Michael doesn’t consider himself creative. This isn’t a strange thing to hear, it’s a native thought to at least half the population. Maybe there’s something to it. After all, the average problem solver will adhere to formula and process. Is adding a+b to get “d” all that creative when your given both “a” and “b”? Question and answer – call and response – is the comfort in most zones. When clients come to us with a photo layout, when an illustrator receives a rough sketch, or when musicians are handed a string chart, parameters are tight enough to apply something that looks and sounds creative enough to pass. Vibrancy resides in the problem not the solution. Solutions are sold as commodities. As well, we can find solutions waiting for problems, but who finds the problems? The tough creative challenge is defining a problem – finding the insight – inspiring the pen. Fact is, the solution may actually be in the problem once the discipline is found to define it. This is what Michael Bierut speaks of when he claims not to be creative. “I feel like I’m a Doctor and I can’t just practice medicine on myself, so I need patients that are sick, the sicker the better in fact.” Treatment in itself can be creative, yet the real nuggets remain in diagnosis. Without defining the problem we are doubtlessly treating the wrong ailment.
According to his online website Design Observer, “Michael Bierut studied graphic design at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning, graduating summa cum laude in 1980. Prior to joining Pentagram in 1990 as a partner in the firm’s New York office, he worked for ten years at Vignelli Associates, ultimately as vice president of graphic design.”
In this video from the idea centric website The 99%, Michael Bierut offers a peek at his design philosophy and examples of treated ailments. Regardless of the opening disclaimer about his creative nature, Bierut is a first-class problem finder.