I’d like to share some insights about the design process, strategy, and design thinking behind the poster itself. Our design brief to Michael was essentially to match the quality of the candidates we’re seeking as this year’s Fellow: someone who combines a high-level and perhaps rare combination of extraordinary design talent, creativity, passion, intuition, appetite and ability.
This year we asked applicants to “convey an encounter with a building, fictional or realized” within an 8×8″ frame. I hone in on this gesture because it represents a small but palpable measure that illustrates our appetite for designers who can quickly and responsively seek open-ended, abstract, ill-defined and multi-faceted challenges. It goes without saying these qualities are hugely valued here.
- Dan Vlahos
Some thoughts on the design from Michael Bierut:
To explain, the idea is that SHEPLEY BULFINCH SUMMER FELLOWSHIP is done in four lines of fairly thin condensed type that fill the poster from top to bottom (more or less corresponding to the four fold breaks). That type in turn knocks out of some big organic shapes that we will make out of torn paper or big fat brushstrokes. Some of the type is “lost” in the space in between the big shapes, so that the eye has to complete the letters. All of the required information slides down in a narrow column on the far right. We may opt to make the big shapes different colors. We may also opt to try to make the big shapes suggest something figurative, like maybe a flower, which I admit sounds a bit corny. (But hey, it’s summer!)
Here’s the final poster, with a tip of the pen to Krista Reeder at Pentagram for her production help:
Before the poster went to press, the proof sat on my desk for several days. Because we have an open plan office, nothing of interest escapes the eye of those passing by, and the poster got a number of comments. The most intriguing came from Garry Baker, now one of our Consulting Principals, who looked at the proof, smiled and said, “Marimekko… Design Research,” then walked away. Erin Deeley and I began a flurry of Google searches to decipher his comment. We learned how Marimekko fabrics were first introduced in the US by Boston architect Ben Thompson, who featured them heavily in the innovative Design Research (D/R) stores.
Garry could not have been more spot on: it turns out Michael just completed work on Design Research: The Store That Brought Modern Living to American Homes, written by Jane Thompson and Alexandra Lange and published by Chronicle Books.
When I saw the poster it reminded me a bit of the work of Sir Terry Frost. Michael’s initial black and white version also made me think of Robert Motherwell’s work in the 1940s. I wasn’t surprised when Michael told me that he’d worked out the idea right after going to the Abstract Expressionism show at MoMA.
How does it strike you? Post your comments here or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.