THE SECOND, THIRD, FOURTH—the list goes on—thing you'll notice about 79 comes from the content of the essays. Here are a few of Whitman’s conceptual samplers.
BIERUT IS INSIGHTFUL. I love his connection of design to everything else. As it happens, the first essay in the book is called, “Warning: May Contain Non-Design Content.” Design is meaningful precisely because of its integration with and participation in other facets of life—pop culture, politics, etc. I’ll pound on this point extra in the closing paragraph.
BIERUT IS FUNNY . . . while being insightful. In “Ten Footnotes to a Manifesto,” a commentary on the new First Things First Manifesto, Beirut takes a look at the signatories of the document. Though I am inclined toward the sentiment of the manifesto—of considering your values and impact as a designer—I think Beirut makes excellent criticisms of the manifesto on a practical level.
Answer: mostly designers who practice as critics, curators, and academics and work outside of advertising.
BIERUT DROPS NAMES. I mean this in a good way. I appreciate the designers and other cultural items he introduces to my radar. My favorite daisy chain is from an essay called “Errol Morris Blows up Spreadsheet, Thousands Killed.” I recently saw the discussed documentary, The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert McNamara by Errol Morris. Beirut calls it, “a design achievement of high order” and its undercurrent is the question is of how ordinary people can do evil things. It is historical, political, moral, and philosophical in nature. If I say any more I’ll risk going off on a tangent instead of talking about design. Back to design: get this book. Then see The Fog of War.
BIERUT ADDRESSES COMPLEXITY. The most recent essay I read, “Graphic Designers, Flush Left?” has to do with the relationship of design and politics. It is a compelling argument against compartmentalization and for my own agenda of the problematic but rewarding balance of the competing values of design, politics, ethics, and the need to make a living.
Beirut writes, “(Y)ou can’t underestimate the power of politics and cultural identity in shaping design . . . .” He goes on to cite the lyrics of Tom Lehrer’s song about Werner von Braun. Werner Von Braun was a Nazi weapon’s expert who later switched teams and worked for NASA in the postwar space race.
That’s not my department, says Werner von Braun.