Michael Bierut is a graphic designer, design critic and educator. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1957. He studied graphic design at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning; before graduating in 1980. Bierut has done a large portfolio of globally recognised work in graphic design, but in this blogpost I am going to focus on his work for the MIT Media Lab.
Michael Bierut was approached by MIT Media Lab in 2011 and asked to redesign their logo for the 25th anniversary of the company, this initially surprised Bierut as he was very fond of this logo and admired its design techniques. This logo was designed by Richard Tate and had 40,000 different variations of the logo. Richard Tate’s work was very abstract as far as logos are concerned and incorporated both geometry and colour, I feel that this made the logo stand out and presents the company as being modern and innovative. However, MIT were looking for a new logo as they didn’t feel that the current design truly gave them a sense of identity. He was willing to help, however because he so greatly admired the logo at the time he wanted to use the same format as the logo that was being used at the time.
In order to do this, Bierut created a four-by-four grid over the logo and used this as the basis for his design. I feel that by incorporating this previous technique Bierut was keeping an element of familiarity with the previous logo but also staying in touch with the company’s history. I believe that this is important when creating a logo for a well-known business that has been running for a long time that there are aspects of similarity between the new and old logo so clients can still recognise the company. When presenting his first design to the company he didn’t feel like it was quite right and therefore, he wasn’t surprised when the company changed it. Although the company had contributed to the design it was still rejected and the project was put on hold. While Bierut had tried to keep the same base for this logo I feel that compared to Tate’s work his logo looked very basic and boring.
A year had passed before the company got back in touch with Bierut asking for him to come back and work with them again. This time Bierut spent time looking at all the previous logos for the company some of these were created by revolutionary graphic designers such as Jacqueline Casey and Muriel Cooper. These were innovatory role models in the world of graphic design as they were both women in a dominantly male profession. After doing a lot of research into the history of the logos, Bierut and Aron Fay created an algorithm for the basis of the new logo. This still used the four-by-four grid but also incorporated aspects from other previous logos. Finally the logo we recognise today was designed.
The algorithm they had created allowed them to create a whole alphabet which they used to create individual logos for each department of MIT Media Lab as well as being used on every employee’s personal business card. Before the launch of the new logos an alphabet was released to make the logo assessable to everyone. Alongside this, the logo was printed onto cotton shoulder bags to promote the company.
Looking at Michael Bierut’s work I admire how he has combined the work of previous graphic designers from the company to create the new logo for MIT Media Lab as this bring more meaning and history to the logo. Not only does this present a new face for the company but it also reflects on the companies past. I have also learnt how important it is too gather this knowledge before setting out on a project such as this. Not only have I educated myself on this aspect of his work, but also his attitude to working closely with a client. Bierut has shown me to not be afraid of rejection, any rejection is a chance to learn as you can see why someone didn’t like your work and use these pointers as areas to build upon.
 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab