from WPA to DNA


WPA poster designed by Lester Beals

“So what do you have to say for yourself?”  Michael Rock to Michael Beirut. The topic: “Branding;  Designing America, Conversatins/Conversazioni organized by The  American Academy in Rome.  Both designers agreed that 2016 was a year where branding was never more prominent.  “Trump has been building a brand for 20 years. Whether its casinos, apartment buildings or hotels; they excel at  communicating “trumpness.”  The Trump logo is not necessarily always the same, but it always has brassness at its heart.  M. Rock


The Hillary logo designed by Michael Beirut

How did we get here?  Both designers talked about the evolution of packaging to branding to DNA.


Michael Beirut and Michael Rock in conversation at the American Academy in Rome, New York event. Photograph by Peter Mauss

The idea of elevating a product to a lifestyle choice.  Designers are being asked to discover/unlock the DNA of the product, the essence of the thing, it’s personality.  Really bad things can be incredibly powerful.  After all, Trump created a brand with no graphic design.



Michael B. eloquently expressed something I have felt for a long time.  Tracing the history of graphic design, Beirut focused on a single moment in time when the personal computer became ubiquitous.  This coincided with the availability of professional tools, which previously were the domain of graphic designers.  “In the early 80’s, typefaces, were like bird watching.  Was Helevetica a kind of finch? Once people could pull down a menu and choose a typeface, the entire field of graphic design became open source.” M.Beirut


logo designed by Michael Beirut for the Museum of Art and Design, New York

twitter_bird_logo_2012-svgUsing facebook, twitter, instagram, every person is now creating their own brand… or every person is a brand. What am I going to post about myself?  As a 12-year old, sitting in bed, I can create a global following. The entire population (the world population) has become more conscious, more savvy, more sophisticated.  “I arranged to meet  my wife at St. Peter’s in Rome in front of the Pieta.  When I arrived there was a crowd.  A crowd of people taking selfies.  One of the most iconic sculptures in Western World, had become a backdrop for a selfie.” M. Beirut  

We are now ALL graphic designers and photographers.  For those of us, who are part of thisinstagram_app_large_may2016_200 vocation, we have mixed emotions about the progression of our craft from professionalism to populism.  There’s a part of me that does not appreciate  the inevitable devaluation of design and another part of me that embraces the imagination and creativity evidenced in some many instagram feeds.

The evening ended with this thought:  “I’ve read that someone asked if it was possible to project a logo on the moon” Beirut

The answer:  “Projecting when the moon is visible you’ll need enough power to overpower the sun, since that is what you are seeing.  Remember that even though the moon looks like a fairly small object in the sky you need to broadcast against a screen bigger than the whole of North America.  Because of diffusion, to have any chance of a clear picture you will have to use lasers to get a clear enough picture to reflect back.  When the moon face is dark (earth eclipse,etc) it would be slightly easier because you wouldn’t be fighting against the sun, but the power out put would be immense.”



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