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  • MICHAEL BIERUT: Thank you so much for having me here.

  • I'm sort of just warming you up for Salman Rushdie, I suppose.

  • I'm less significant in every possible way.

  • But we have a nice, intimate the little space to talk.

  • I'm a graphic designer.

  • That's my name, my Twitter thing.

  • That's me on Easter Sunday, 1969, in suburban Cleveland,

  • Ohio, which is where I grew up.

  • That's my mom and dad, obviously,

  • and those are my younger brothers,

  • who are fraternal twins.

  • Their names are Ronald and Donald.

  • They have rhyming names, OK?

  • That explains everything you need

  • to know about what it was like to grow up

  • in suburban Cleveland in the '60s.

  • My mom doesn't understand why that's

  • funny to give kids-- they're twins.

  • Was I supposed to give them completely unrelated names?

  • It's a naming problem.

  • At a very early age, I realized I wanted

  • to be a graphic designer.

  • I was good at art, but art always seemed kind of hermetic

  • to me.

  • Artists went off to, as I imagined,

  • they went, like to garrets or studios or closed rooms,

  • then just would do paintings and things,

  • and then sometimes would die.

  • Then their paintings would be discovered.

  • Sometimes the paintings would be sold in their lifetime.

  • But it just seemed like coming up

  • with ideas for paintings just seemed really hard.

  • When I realized there was this other thing called

  • graphic design that, in effect, was being creative as a means

  • to another end, I thought it was really exciting.

  • And I can still remember the first time

  • I saw a piece of graphic design that really excited me.

  • I was probably maybe eight or nine years old.

  • I was being driven by my dad to get a haircut.

  • We were stopped at a traffic light.

  • And my dad looked over to the passenger side of the car where

  • I was sitting and looked out the window,

  • and saw a piece of industrial equipment

  • called a forklift truck.

  • Do they have those here?

  • They do that, right?

  • And he said, oh look, that's really clever.

  • And I looked at the truck, and I said, what?

  • He said, the way they wrote the name of the truck.

  • And on the side of the truck it said Clark.

  • And I said, why?

  • And he said, well, look.

  • It does what the truck does.

  • And so he said, look how the L is lifting up the A.

  • And I was like, oh my god.

  • Is this happening all over the place?

  • Are these things everywhere?

  • And so at that moment, I sort realized

  • that something about that-- it was like art,

  • it was like creativity, but it had

  • nothing to do with painting a bowl of fruit, like Cezanne,

  • or some women with their noses sideways, like Picasso, or just

  • splattering paint like Jackson Pollock.

  • This is like, our name is Clark.

  • We make forklift trucks.

  • What do you got?

  • It just occurred to me.

  • The L can lift up the A.

  • So I just thought, if I could do that for the rest my life,

  • I'd be happy.

  • And I have, and I am.

  • So I'm with you today.

  • Here I am at Google.

  • Thank you.

  • So I'm just going to show you one project that I worked on.

  • And you guys recently changed your logo, which

  • I like very much, by the way.

  • I was really early out of the box in Twitter

  • and said something like, this is really good.

  • And it was one of the few really impulsive things

  • I've ever done on Twitter.

  • And then journalists started calling me up

  • to get me to weigh in publicly about the logo.

  • But I've designed logos that other people of weighed in

  • publicly on.

  • And I'm sort of-- I don't think everyone should be weighing

  • in publicly about logos.

  • And a lot of times I sort of think if-- back in the '60s,

  • there was a little private moment between me and my dad.

  • Very private.

  • If my dad was drinking a beer with our next door neighbor,

  • and he had brought up that logo with another adult,

  • that guy would have thought he was insane.

  • You know what I really like?

  • What do you like, Lenny?

  • That logo for Clark Forklift Trucks.

  • Ever seen it?

  • Like my next door neighbor would be like, what the fuck?

  • What?

  • So people didn't talk about logos in these days.

  • They talk about them all the time now, don't they?

  • I mean, you put out a logo and all

  • of a sudden it's like people are analyzing it.

  • I don't know if you read "The New Yorker" over here.

  • But some lady in "The New Yorker"

  • wrote this nostalgic poem about how beautiful the old Google

  • logo was, which personally, I just

  • thought that was preposterous.

  • She was saying, oh, the serifs were

  • referring to centuries of literary tradition,

  • and now it's all been sanded away.

  • I just think the way that all the O's line

  • up on in the search thing is just-- it's all very nice.

  • So at any rate, I'm going to going to show you something

  • that I worked on.

  • And it's something that actually came out very well,

  • but had false starts along the way.

  • So for the first time anywhere, I'm

  • showing the first thing that we proposed, which was rejected.

  • I've never shown this before.

  • The thing that was accepted is, I think, still on view

  • as part of Designs of the Year at the Design Museum

  • here in London.

  • But the rejected thing has never been shown

  • publicly outside of the client.

  • So here you go.

  • Oh, this is for this book.

  • And so what I really find interesting

  • is how design is about solving problems and doing things.

  • And so it's art or creativity for a purpose, right?

  • So the purpose has to do with how you do something.

  • And when I'm working with a client,

  • the first thing I try to do is figure out

  • what they're trying to solve and how to solve it, basically.

  • OK.

  • So this was actually the end, about designing two dozen logos

  • at the same time.

  • So the client is the MIT Media Lab.

  • You guys know what that is?

  • It's Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

  • In 1985, or 19-- I'm trying to do the math here.

  • It was the 20th anniversary in 1910,

  • so 1990-- I thought it was 1985--

  • celebrated their anniversary.

  • And they had been started at MIT to sort of explore

  • where media and technology could all meet up.

  • It's actually a couple of buildings

  • that house a bunch of small research

  • groups, two dozen little research groups that

  • more or less have free rein to just explore

  • whatever they want.

  • On the occasion of the anniversary,

  • this wonderful new identity system

  • was created by a guy who was then at the Media Lab

  • named Richard Tay.

  • Then he came to Google.

  • I think he might still be at Google in California.

  • He's a great, great, great designer.

  • And if you don't know what that looked like,

  • this is what it was.

  • And the trick with this was, that thing

  • you see there was just one permutation of the logo.

  • He had written an algorithm or something,

  • or someone wrote some algorithm.

  • You guys all know what algorithms are.

  • I use that word a lot.

  • I really don't know what it means.

  • I went to art school so I didn't have

  • to take anything beyond Algebra II in high school.

  • I apologize.

  • You can kick me out now if you want.

  • So within that system, there's a bunch of squares.

  • And then those squares have colors

  • that extrude off the squares.

  • And then it makes 40,000, supposedly, different versions

  • of that thing, OK?