actually I have to thank Tibor for--among other things--always making sure we were both credited on that project (of course it wasn't even quite that simple, but still). But it's true--as time goes by, even his own intent in that case will slowly be replaced by people's need to simplify things into an easily understandable story with one recognizable character. Meanwhile, I think the only M&Co. project I ever got official solo (non-Tibor) design credit for was the 1992 Dan Quayle "potatoe" ad for Florent, and that's something I'll always be proud of.
Scott Stowell

or is it "potato"?

Making sure credits are correct and in order is a sure sign of integrity. One thing I remember about The Richards Group was that credits were always always always in order- which kept morale high. The owner-Stan- was NEVER mentioned! Imagine Margaret Youngblood in a place like Landor being stripped of authorship. How demeaning! It didnt suprise me to hear she recently left there and is now VP of Banana Republic (vocational transfer?). She was an incredible identity designer and our profession will surely suffer for it.

On a similar/ somewhat related topic, I can recall in conversations with you (Scott) that you're a fan of "Creative Commons". Well, one of my fellow futbol teammates— Colin Mutchler is a musicial and video artist who up until last nite-toured the coutry with "CC" promoting its anti-capitolist ideologies. He is a great guy. Always passes the ball too! Ironically, next semester he is enrolling in business school in Paris. Se la vie.

felix sockwell

This brings up the question: What is the perception of what a "designer" is today? It certainly isn't the same as it was in the mid-60s. It seems as the moniker of designer has become less broad, migrating closer towards production/execution. The result is a reluctance for designers to refer to themselves as designers, but more often visual commmunicators, etc. These new titles hopefully move ex-designers back up the strategic food chain towards more solutions-based work rather than "execution."
Chris Hyde

Interesting Editorial St, Michael:

Alas, one Lone Ranger has come forth with the TRUTH.

Seriously, I'm amazed at how many Designer(s) cannot differentiate between Design and Craft.

As I've stated many times before.
I've always said. 'Design is an Intellectual Activity with a craft aspect to it'.

the neck up, "Design" = Development, A Plan, Purpose, or Intent initiated via Ideation, Orchestration, Delegation and Collaboration for Compensation.

the wrists down."Craft" = Execution + Rendering = Production.

Among, younger Creatives or misinformed seasoned professionals who work for themselves or never experienced Design in the Real World. Believe because you execute or are involved in production that makes you a Designer. It emphatically does not.

Designers almost always need others to bring their Ideas to Fruition.

Thus, an Architect Plans a building. An Architect is not involved with the actualization of building the building. The Architect need a construction crew to finalize his plan.

Fashion Designers are involved with Conceptualization of the end product. Other specialist bring the Fashion Designers plan into Fruition. Such as, cutters, seamstress, fitters, etc.

Structual Engineers plan the Design of Bridges.
Structual Engineers are not under water in a frog-man's suit with blow torch and welding equipment assembling bridges.

Other specialist perform those task.

If I may paraphrase Steve Heller in his HOW magazine article spring or summer 2004. Title, 'Taking Credit'. Whether the Principal of the Consultancy scribbles ideas on paper, verbalizes, or magically wave his/her hands. The Design belong to the principle of the Firm or Consultancy. Crediting other is the discretion of the Principal or lack thereof.

This all goes back to Mark Kostabi who built a reputation and Pied Piper following by only signing his name to his artisans creation.
He crated marks on paper for ideation. Never painted a brush stroke. When queried, why. Kostabi, eloquently stated this is how the Old Masters did it.

Kostabi, Master showman that he is. In fact was Brutally Honest.

Historic Facts:

Walter Landor, emphatically did not ever in his career create any of the Identities for Landor. A proclamation Mr. Landor made himself in his book. Walter Landor's Genius was in the Design of Packaging Structures, Marketing, and Boardroom Meetings. Areas which Mr. Landor he excelled.

No Identity ever left Landor without being Critiqued and scrutinized by Walter Landor when he was alive. Indeed he was as much involved in the Development as Designers and Strategist.

Robert Miles Runyan's Genius was in Orchestration and Delegation. Neither did he create any of the Identities created by his Consultancy.

Jim Berte, created the Identity for the 1984 Summer Olympics in California. Bob Runyan's contribution was Direction. The final solution and birth of Stars in Motion was all Jim Berte. As Bob Runyan stated we all shared in the process to arrive at the solution.

Herb Lubalin, typographic Genius was supplemented by Ernie Smith, Alan Peckolick, Roger Ferriter, Tom Carnase, Joe Sedwell, (others)

Herb didn't create every Design that come out of his office. He certainly was involved in the process.

About two years ago I had a four month conversation with a personal friend and former associate of SAUL BASS. We discussed the working methodology of Saul Bass & Associates and Bass Yager. Who did what and how much BASS was actually involved in the process.

We concluded that Bass was involved in about 75 -80% of his Design Process.

Having a conversation with Steve Heller on PAUL RAND we concluded that PAUL RAND was involved in 85 % of his process with subordinates and Bert Jackson Paul Rand's only full time staff member of record. Compensating for the rest.

Today the lines are blurred, because most of the Identity Consultancy or Principals of Design Consultancies or Firms. Come from an Marketing and/or Communications backgrounds and are not themselves Designers.

However, involved in the Decision Making Process.


In an early interview with Saul Bass in Industrial Design Magazine 1958.

Industrial Design Magazine:

You sound independant and uncompromising.


I try to be. But look, I don't want to sound moralistic about this. If I tend to resist compromise, it's because I have very little choice, since my big charge comes from doing things another way.


What qualities do you think a designer needs to achive this kind of independance.


One quality: you have to be prepared not to be liked.

Also it helps to be small. You mentioned commercial pressures a few minutes ago. I'm actively fighting the pressure to be big. I have had to ask my self: Do you want to be creative, or do you want to be an administrator of creative people?

The answer is easy. I want to be creative. But it isn't long before your creative success leads to a large staff. So far I have been able to resist this with a small staff.


And the reward is independance?


The reward is that I can participate in each problem myself. You see, I believe that if you dig down beneath any of the creative myths of our time, you find that the creator rooled up his sleeves and went to work. I try to work as deeply as possible into the design concept. But since I don't want to loose touch with the heart of the thing, I'm often responsible for details myself. And every design problem has a craft basis. If I hadn't myself fooled around with cut paper,

I would have not gotten "Man With The Golden Arm" symbol. So I try to do as much as I can myself-the rest is done by others-and when the whole thing makes a neat package. I walk around it once on my knees, exhausted. When I do something well I can say, "I did it" When it's bad I say " I did that too" - but not to loudly.

Saul Bass, Indutrial Design Magazine 1958 on his workig methodology.


It's interesting to compare the situation of creative and production ownership to -- let's say -- the movie industry. While a movie may be considered a "George Lucas" or "Steven Spielberg" movie, the end of the film faithfully (and probably contractually) lists anyone and everyone who had a role...right down to who catered lunch.

It's similar in theatre. I was an apprentice many years ago in a professional summer stock house, and we all got a credit line in the program.

In this sense, graphic designers seem to have clearly inherited the tradition of visual artists instead of performing artists. In the West before the Renaissance, visual artists were mainly unknown artisans. Then, thanks to the likes of Michelangelo, Raphael, et.al., an individual artist stepped forward in the public awareness, even though they still had a staff of assistants who historians rarely acknowledge.

While we may not need to know who catered lunch for a poster's brainstorming session, it would be nice for a more complete set of credits to become standard in the documentation of a graphic design piece. While proper credit can still be alusive in the movie industry (as the Saul Bass case in "Psycho" clearly demonstrates), it's still better than nothing.
Daniel Green


Bass received credit for Psycho. The first Designer ever to be named Pictorial Consultant. As well, Title Designer in the same movie. I have documentation exactly what Bass was hired in Psycho.
Hitchcock could've easily repudiated Bass when he was alive. It was Janet Lee, Roger Ebert, and a few lost soles that were misguided and misinformed of Bass' contribution to Psycho.

Bass and Hitchcock fell out because, Hitchcock didn't Bass publictly disscussing his contribution to Psycho.

Anthony Perkins until his death declared he did not shoot the shower scene killing Janet Lee. He always declared it was a stunt double. Same with Janet Lee the scene that was used in Psycho, Bass shot the scene with her stunt double.

Michael Jackson, never acknowledges his dance moves come from Fred Astaire, Elvis, Sammy Davis, James Brown and Jackie Wilson. Go figure. Some people are generous with credit and others aren't. He does credit the latter three as influences on his career.


DM --

You're right, of course. (I wouldn't try to argue with you on Bass, anyway.) What I meant was that, despite credit that Bass received, the famous shower scene is still considered by the uninformed to be the work of Hitchcock. So while complete credit listings are very beneficial, they don't totally prevent confusion from happening.
Daniel Green

A very good poster, makes it even better knowing the creative process. Thank you for the website and all the hard work.

Although I have no problem with the creative director getting most of the credit, defining the craft of design as a 'wrists down' job is a bit insulting. Even the person who is crafting the design is constantly making conscious plans and decisions. If you believe that the Light Years poster would've been exactly the same no matter which designer was behind the crafting, then yes, call it a 'wrists down' job. The fact that Mr. Bierut doesn't even remember how it was executed proves to me that people like Nicole Trice deserve the credit.

Come to think of it, being the crafter of the design is a lot like being a surrogate mother.
Hyun Auh

The parallel drawn by Mr. Green between contemporary graphic designers and certain Renaissance painters, in this instance, is an apt one. However, I disagree with his assertion that [art] historians rarely acknowledge the staff of assistants employed by the painters. I submit the following:

Bernard Berenson writes that Titian "sent out quantities of pictures as his own which he had scarcely touched". Further one of his patrons, Frederic, Duke of Mantua (who we designers might call a client), "begged him to send works that have his touch as well as his signature." The idea of the master painter working tirelessly in his small studio for the greater good of man and beauty is exploded in this business relationship between client and creative. Additionally, "Raphael was another famous instance of a painter who did not hesitate to send out his assistants' works as his own, decorated with his own signature. Everything painted in his shop was regarded as his work, even when wholly executed, and even designed by his assistants." (From Berenson's "Rudiments of Connoisseurship")

Good art history classes "discuss attribution, interpretation, and the way art reflects a culture's 'period eye'". (From my colleague Meredith Gill's intro in her Picturing History freshman-level class.)

Robert Sedlack

Toto Schillaci

Hyun Auh, I agree that for certain design solutions, particularly things like posters, what makes the difference is the craft skills used in the execution. When anyone says they find the "Light Years" poster beautiful, I'm pretty sure what they're reacting to is the specific way Nicole rendered the transparency of the letters, not the rather obvious "idea" of having the letters superimposed upon each other.

Some designs are all craft, some are all idea, some are in between.

Now, as long as we're talking about credit and the movies...

F.T. I understand that in addition to the main titles, Saul Bass also did some sketches for the picture.

A.H. He did only one scene, but I didn't use his montage. He was supposed to do the titles, but since he was interested in the picture, I let him lay out the sequence of the detective going up the stairs, just before he is stabbed. One day during the shooting I came down with a temperature, and since I couldn't come to the studio, I told that cameraman and my assistant that they could use Saul Bass's drawings. Only the part showing him going up the stairs, before the killing...When I looked at the rushes of the scene, I found it was no good...

Hitchcock by Francois Truffaut, revised edition, 1983
Michael Bierut

St. Michael:

"A.H. He did only one scene, but I didn't use his montage. He was supposed to do the titles, but since he was interested in the picture, I let him lay out the sequence of the detective going up the stairs, just before he is stabbed. One day during the shooting I came down with a temperature, and since I couldn't come to the studio, I told that cameraman and my assistant that they could use Saul Bass's drawings. Only the part showing him going up the stairs, before the killing...When I looked at the rushes of the scene, I found it was no good..."

"Hitchcock by Francois Truffaut, revised edition, 1983"

Michael, that story is now being repudiated by Historians and associate directors on Hitchcocks set. If fact Hitchcock did not tell the truth. Steve Heller, did his own investigation of Psycho. As well, other Historians. The consensus is Hitchcock took credit because Psycho was his baby. As the Director Psycho the film ultimately belong to the Director.
Overwhelmingly, the consensus is Saul Bass did in fact Direct the Shower Scene in Psycho. Albeit, Hitchcock taking Executive Privilege or Plausible Deniability of Bass' contribution.

The shower sequence of Psycho is not reminiscent of Hitchcock's style. Certainly indicative of Bass's style and thematic drive, not Hitchcock.

The shower scene in Psycho was a zillion cuts in a few minutes, carefully pre-edited. A staccato effect with
very tight Close ups of the head, hands, and eye incorporating silhouetted imagery. All motifs Bass incorporated before working with Hitchcock. This style of shooting can be witnessed in the opening title sequence of Saul Bass' Title Designs for the Victors, Vertigo, Cape Fear, Nine Hours to Rama, Seconds, Grand Prix, (others). All which Hitchcock had nothing to do with nor influenced.

Any aficionado of film that looks at Psycho and the shower scene. They are two separate shooting styles. If you've seen the Searching Eye by Saul Bass. Created for United Airlines shown at the 1964 Worlds Fair. The aforementioned Motifs are incorporated.

Hitchcock style of shooting. A long continuous shot, which was his trademark. In the opening shot of Psycho. The camera moved in over Phoenix and into the building, under the shade, through the window and into the room to Janet Leigh and John Gavin who are making love. That camera move was Hitchcock's patent trademark signature. And surmises his shooting style. As in Notorious. If someone was going up the stairs into a room. Hitchcock's way of handling the shooting would be a long continuous shot. Of a fluid camera follow behind the person, right up the stairs, go around the corner, come around the banister, turn, go into a room, all in one shot.

That shooting style is indicative of all of Hitchcock's movies.

One thing for certain, Hitchcock movies were never as successful without Bass as they were with Bass and Composer Bernard Herman.

Why, Hitchcock destroyed the Majic and his formula for selfish reasons and personal gain.

Marvelous Article in Eye Magazine circa 2001 or 2002 on the fall out between Hitchcock, Bass, and Composer Bernard Herman. Hitchcock didn't want to acknowledge Bass as having Designed the Shower Scene in Psycho. And Bernard Herman wanted more money and creative freedom.

Both left Hitchcock aghast in his Pomposity.

From Show Business Illustrated 1962

Summoned to Psycho as a Special Consultant to Violence. Bass masterminded the horrific shower stabbing scene in Psycho and right armed Alfred Hitchcock. He also conceived Spartacus major set. And plotted on paper (story boarded) the cinematic battle royal.

Saul Bass by Jim Supanick. Published in Film Comment - March-April 1997

And what about Psycho anyway? For years now, the question of who conceived and directed the shower sequence has been a point of contention. Bass always asserted that it was his own idea, based on a storyboard and reluctantly approved by Hitchcock after viewing some test footage that Bass had shot. Others who worked on the film have disputed this claim or downplayed Bass's role.

My own feeling, based on various accounts, is that it was his idea, though the skepticism expressed by others on the crew stemmed from the ambiguity of what it meant to "direct" something ultimately overseen by Hitchcock and involving very little in the way of giving instruction to actors. Hitchcock himself described Bass's role beyond the titles as being no more than a curious onlooker, but if his contribution was such a minor thing, why was he given special credit as "visual consultant"? The fact that he was asked by Stanley Kubrick to direct the battle scenes for Spartacus (60) is beyond dispute. A good indication of Hollywood's respect for Bass at this point, it should be kept in mind by Hitchcock loyalists who find his
claim preposterous.


D.M.: I'm sure the Psycho controversy is heightened by the fact that the shower scene became such an iconic moment in studio history. I was shocked (and amused) the first time I read the above passage, where Hitchcock acknowleges that Bass did indeed direct a scene: that famous scene where the detective walks up the stairs. Right, the legendary detective-walking-up-the-stairs-in-Psycho scene! Hitchcock supposedly had a real streak of sadism in him (just ask Tippy Hedren) and this bears that out: to not only deny Bass credit for the shower scene, but to futher attribute a forgettable scene to him instead, and then to say that he didn't even think Bass did it well!
Michael Bierut


I certainly didn't mean to take this thread in that direction. discussing Psycho.

I give everybody credit.

I trust Gunnar doesn't mind me telling this story.Gunnar, contacted me a couple of years ago. To inquire. Who originally Designed the Identity for Citibank. I quipped, that's easy Anspach Grossman Portugal. With Gene Grossman and Dan Friedman taking credit for Designing the Compass Rose Identity.
We talked about how much we both loved the new Identity you and Paula Scher Developed and Designed.

However, long story short, Gunnar was ultimately repulsed by the Gradient continued to be used by the older Signage System. Gunnar, stated perhaps the client wanted some aspect of the old Identity to merge with the new. I said 'Gunnar, more than likely you're correct'.
I also informed Gunnar, Pentagram partnered with Lippincott & Margulies whom were responsible for Signage, the Identity Manual, and Credit Card Design. If memory serve me ATM Machines, as well.

Michael, please correct me if I'm wrong.

Paula, tells the story of how you got the phone call to Revitalize Citibank in your office. Within her book, 'Make it Bigger'.
She definitely acknowledges your contribution in Development and Design Process. All other accounts of authors writing about the Revitalized Identity for Citibank only credit Paula Scher with Design.

It's kind of funny, because all your close friends and the informed Design Community at Large is also aware of your contribution to the Design of Citibank. Just shows you how History and Credit can get twisted. When others are recording History, other than the original author.

I was reading typophile the other night. Someone asked the name of the typeface used for Citibank. Nick Shinn, type aficionado and Designer of numerous faces. Gave the name of the face and stated "Citibank was Designed by Paula Scher". I said to myself, 'Nick you know better'. Paula Scher and Michael Bierut. This inevitably happens all the time. No reflection on Mr.Shinn. I'm also guilty of it with other Designer(s).

The importance of, Who gave birth to the Idea (Design), is larger than life. Certain annuals, such as the International Poster Annual, (now defunct) only cared about the Designer. Who gave birth to the Idea. Within IPA, 85% of the time only the Designer was credited. Same with early issues of Graphis, Modern Publicity, Art Directors Club. Although, artist, photographers, and illustrators were credited. The Designer was Glorified and carried all the weight. Same holds TRUE today. The Designer is The Ultimate POWER and GLORY !!!!!!!!


It wasn't a question to Nick Shinn about Citibanks type.

This conversation takes an interesting twist. Mr. Shinn did answer the comment relating to Design Process of Citibank's Identity. Comments and link below.

From Typophile Discussion Original vs Creative.

Joe Pemberton:

A comment on originality...
I can't stand it when you're being critiqued and your client only has enough design vocabulary to point out that it reminds him/her of some other brand or some other thing - no matter how distant the comparison. It's like they can't evaluate it on their own, but only in reference to things they've seen... It's like calling a tostada a "Mexican pizza" which is insulting to both tostadas and pizza.

(You've all heard them: the purple reminds them of Taco Bell, that font reminds them of Citibank, the square logo is just like Amex, etc. etc.)


off topic —

"...that font reminds them of Citibank"

here's a little story (i don't know if this story is accurate, too accurate or not but...)

Citibank + Travelers merged. They called in a designer to their new logo for the merged identities. They met and talked for a long time.

The designer listened to everything,and after two minutes created the new logo (the red hemispheric slash).

the designer gives them the bill, and....

Client: "This is a ridiculous amount of money to charge, it took you like two minutes to come up with that logo".

Designer: "No, it took two minutes plus 16 years".


mmmm...or maybe not off topic. maybe that designer is creative and original

Nick Shinn:

>it took two minutes plus 16 years

The designer was Paula Scher, keynote speaker at this year's TypeCon.

The "2 minutes" anecdote is, I regret to inform you, neither creative nor original, and derives from the Ruskin-Whistler libel case of 1878.

>nothing new under the sun

Link below to full discussion.


Apologies, for posting from another weblog. Wanting to sustantiate my story.



as a designer, i have been asked by my employer to execute (copy) "the michael bierut light years poster," at least three times for clients as varied as a publisher, a computer manufacturer, and a hospital...

this is very simple with an adobe illustrator function...

the solutions are NEVER as elegant as the original poster.
Joe Marianek

I've heard the "two minutes plus sixteen years" story before as well. It was not invented for Citi.

Some notes for the record (since that's what this topic is about.) Although it was a collaboration, I would say that Paula was the primary designer of the Citi identity system. Michael Wolff (founder of Wolff Olins) was an independent consultant on the projecte who helped persuade everyone that the name should be Citi rather than Citibank. I devoted many hours in the early days meeting with client groups and developing the scenarios by which the identity could be introduced in the organization. Peter Dixon and Connie Birdsall at Lippincott Mercer (who have been the bank's long term identity consultants) led a team through the logistics of the launch, particularly as it related to bank signage. I still maintain that the idea of the logo itself is so simple and obvious that we all had it simultaneously.

All that said, the reason the program would not actually exist in the world without the dogged efforts of the client team, led by Citi's Susan Avarde. Susan was at the very first meeting and still champions the identity today; we presented the program together at the AIGA Gain conference in Minneapolis several years ago.

I wonder if it would have an effect on the way our profession is perceived if clients as well as designers received credit in our competitions and publications.
Michael Bierut

In this particular case, CITI— the "client as designer"— seems surely to have taken credit for regressing back to the Travellors umbrella in certain instances of the logo lockup.

I recall quite distinctly when this logo was 1st unveiled. Someone (no names) in my office (Brand Integration Group) pinned it up on my door and began ranting about how poorly the type was constructed with the red arch.

Frankly, I was impressed more with the name change and simple execution than the finer points on the type's spacing and lockup.
Everyone is a raging, reclining armchair deigner when these large identities are divulged.

felix sockwell

We designers seem to love The Cult Of The Design Diva, and propagate it with gusto. As much as we understand that design is almost always collaborative, we still like to believe that there is a single genius making the work; a Mozart or Shakespeare or Van Gogh or Einstein striving away on his own in some candle-lit recess.

When I attended the Frank Gehry exhibition at the Guggenheim a couple of years ago, I was interested to see all of the sketches of scrunched-up bits of paper, and the various models and renderings of the proposed - and some actually built - projects. All of the captions described how Gehry did this and Gehry did that, to the exclusion of everyone else in the world. Not only did Mr Gehry design the architecture, he also stayed up all night at his computer running the CAD/CAM software, drew every single construction drawing, and hammered every titanium nail into every titanium panel. I admire Mr Gehry's work, but I was disappointed in the writer and curator of the show for doing so much to propagate the lone genius myth.

In design and advertising, the militaristic system of Creative Director, followed by Art Director, followed by Senior Designer, followed by Designer, rounded out by Junior Designer is simply ridiculous and seems meant to make those at the top feel like they're more important than those at the bottom. The continued reference to this system spreads the Cult Of The Design Diva; the Creative Director is the one who really counts, and everyone else was merely a pair of hands.

I worked for 8+ years with - "with", not "for" - one of the "lone genius" designers, and despite his best efforts at sending complete and accurate credits with annual/contest/book submissions, half of the time only his name would be listed. Or he would be listed as Creative Director, and not as Designer, which he considered us all to be. (We had no titles on our business cards, just our names.) In his recently-published book the work is credited in order of design, from conception at the top through the consequent layers of execution: photography, writing, typography... Most of the work lists his initials first, but not all; credit where credit is due.


Joe Marianek recently posted:

"as a designer, i have been asked by my employer to execute (copy) "the michael bierut light years poster," at least three times for clients as varied as a publisher, a computer manufacturer, and a hospital...

"this is very simple with an adobe illustrator function...

"the solutions are NEVER as elegant as the original poster."

Mr Marianek, are you admitting to ripping off (under instructions) the "Light Years" poster three times? How can it be that your employer was so craven that he would: A) rip off another designer, B) do it over and again, and C) rip off the same piece?

And you ripped it off? Your Illustrator "solution" failed to live up to the original "Light Years" poster, did it? I really hope that you're not surprised by this. I'm disappointed in your boss for asking you to plagiarise, but I'm even more disappointed in you for actually doing it, paycheque or not. There is absolutely no excuse for knowingly copying a colleague's work, and I'm surprised that you decided to post in this thread to tell your story as though it was a funny little anecdote and not a sign of armageddon.

Out of curiosity, Michael, I notice consistent mention of Ruscha as an influence on this blog, ( and the design world in general), but nary a word for Joseph Kosuth or Seth Sieglaub. Any reaon for that? In the art world, Kosuth is just as, if not more, mentioned than Ed. Seth and Kosuth had a big published bout in the 80's on originality and the problems associated with it in Krauss's October, published via MIT. The dabate was loaded, and possibly edited, with personal jabbs, but many points made are still valid. Is it just that designers are not aware of the works made concerning the psychology of type within the art world? Or do designers just like Ruscha's style better?

Chester, sorry to be misleading and for offering the weak anecdote. I did not "rip off" the Light Years poster; nor attempt to. Quite the opposite...In fact, I took a staunch argument with my creative director's arrogant suggestion of borrowing and misappropriating a published piece of design by a high profile author.

The troubling fact is that a successful, ubiquitously published and clearly-credited piece of design can quickly become an artifact to be lusted after by hungry practicioners. How does this still happen? Does a handwritten, Paul Rand-like signature do a better job of prescribing ownership than a line of credit?

Joe Marianek

Mr Marianek, thank you for the clarification and phew!

Having witnessed some pretty dastardly acts of plagiarism lately, my hackles are raised and my fuse is short. I'm very glad that you did not stoop to the level you were asked to; biting from anyone, high profile or no profile, is simply not on. But, as you say, once something enters the greater world, it seems to become fair game for the unscrupulous. And those individuals will always be able to justify their actions to themselves, so there's little that can be done to dissuade them.

Grant, you're right that Ed Ruscha's work appeals to me as a graphic designer in a very particular way. Artists like Joseph Kosuth seem to regard typography as a kind of object trouve,even when they take pains to create it themselves. A larger category (Kruger, Holzer, Wool, Weiner) hit on one font family and use it almost exclusively as a kind of personal default.

In Ruscha I see someone who not only making deliberate choices about typography, but taking real sensual pleasure in each of those choices. There is a fit between word and image that has a kind of mysterious rightness to it that I admire. It is also extremely hard to imitate, for whatever that's worth.
Michael Bierut


If you must, I much prefer Primadonna.

Jesse and Debbie Millman are Diva's.

BTW, Jesse, gorgeous picture in ID Magazine. You too Debbie, I see you all the time. Have never seen Jesse.

Down to business, Whenever you take employment with a studio, firm, or consultancy. You are working under a Work For Hire Contract. The Principal or Employer is the owner of the work. Whether the Principal is a Designer or potted plant in name only. Credit is given at the discretion of the Principal or lack thereof. It is unfortunate of your situation and others. Some entities are generous with credit. While others are not. I've worked in Government for almost twenty (20) years. Never signed my name to anything. That is Government Protocol and Policy. Any name you can think of from SAUL BASS, Chermayeff & Geismar, Lubalin, Vignelli, (others) have created numerous posters for Government entities. None were able to sign their name to projects. Yes, they negotiated to submit their work to annuals and and receive credit. In some areas of Visual Communication, Corporate Entities are not allowing Designer(s) to leave with samples of work. At the same time, not allowing them to take credit for their work. Imagine if you worked at a place for ten (10) years. You leave or are laid off. The employer is adamant stating. "You cannot show samples of the work you produced at our firm". Nothing you can due, except make a moral appeal to their better judgement. Worse case scenario, file suit. Ultimately, the work belong to the employer. You were hired under a work for hire contract.
The only way to alleviate this problem is to become Principal of your own studio, firm, consultancy. Then you're hiring others under a Work For Hire Contract. It looks like a Win Win Situation. Now as an employer, you're subjecting your employees to the same agony you experienced, if you are not generous with credit.

Today, unlike yesterday, receiving credit is negotiable. When you go for an interview at a prospect Design Firm or Consultancy. You can ask, what their policy is for awarding credit in Annuals and/or Monetary Incentive Awards, for Merit Performance.

Daniel and Chester: You should obtain a copy of Steve Heller's wonderful article on this subject. Print Magazine Regional Design Annual 2003 pg 28 Article Title, Credit. Earlier I mentioned the article was in HOW, I was wrong. Steve Heller, also address the issue of why Designer(s) don't receive credit as generous as the Film Industry.

Felix, you know my Father stated within the abridged interview I posted. With Creative Independence you have to be prepared not to be liked. Talking about Pentagram's Citibank kerning put you in the running. Of not being... (LOL)

I agree with you A Gazillion times over in reference to Margaret Youngblood. Margaret was Landor. She carried them on her shoulders. Although, I'm not found of her last project, ywca. Nevertheless, Margaret Youngblood, is living, breathing, TESTAMENT of Identity Design. AT IT's BEST. Landor, will never be the same without her.


T'wasnt me who critted the Citi mark. Though to be honest, the mark doesnt blow me away. My point was that it has recently gone the hway of a "CEO logo-hijacking"— a relatively new phenom that hurts our prefession enormously.

As for "Margaret's last identity" you are in fact wrong. I could tell you that I worked with her on another, later merger but given the contract I may or may not have signed I can't tell you about it. FEde-ahe-Kin-ahem- kos.

I meant nothing by it, Your Honor.
felix sockwell

When I first saw your "Light Years" poster, I immediately saw the word "VEGAS".

The "L, Y" reads as a "V". The "E, I" reads as an "E". The "G, A" reads as a "G". The "H" and "R" form the letter "A". The "T, S" reads an "S".

Ms or Mr Maven, you wrote:
"If you must, I much prefer Primadonna.
"Jesse and Debbie Millman are Diva's."

Well, I must, and I much prefer "diva", and chose that word specifically. A diva and a prima donna are not the same thing. Do I point out to you that you have confused plural with possessive? No, I do not. Because I was raised to be polite, and not to impose my personal tastes and opinions upon others.

Thank you for your insight on Work For Hire; indeed, most graphic designers are engaged under this type of arrangement, and in most cases there is an agreement between parties that design work undertaken by an employee may be shown in order to find future employment. But she may NOT court potential clients with the work; for such purposes, the work belongs to the employer/firm.

Unless the client is the government of the United States of America, as you noted. I believe that the same applies for Swatch.

I miss nicole. I wonder what she's doing now


You were raised well.

Generally, the vernacular Diva is reserved for WOMEN.

I'm an Alpha Male.

From Dictionary.com

Prima donna:

1. The leading woman soloist in an opera company.

2. A temperamental, conceited person.


1. An operatic prima donna.

2. A very successful singer of nonoperatic music: a jazz diva.

3. a distinguished female operatic singer; a female operatic star.


P.S. If I may borrow lingo from Norbert A Regular Commentator on Typophile. He's never said anything about Felix. My own words to Norbert's one liners.

I'm conceited, but I'm not as temperamental and conceited as Felix.


I'm no longer employed by the Government.

I'm Independant, Consultant to Government as well Corporate America.


It's not that complicated folks... the person that gets the credit should be the same person that would take the hit if the "light years" poster read "lit years". Creative directors disappear when "wristy" designers enter the text wrong.

Nice. Very nice. I like it a lot.
Donovan Phillips

dsp, You are simplifying it too much now. Maybe the creative director should have hired a proofreader.

Design Maven, The idea that the only true "designers" out there are the people that come up with the original idea is just ridiculous. I hope no designers of my generation end up adopting this antiquated ideal. The term craft is not a bad word, but what we as "grunt designers" do is more than just craft. Choosing colors, typefaces, arranging visual concepts and creating a look is beyond tightening bolts on a structure. Even if those of us designers are "misinformed" as to what design actually is, I would rather be uninformed that an elitist.

The rewards for being a principal are great (as they should be). It wouldn't hurt to credit the designers and junior designers out there a little more. Even if a firm isn't legally obligated to credit the pee-ons, the owner should have a bit of a moral compass and give credit to those that slaved away.

I'm not sure how we can celebrate Mr. Bierut any more than he already is, but we should find a way. This is a great example to those "celebrity" designers that take credit for what others do. Thanks Michael.
Bennett Holzworth

Bennett Holzworth:

Me an Elitist, I shudder to think.

I'll become Elitist, when I'm inducted into the Alliance Graphique Internationale, Receive my Lifetime Achievement Awards from the AIGA, and Art Directors Club. None of those organizations I'm a member because of personal conviction.

Anyway, Bennett there is a pecking order in Design.

Fact of matter; Design in its PURITANICLE sense is very Structured, Rigorous, Departmentalized, and Compartmentalized.
Albeit, being Elitist with Pecking Orders to Boast.
Personally, iterating from the position many observe as any work being commenced by the hand as menial (ridiculed) . Any work being commenced by the mind (glorified).

Agreed, such mindset is ELITIST SNOBBRY to boot. I've known people that learned the Profession from the ground up. That were better Designer(s) than people that reached the Pinnacle. Many Supervisors and/or Design Managers cannot copyfit, use a haberule, cast off and count characters. Much less speak the language of the printer. At the same time, puch printers to perform their best. Many get their Production Manager to trouble shoot his/her mistakes. The above reference interation is how you and I learned the profession. We're Blessed!!!!!!

Realistically, BOUNDARIES EXIST. Graphic Design is perhaps the only Creative Profession where Designer(s) are involved in the craft aspect of their business.

If I may repeat my iteration from an earlier post.

Architects are Designer(s) they are not involved in the craft aspect of their business.
Architects don't lay bricks. The supervise construction.

Fashion Designer(s) are not seamstress, nor cutters nor fitters. That work is delegated. Including the Illustration of their product.

Industrial Designer(s) are not involved in the craft aspect of their business. Their models are given to model maker(s) and various specialist in their respective expertise.

At the same time, there is nothing more Nauseam to me than Designer(s) associating Craft with Design.
They are as separate as DAY and NIGHT. Although, smaller and independant sources cross pollinate the two.
Design and Craft are separate and not equal.

If Designer(s) didn't invent the separatism and pecking order. Personnel Departments are surely responsible.
I've had any number of Production workers come to me as a Design Manager within Private sector and Government wanting job discriptions changed. Can't be done.

Most important, I began my career at age fourteen (14) (1970) when Bull Pens existed. As an Illustrator's assistant.

In my day, there were specialist. Beginning with production people; layout artist, comp artist, airbrush artist, illustrators, photographers, typographers, and art directors.

You did not become a Designer until you graduated to layout artist or art director.
Often times that did not happen. Depending where you worked.
Typographers were first and foremost considered Designers. In some circles you were not considered a Designer unless you were a Designer of books or periodicles.

Today, the Designer is the END ALL BE ALL. Because of the computer, he/she in many situations is responsible for every aspect of conceptualization to finish art. Often times act as typographer, production, photographer, illustrator, etc. Today Departments have been remarkably reduced in size.

That being sad, if you are working for yourself , as an Independant.Giving birth to Ideation for a client. Yes, you are a Designer. If you are in a Work For Hire situation employed by a enitity or freelancing for said entity. And are not involved in the Decision Making Process of said Projects. You are a Glorified Production Designer. Regardless ot your Title. I didn't event this. This is the way our Profession is Defined by THE POWERS THAT BE. As well, Human Resources.

Most important, why is it that Graphic Designer(s) who are procduction people seemingly CRYand Whine about their status? Not being Bonifide Designers. You are in control of your Fate. Don't like your situation, change it.

I've never witness production people from other aforementioned Design Professions Cry and Whine about their status. The seemstress, cutter and fitter, may possibly be a better Designer than the person that they are employed. You don't hear them complaining in an open forum about their lack of respect or non credit. The same with Draftsman or Construction Crews.You don't hear them complaining Frank Gehry or Rem Koolhaas didn't give them credit for actually laying bricks and building the structure.

Frankly, as an African American Designer. I'm annoyed by this talk of Credit or the lack thereof.

You know who should receive credit. Georg Olden, Legendary African American Designer should've receive Credit for being the Designer of the CBS Eye. He was uncredited. William Golden his Boss took credit. Neither did he receive Credit in Phillip Meggs Landmark Book 'A History of Graphic Design'. Georg Olden was mysteriously left out of 'A History of Graphic Design'. While the author chose to talk about the careers of Willam Golden and Lou Dorfsman.

You want to discuss Lack of Credit. Let's talk about the lack of representation of African American Designer(s) by the AIGA and Art Directors Club. Receiving their Lifetime Achievment Awards. Shouldn't Reynold Ruffins, African American Designer and founder of Push Pin receive his Lifetime Achievement Award from the AIGA and Art Diretors Club ???

The Art Directors Club has nominated one African American, Gordon Parks. However, no African American Designer(s)What about Archie Boston.

No African Amercian Designer representatoin by the Alliance Graphique Internationale.

C'mon, don't insult my intelligence Guys lets be real. These are real issues. Nobody wants to deal wiith them.

You don't hear me Crying and Whining about the Lack of Representation and Credit of African Americans in the Design Industry.

As a Designer of your respective entities you are compensated by a PAYCHECK. That's credit enough !!!!!!!


I'd just like to address the comment about creative commons having an "anti-capitalist ideology" to clear up some, um, common misconceptions about cc. and I dont work for them - I'm just a fan. CC isn't anti-capitalist per se - works created under a creative commons license don't automatically enter the public domain and become freely available for everyone to use. rather, it acknowledges that the concept of fair use has become so constrained by corporations that there is a lack of balance in today's copyright law. a CC license actually allows an author to retain copyright while allowing certain exceptions to it, upon certain conditions. so for instance, organizations and individuals cannot use your work for commercial gain unless given permission. the objective of the CC license is help content authors (designers, artists, musicians, writers, programmers) find new ways to promote and market themselves (certainly not anti-capitalist there).

from their web site:
In fact, we designed the noncommercial license option to be a tool to help people make money from their work, by allowing them to maximize the distribution of their works while keeping control of the commercial aspects of their copyright.

Take this example: You license your photograph with a noncommercial license and post it on your website. An editor at Spectacle, a for-profit magazine, comes across your photo and wants to use it for the next issue's cover. Under the noncommercial term, the editor could copy your photograph and show it to her friends and co-workers, but she would have to strike a separate deal with you (for money, if you're smart) to use it for the magazine.

Much as I hate to encourage digression, I thought that I would note that this blog from one of our well-known and extremely talented colleagues is licensed under a Creative Commons License.


Design Maven, How can you change an organization if you don't participate in it?

I agree. There is a pecking order and that in theory there is a difference between craft and design. It is just really hard to find an average designer that doesn't do both. Unless you are at the bottom or the pinnacle, it seems that us average designers do both conception and production.

I'm not Crying and Wining about anything. I do get credit for the work I do. I'm just looking out for the other guy. If part of an idea was created by a junior designer, then give him/her credit. Legality aside, it is the right thing to do.

"As a Designer of your respective entities you are compensated by a PAYCHECK. That's credit enough !!!!!!!"

This is great ideal if you want to demean your employees and get the worst possible work out of them. I have always liked the idea of surrounding yourself with greatness instead of people that should be grateful to just be in your presence and receive a paycheck.
Bennett Holzworth

Design Maven:
"Architects are Designer(s) they are not involved in the craft aspect of their business. Architects don't lay bricks. The supervise construction."

I'm pretty sure Nicole Trice did not lay the ink down on that light years poster. Brick Layers are the production people, such as the printers. Your anologies are inaccurate.
Hyun Auh

"As a Designer of your respective entities you are compensated by a PAYCHECK. That's credit enough !!!!!!!"

that's one of the most asinine things i've ever heard you say.

the value of a created work comes from pride taken in it. if that's removed, you get poorly-crafted garbage that affirms poor craft "because you're being paid." that's shortsighted. everyone knows that.


It seems so trivial and mindless to discuss the lack of credit in ones respective work place. From where I sit self serving and deprecating of Design Practice in General. Not necessarily pointing the finger at you. Chester and anyone else whom seem to think they deserve more. These are issues that should be taken up internally with management. Not in a public forum. Creative people historically, have been thought of as Self Centered, Infantile Wuss. There are subject matter that should be discussed in a public forum. Subject matter that should not. I ascribe to the theory, if our backyards are not clean. We can't tell anybody else to clean their backyards.

I Champion many causes. People have to learn to Fend for themselves. Some Designer jobs are Union. Referencing the Televison Industry and Movie Industry.
The work you create is recognized and you're properly credited. Even the Unions are having problems. Prime example AFLCIO, and Teamsters. Let's leave Policing of individual Design Studios, Firms, and Consultancies to themselves. Credit or the lack thereof is personal discretion of the Principal.

As Designer(s) what we can Champion Collectively is the Insurance of Participation, Survival and Inclusion and Honor of all Visual Communicators Legacy who have set standards of excellence over a lifetime of work or have made individual contributions to innovation within the practice of design. Rewarding them Lifetime Achievement Awards.

Regardless of Race, Color or Creed.

One Lone Ranger does not and cannot effect change. It will take THE POWERS THAT BE to recognize and correct the inaccuracy of his story.



"the value of a created work comes from pride taken in it. if that's removed, you get poorly-crafted garbage that affirms poor craft "because you're being paid." that's shortsighted. everyone knows that".

Pride comes from wanting to commence a good job first and satisfy the client needs. Not recognition in a book for doing what you were intially hired.

I've never ever in my twenty three year career. (not counting my work as a teenager) had a client ask me what book I was in. Neither, how many awards I won. My clients are only concerned about Deliverables within Budget.
Neither have I been asked by respected Designer(s) I partnered. How many awards I won. Did you get in AIGA 365 ?, ecetera, ecetera.

I cannot feed my wife and three children and pay my rent with recognition.

I have recognition, I've earned recognition, Recognition is MEANINGLESS TO ME. I DON'T NEED RECOGNITION, I DON'T WANT RECOGNITION, I DO NOT SEEK RECOGNITION. I DO NOT CARE ABOUT RECOGNITION. I only care if I can feed my wife three children and pay my rent. That my friend takes a PAYCHECK. Not something as asinine and self congratulatory as RECOGNITION. I cannot tell you how many offers I've gotten to tell my story in Design Publications. I turn them all down. I'm only committed to one person. Someone both you and I know.

Recognition is viewed by people outside of Design, as self congratulatory and Manical.

And Pride has nothing to do with recognition. Recognition should not be an incentive for taking Pride in your job.

The fact that you have a job and/or clients are working in this economy should be incentive enough for you to do good work.

I'll repeat it again, I'm very generous with credit. Those that don't that's their cross to bare.

Hyun Auh,

Production is Craft. We can play with Semantics.
However, Craft is not Design. Neither is Production.


For professionals concerned with brevity and communication, you would think that designers wouldn't write such rambling opuses.

Greg, I call you attention to Mr Maven's earlier post:

"I'm no longer employed by the Government.
"I'm Independant, Consultant to Government as well Corporate America."

We all know that brevity and government don't mix. Even for an Independant [sic] Consultant.

Greg & Chester:

Shouldn't you be doing more with your opposible thumbs square jaw and the big brain? Like walking upright.



Regarding DM's comment that a paycheck is compensation enough:

1. Perhaps I should just put my pay stubs in my portfolio instead.

2. I recently read this obit for the inventor of the TV dinner. The man single handedly changed the american landscape and what did he get for it? A small monthly raise and a $1000 bonus. But had this to say in retrospect: "It's a pleasure being identified as the person who did this because it changed the way people live. It's part of the fabric of our society."

Credit where credit is due is the real currency folks.

That just leaves the matter of where credit is due up for debate.
Josh Berta

Josh Berta

Better Josh, trying giving your portfolio to your mortgage lender, landlord, supermarket salesman, car dealership, dentist,doctor, accountant, lawyer, babysitter, taxi driver, metro, etc. as currency.

Your portfolio, I suspect is why you're able to receive a paycheck. If not, take your recognition, annuals, and awards and feed your family with them and provide them shelter and financial security.

Your recognition, annuals, and certificates are only good for one thing. To start a fire to keep your family warm.



Follow Up:

For all those who want to buy into the Recognition
and Awards Whore Mongering. Verses, let the work speak for itself. And the Cream Rises To The Top Mentality I ascribe.

Ask, Boxer Mike Tyson, who was worth purportedly $ 400.000.000.00 dollars in his lifetime. Now Broke, still Famous, continues to be Recognized as a Great Fighter. Has a plethora of awards. Presently owes the IRS
$ his last fight in D.C. June 11, 2005 which he lost. His purse netted him $

Mike Tyson, presently owe Internal Revenue Service $ dollars. His future as a fighter and major attraction is over.

With all Mike Tyson's Fame, Recognition, and Awards.
He surely would trade all that in for a PAYCHECK.
His paychecks bought him an Entourage and Fake Friends,
as well a Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous.

His Awards and Recognition only bring him sneers and jeers. Alas, he will have to pond his awards to get a paycheck to payoff the IRS.

He's got Recognition and that buys him nothing !!!!!!!



Correction, I meant.

Alas, he will have to PAWN his awards to get a paycheck to payoff the IRS.


I doubt Mr. Beirut found himself in his current position by doing obscure newsletters and flash banner ads.

Now, call me crazy, but I doubt he's working for free, so one could argue that "Recognition Whore Mongering" (your words, not mine) has been very kind to him, indeed.


Neither is St. Michael engaging in dialog within a Public Forum crying and whining about the lack of credit and injustice from his former respective employers.

He's smart enough to address the matter internally with management.

Brazen enough to tell the TRUTH in a public forum about his involvement in said Communication Design. Unheard of in this industry.

Michael doesn't promote himself. He has no self serving interest. Other than Wholesome and Holistic Design for The Betterment Of All Mankind.

Not Whore Mongering in my book. Yes, Michael has won a plethora of awards. He's earned every last one of them the old fashion way. By the sweat of his brow. Doing Great work without Whining and Complaining. When it's time for him to checkout. I know for a fact his wife and children would prefer to have some monetary solice opposed to trying to find out what the market value is for his Design Awards.

Michael is feeding his family and living in WESTCHESTER with a PAYCHECK not awards and recognition. The paycheck was bestowed because of opportunity. If Michael did not get the opportunity. There wouldn't be a PAYCHECK or FAME.
Michael can survive without Fame and Recognition.
He cannot survive without a PAYCHECK !!!!!!


Maven is too kind. I enjoy being a "famous graphic designer" (as my mom calls me) although that fame is limited to a pretty small circle of professionals. And I can't deny that I've made decisions about work sometimes based on public exposure as much as the paycheck. But where DM is accurate is that "fame," such as it is, is overrated. Being able to live a life you can be proud of, with people you love, counts for more.
Michael Bierut

Sounds good to me!


I love you and always will.

As preusual, your CANDOR is appreciated.

I have written my share of Famous Designer(s) and always received Great reponses of encouragement and Great Gifts of Design Ephemera.

Now a younger generation of Designer(s) are writing me asking my advice on Corporate Identity
and Design History.

I'm extremely uncomfortable these younger Designer(s) think I have something to say.

If I were ever actually recognized on the street I'd probably Pooh Pooh in my shorts.

And I'm actually NOBODY in the business.
"A Freudian Slip" as my good friend Jeff Gill calls it.

With the untimely Death of Rick Tharp we should all be cognizant of illness and the pressure of Fame.


P.S. Michael, I hope we can all live forever. If not physically. At least through our teachings, deeds and work. Our Teaching, Deeds and work will outlast our physical remains.

You should obtain a copy of Steve Heller's wonderful article on this subject. Print Magazine Regional Design Annual 2003 pg 28

DesignMaven --

I finally got a chance to look up the article you referenced, and -- wow -- it certainly appears that I lifted the thoughts of my earlier post directly from this source. (The irony of this being an article of giving proper credit has not escapted me.) I honestly don't recall reading this article by Mr. Heller before. (In fact, I had a hard time finding it stuck between some paper promotion inserts.) However, I just want to say that if I did previously read this article, and unconsciously did not give proper credit to the source, I offer my apologies to Mr. Heller.
Daniel Green


While I don't pretend to speak for Mr. Heller.

I don't think he'll mind if you paraphrase him.

To say the least. The article should be etched in stone. Like The Ten Commandments.

Much of what I iterated was from experience and belief. 20-30% came from Steve.

Many thanks for having the foresight to research the article.

Please, email the article to Chester and Greg. I cannot find it. I only have an email telling a friend to check it out.
Mine is somewhere amongst my archives.

Thanks in Advance.


It is very, very cool. In fact, if I had to add one thing to your minimalist yet powerful approach, it would be a cow.

Great poster. Nice article. Human nature is to love simple things and simple answers to their questions. That's why this poster works and that's why credit goes to one person. :)
Great job!
Andrey Smagin

Speaking of credits has anyone seen (or have an opinion on) the latest CA Photography Annual cover?

I recognize an old Pentgram intern who didn't get a mention.
felix sockwell

The CA cover that Felix is referring to features a photograph taken by Zachary Scott as part of a series for the New York Times Magazine's annual "Year in Ideas" issue. The picture shows a boy at a blackboard which is covered with chalk drawings and diagrams that refer to all the ideas mentioned in the issue.

Although the image is dominated by the drawings on the chalkboard, the illustrators are nowhere credited in Communication Arts (although as I recall they were in the Times when the issue first ran.) I'm pretty sure they were done by (former Pentagram intern) Christoph Niemann and Nicholas Blechman.

In a bizarre coincidence, yesterday's issue of the Times Magazine had the following question addressed to its ethics columnist, Randy Cohen:

I worked for a regional magazine for 22 years, rising to photo editor. After leaving (on good terms), I discovered that the art director had credited himself as photo editor for work I did, for which he won several awards. I tried to get this corrected, both through the awards groups and my former employer, but to no avail. Can I list these awards on my resume even though technically I did not win them? What is the magazine's responsibility here?

Click here for the whole column, including Cohen's answer.
Michael Bierut

Ironically, Niemann is credited for illustrating Cohen's weekly column (and hardbacks) too.

My Op Ed on the CA blunder is here

actually it apprears more a New York Times foul than CA Magazine.
felix sockwell

I'm not naive enough to think this idea would ever fly with any design publications nor designers, but imagine if an awards annual didn't publish any names of the winners. Just the design, no certificates mailed, no rationales published, just expose the work that's better than the rest. Would you still enter?
Michael Surtees


To be honest I would not enter. I apologise for wanting to see my name in lights!

I only say this due to my latest experience in the design world. What really makes me believe there should be 'credit where credit is due' is this;

Having recently completed a project at design school - no PAYCHECK involved. Myself and two of my fellow class mates worked long and hard, it was supposed to be a 'class project'...never mind we thought - we'll get the credit when credit is due. Anyway in the end we were fortunate enough to become a finalist in an awards show for graphic design students in New Zealand > The Best Awards.

This brings me to my point... throughout the project the rest of the class didn't 'pull finger' or help out once - yet on completion of the project and it's entry into the awards the rest of the class clambered to get in on the success! So much so that we know of two students who supposedly used the work in their portfolio and where employed after graduating!

I now see the importance of having our names under the project. Hence we hope the employers of the two students we know of see the awards and go "I wonder why my employees name is not on there!?'

Credit where credit is due is an important part of the professionalism/ or lack of in graphic design. Maybe I have a slightly different perspective since the project wasn't for a paycheck? I'm not sure but another 'two cents' on the credit pile...

The thing about winning design awards is this:

Real people don't give a shit.

I've seen Stefan Sagmeister's body-cutup poster a million times in books, but never in real life. Same goes for Michael's Light Years poster. Sure, they are both great. But in the end they just a poster for a thing at a time in history. I didn't even know what the Light Years poster was for before I read this article. I still don't know the context in which it existed. It could have been slapped on a brick wall on the streets or a limited edition print in the MoMa for all I know. All that really matters about these posters is what they meant to people who saw them when they contained relavant information.

That's the thing about design awards and magazines is that they are so out of context that the information they give you is pointless for anything except stylistic imitation. They should say, "500 of these were printed and sent in the mail, and most people threw them away, but a few people kept them forever. The show had a moderate turnout, but everyone had a good time." Now that's interesting. Awards are so irritating. They are like: "Hey you! Look at this neat poster! And you know what!? You don't know what it's for, or why someone made it, or where it existed, or who saw it, or anything, but holy crap, ain't it cool lookin'?"

Let's get over ourselves and start realizing that design exists for a reason, and it sure as hell isn't to get our names in design magazines.
Ryan Nee

Ryan, I disagree about the value of awards competitions. There have been many design artifacts that I've seen and enjoyed — Sagmeister's famous cut-up poster is one — that I would not have seen otherwise. In the same way, through awards publications I've become acquainted with designers whom I admire and find inspirational. Is this a bad thing?

Certainly, taking awards competitions too seriously is a mistake, and I know more than a few designers who do great work and don't bother playing the game. And there are projects I've been involved with that I know are worthwhile but lack the "hooks" that I know award winners need; I don't waste time entering them.

But like it or not, the better competitions become the "first draft" of graphic design history. Without them would we have a common vocabulary of icons — people or work — to debate on forums like this?
Michael Bierut

This is a thankless, bittersweet profession. Nothing wrong with a little award to help the medicine go down.
felix sockwell

This is worth emulating,I really think u're happy diong wat u do. Loving what we do makes us do it better.

I have truly enjoyed this article and all the comments that have come from it, but not being able to know who the real person and/or designer behind an anonymous signature tag is, in my opinion diminish ithe value of the exchanges.

Michael Bieirut signs his articles and follows up. We all should do the same.

Mauro Filicori

(also known as MF or MarvelousFreelancer)
Mauro Filicori

Jobs | July 23