Michael Bierut
What difficulties did you face at the beginning of your career?
My difficulties were all self-inflicted. I was simply too stupid and inexperienced at first. I naively thought that every design problem was actually a design problem, and could be solved with the things I had learned in design school: composition, proportion, contrast, and so forth. Instead, any decent design problem is actually a problem about something else: real life. I think it took me at least five years to understand that the most interesting thing about design wasn’t the solution but the problem itself.
What should a young designer do in order not to get hired by anybody?
Each of us have our own criteria but if you really wanted to guarantee that you would not be hired by anybody ever, you should be rude, dishonest, and a bad speller.
Are there any things you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?
I wish I had known to listen more, and talk less.
Are there any rules or habits that help you do your job more efficiently?
About 32 years ago I started carrying a small notebook with me and I’ve done it ever since. I jog three miles every morning and find that time useful for organizing the day in my head. Finally, I never go in to work on weekends.
Would you recommend some books that young designers might find useful?
Thoughts on Design  by Paul Rand is short, timeless, clearly written, and well within the budget of nearly any young designer. Other than that, you should read as many books as possible on as many subjects as possible. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “how did you know that?” The answer is usually just “I read it somewhere”. The last three books I’ve read are about education reform, filmmaking in World War II, and comedy writing. Reading may not make you smart, but it certainly can make you seem smart.
Michael answered the questions on July 3, 2014.
The answers were published on July 7, 2014.