Design Hero Process Documentation


Anthony Pan
28 min readJan 25, 2022

Class was a nice refresher on type treatment. I had forgotten much of what I had learned from C-mini, but Brett was very thorough with his critique of my submission. It allowed me to go back in and revisit the things I was taught from last semester and helped kick things off this semester.

Here is a screenshot from studio of some revisions Brett wanted me to make.

I spent the weekend correcting the things Brett had mentioned. Below are my revised versions of exercise 1. I fixed the spacing between paragraphs, the rag, italized the title of the book, shifted the quotation marks to the left so that the type would be aligned, fixed the kerning between type on the justified sections, and resized the smaller point sized exercises to be more readable.


After doing a fair bit of research, I was torn between 3 different designers: Michael Bierut, Jacqueline Casey, and Yohji Yamamoto.

Michael Bierut is a designer at Pentagram Design and has worked for a variety of clients from Slack to Master Card to Yale University. I really enjoy his aesthetic vision, especially his usage of typography. The way he incorporates type as not only a communication tool, but a visual motif is something I find inspiring. He has also given TED talks and has written several books about design which I intend to listen or read.

Here are some works I like from him

“Simplicity, wit, and good typography.” — Michael Bierut

Another designer I potentially wanted to do further exploration on is Jacqueline Casey. She was a graphic designer who did work for MIT, making informational posters and graphics for the school. Ever since I discovered her in the summer of 2018, I’ve always enjoyed her work. There was something fascinating about the way she uses color, textures, and repetition. Here is some of her work.

Unfortunately, I could not find much content or information on her aside from the information on her Wikipedia page. I couldn’t even find a quote for the assignment, so I decided to choose my third designer instead.

The third designer I chose was Yohji Yamamoto. He’s an avant-garde fashion designer from Japan, who specializes in creating these layered coats of all-black fabric. There is an elegance to the way he designs the cloth to fall and layer. His signature oversized and layered is a departure from mainstream fashion trends, or as he likes to call it “anti-fashion”.

“I think perfection is a ugly. Somewhere in the things humans make, I want to see scars, failure, disorder, distortion.” — Yohji Yamamoto

Here were some of the different spreads I experimented with.

Some are unfinished because I was stuck or didn’t enjoy the composition.

I chose these 2 spreads as my final submissions.


I created a moodboard detailing how Michael Bierut’s evolved over the course of his career. Here are some notes I took during class on things to pay attention to when making this moodboard:

  • do you make the poster in the designers style or do you make the poster in your style that compliments the work of the designer
  • latter is more complex and interesting
  • 8 pieces of work, how has Michael bieruts work evolved
  • moodboarding, not just 8 images — write over them, etc, how are you going to treat the images
  • typefaces that they’ve used in their work etc.

Here’s the actualy moodboard:

I had to dig on his instagram to find a photo of him when he was younger.
I also found a website that identified the different typeface he uses in
his projects!

From this, I found a typeface that I found visually appealing and one that could have potential for my poster. It’s called Maelstrom. However, it’s quite the expensive purchase. I’ll probably have to check in with Brett to see if the school has it or if I can get a student discount.


I spent time after creating my moodboard on research for my design hero paper. I also bought his book How To to read into his design process and thinking. I wanted to gain a better understanding not only of who Michael Bierut is as a designer, but also as a person.

Here were some talks by him that I found pretty inspiring.

Here’s a link to my essay.


Today, I created some drafts of what I would image this poster on Michael Bierut would look like. I wanted to explore some ideas I found were prevalent throughout his work:

  • Type as image, stretching the type
  • playing with a grid system and breaking the grid system
  • using a modular grid
  • exploring the metaphor of New York City identity
  • Incorporting his portrait in creative ways

With these ideas, I drafted 10 very rough drafts on pencil and paper. I used pencil because I felt that the lower fidelity would help me not get stuck on a certain idea early on.

Here are the sketches on a wall.


We went over our sketches we did for homework. Here the notes I took from that critique:

  • type that is too clean or too precise might look too much like a magazine spread. looking at the hierarchy, etc.
  • You don’t need that much text, maybe short paragraph is enough
  • saks fifth city skyline
  • using type as hero, structure/grid created by type
  • curating work for audiences that know all about designer vs not at all
  • can you get a story from the poster, can you read it as a story — leads to better visual experience
  • breaking the frame

My next steps were to create 2 versions of higher fidelity from the sketches I brought to class today. The main two posters I wanted to work on were the ones utilizing type as image and the clock metaphor as a timeline metaphor.

Here were some of my process posters. I worked with different compositions trying to use type as image like Bierut’s work. However, I got very stuck trying to create a composition I liked.

I chose to print posters 1 and 3 for class.


Today was rough. I had a lot to change, and felt very stuck on what to do next with my poster. I decided to start from square one. Here were some notes from crit.

  • did not have all elements on page
  • stuck on trying to make type as image work
  • poster doesn’t need to look like Michael bierut’s work
  • not finished
  • type is messy
  • looks like a type exercise
  • stuck on trying to branch out

After class, I started working on some new ideas like incorporating the New York subway as a metaphor and using the city as a grid system. I wanted to incorporate his portrait into the poster more, but I couldn’t find a good way to do so. Here are some compositions of some ideas I had in mind.

Brett thought these were too easy to understand. The subway metaphor was too obvious and the poster lacked an “ah-ha!” moment.

Here was the poster I was using the New York city block as the grid system. To the left is the image of the New York city block which is actually from Michael Bierut’s WalkNYC project.

In my 1 on 1 meeting with Brett, he stated that this one had more promise to it. However, Bierut was still incredibly hard to read, and I still needed to get all the work on the page in order to start crafting a more complete composition.


I continued to work on the poster and decided to lean more into the city grid metaphor. I was able to get my hands on the Maelstrom typeface by Kim type foundry. I wanted to play with how the type and the grid could connect together.

I started to place more work into the composition and experimented with a timeline that used captions around the different pieces of work. It would be a non-linear timeline that broke up the white space between the different modules.

Here is the poster I printed for critique:


From critique I got some very valuable insights from my classmates and Brett. First off, if I was to populate the grid with work, I would have to really populate the grid. I would need to fill in a majority of the space. People also stated that the larger pieces of work that had large letters would be distracting like the “how to”. People also started that the name was hard to read. Brett suggested increasing the amount of white space between the name and portrait to give it a more distinct contrast. Langston pointed out that the poster needed some more hierarchy and I needed to identify what I wanted someone to see first on my poster. However, this poster was a massive step up from the last poster I turned in for critique.

Over the weekend, I want to iterate my poster and have 1 on 1 meetings with Brett to look over the progress of my poster.

Here is the first iteration I made.


I called Brett to critique the version above. Here are some notes from that session.

  • leaning into showing MORE of his work
  • making grid more apparent?
  • play with quote, make it look like Bierut is speaking it
  • asterix to link back to design philosphy
  • crop work to make it more abstract
  • don’t need to show whole pieces
  • thicken lines in bierut
  • stretch bierut up to b so that it takes up 1 block consistently
  • make call outs/timeline smaller/make letting tighter

With these suggestions, I continued to work on my next iteration which is shown below:


I called Brett again today for a final check up before class on Tuesday. I wanted to get some final suggestions. Brett said the only thing I should change would be the quote and the rag of the paragraph. Otherwise, I was finished! He wanted me to experiment more with the quote and make it more playful. He also said that the quote should feel more like a unit.

Here is the final version of the poster:

Notes after crit:

  • Typos in paragraph
  • Commas in between the date and the name of the project
  • “The New York Times”
  • Overall, very large improvement over the first poster I turned in.



The booklet is the second project of the semester. Over the weekend, we were tasked with creating 5 different sketches of an entire booklet, experimenting with different compositions and storylines that would occur through the book. Here were some of the sketches I made over the weekend.

I struggled with trying to find different ways to portray a timeline. I wanted to stick with the modular grid system I established in my poster, but I couldn’t find unique or new ways of implementing that grid. I also wanted to try and scramble his portrait to mimic how Bierut did the Saks Fifth Avenue logo. Something else I wanted to accomplish this booklet was to highlight some of his quotes and tell a story through them. Finally, I wanted to play with typography and be playful with the different compositions I could potentially make. I couldn’t picture how my essay would be laid out with the essay, so I was just guessing where I would put type.


Notes during sketch crit:

  • how does poster translate to booklet
  • you can restructure or rewrite/reorganize essay to fit booklet
  • booklet could be constraining
  • breather pages
  • title page, maybe very big w/ table of contents smaller below it
  • booklet is short, take advantage of middle spread being breathing page, text going across page
  • grid out of type for subheaders
  • look at the modular grid
  • really stick to modular grid
  • increase fidelity of face cover as it will serve as foundation of book

After crit, I took a look at the different spreads people thought had potential, and I worked on increasing their fidelity by bringing them into in design. I began to roughly layout the different spreads by placing images and potential text into the different pages. I also started thinking about my numbering system and experimenting with typography.


Notes from crit:

  • Add more work/ introduce work earlier into the bookz
  • Revealing the portrait during the ToC?
  • Tightening the paragraphs, less letting
  • Avoiding repeating work
  • Introduce his name on the second page or maybe the cover

I started off by scrambling the portrait I was using and fitting bits and pieces into my grid I had established. I laid out the story I wanted to tell starting with his early life. I then moved onto his present work. For my center spread, I wanted to bring in his sketchbooks and how his designs went from ideas to creation. I wanted to follow that up with a timeline about his work at Pentagram and a spread about how he inspired and designed so much of New York City. My last spread would be about why Bierut was my favorite designer/design hero.

I wanted to use the cover as a numbering system for my pages because I thought that I could use the corresponding squares from the cover to number my pages. I’m still not sold on my use of typography and the quote “simplicity, wit, and good typography.” I like the use of fonts, but it just feels out of place at the moment. However, I do like how I’m highlighting the quote on the 2nd spread. I think that it seems to be working well with summarizing the quote. The use of blocks as the quotation marks are also nice.


I continued to work on the spreads, adding information as I saw fit and removing pages when I felt they were unnecessary. I also met with Brett over the weekend to discuss my next steps. Here’s what he had to say.

  • Play with scale
  • Take out the page numbering system that you have right now
  • Move portrait to inside front cover
  • System of 3 quotes talking about his early life, peak of career, reflecting on career
  • Add first graphic design he has ever made into first spread
  • What if the timeline was just about projects you liked or find special
  • Timeline — make it about 6 or 7 pieces of work you really enjoy and why
  • Make the dates smaller, more visually complex page, more ways to enter the spread
  • For center spread
  • Make sketchbooks smaller, more space, add captioning system
  • For map, make call outs to different areas of map with logs etc.

After making these changes, I felt that my booklet was getting somewhere. I did not make any changes to my cover.

The Inspiring NYC page is not completely finished because I did not have time to finish. I’m currently still working on trying to figure out the layout to my center spread and my timeline.


We spent class critiquing the covers. Heres what we said during crit:

  • Smaller dots for halftone
  • Less intense dots pattern maybe?
  • Seeing more of the face
  • Bring beige into rest of book
  • Bigger squares, size of quote thing on back

We were also instructed to bring to class some higher fidelity work. Here are some changes I made.

I spent time continuing to refine my spreads. I’m still currently working on the composition of the center spread and the final spread with the “i’m still learning” quote.


I spent class refining the cover! I think it looks much better now that I’ve increased the size of the squares as well as reduce the halftone. I tried to do a non-halftone pattern and it felt to realistic.


Today I set up a meeting with Brett to talk about my progress over spring break. I wanted to get some feedback specifically on my centerspread, my timeline page, and my final page with the quote.

Notes from critique:

  • Centerspread is too even
  • get rid of the package
  • Timeline is working better, but the red is clashing a lot
  • think about what images I am using for Library project
  • Not sure about how quote is working
  • stagger the quote a little less, maybe make some words come in more
  • make the grid in InDesign!!

Taking this advice, I continued to refine those three pages. I had already basically finalized the cover, the table of contents, and the first 2 pages
of content.

I also decided to rebuild the grid in InDesign because building a grid in Illustrator is kinda dumb.

Here are the refined versions of those spreads.

I decided to add some black into the timeline spread because I wanted to break up the really bright red. I left the red behind the areas of text because the harsh contrast between the white and black made the small font hard to read. I was still unsure about the black because it still seemed like the red was still the root of the problem. As for the centerspread, I still wasn’t satisfied with the overall design. It felt like I was having similar issues to my first designs with the timeline with everything being the same size, etc.


I met with Brett again to discuss some of the revisions I had been working on. I brought up that I still felt unsatisfied with the three spreads we worked on from the other day. I felt that there was something missing, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

Notes from Critique:

  • The black is still not working because the red is still clashing with the other colors like the blue from the library.
  • Remove the Church project, the dates are strange because it goes 2013 then 2013 again.
  • Use more recent project
  • Reorient the hand in the Walk NYC Project
  • Everything in timeline looks like it is stuck in a square
  • Needs to be more contrast between sketchbook and actual images
  • add more sketchbooks
  • maybe grid out the sketchbooks
  • Remove the third fulton station image because it feels out of place

With this I continued to work trying to refine my pages. Today, I worked specifically on the centerspread, where I found some additional images of Michael Bierut’s sketchbooks. Brett talked to me about making a brick-like formation with the sketchbooks. He said that at the moment, because they were sort of floating around in different sizes, it didn’t feel plausible or realistic in a sense. I also had the sketchbooks stacked up together for a possible composition, but it also felt strange that there was no shadow being casted below each sketchbook, which also felt strange.

I finally came to this design.

I thought something was missing with this design still, but again, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I felt that the composition of the books and the logos was working well. The text was in the right spot, and the caption system was working as intended.


I worked on the map again to refine some of the details and remove the third Fulton Station image. This was the end result.

I also added the beige to keep the page cohesive with the rest of the book. I worked on refining the rag and update the text because it felt that the content I was depicting on the spread wasn’t accurately represented in the text.

I continued to work on the centerspread, messing around with the composition until I realized that I was missing the title for the page. I realized that I had it labeled in the table of contents but didn’t put it into the spread. With the addition of the title, the page felt complete.

I continued to work on my timeline spread. I found another project called the FBI Guide to Internet Slang that Bierut had done recently in 2022. After placing that project in and shifting the lines around, I decided to change the color of the background to beige. I used the same yellow in the FBI images to highlight the quote, and I also added black and white boxes to break up the white boxes. I continued to change the images for the Libary project because the blue didn’t fit the colors of this page as well. I also changed the positions of each image to break out of the “squares” they were confined in. The end result was this.

With this, I was finally finished with the book. All that was left for me to do was to refine a few issues with the cover grid and clean up the text.


I spent the past few days refining the book. I cleaned up the cover grid to make sure everything was aligned correctly. I also rearragned a few images of his face so that their weren’t any strange shapes being formed by the different curves of the cropped images.

I also refined the rag for my different pages and aligned some small details to the grid. I made sure everything was in high resolution and finally printed and cut out my booklet!

Here is the final product:



I started looking for audio for my animation today; I went through a few of my favorite talks he has done in the past at Design Indaba as well as the TED talk about the L!brary initiative. Here are some of the audio clips I’ve found so far that I like.

Of these six, I chose to use the first minute of the “how to… write a book about your work” video as I felt that I could do the most with this clip. I’m currently still deciding on whether or not I want to use music.

I also started storyboarding some initial scenes to get a general sense of what would be going into my animation. Here they are:


Feedback on storyboards:

  • Make it less complicated
  • lots of metaphors, focus on one
  • less ways to move through scenes/transitions, less jarring
  • slot machine???


I worked on making some general sketches of my animation and put them into After Effects to see what the pacing was going to look like. I started drafting a few sketches for some specific scenes but they’re super rough.

Here are some of the sketches.

I also refined my audio to end at around 1:15. I will still be using the first minute from the same video I chose last week. I also decided to add some music from the end of that video to serve as an outro. I will not be adding music because I think the background music from that video will suffice.


Feedback on audio:

  • great start, Michael Bierut talks a lot though
  • maybe focus on one project and work from there.


I started working on building assets today and worked with some grid animations. I think I’ll be focusing on developing the story behind the Sak’s Fifth logo as my animation to make it a little bit more simple.


Today I started working on the first scene of my animation. I wanted to bring grids into this animation, just like what I did with my poster and my booklet. Langston pointed me towards some tutorials in After Effects to help me create some grids using the repeater tool.

With this, I created the introduction scene. I added the “how to…” text on top of the grid because I wanted to reference the title of the audio. I wasn’t sure if I should include Saks Fifth Avenue on it or not. I will leave it out for now.

I had the stroke of each line increase to “fade” the screen to black start the transition to the next scene.

For the next scene, I wanted to do a slot machine effect with the word design. I wanted to have the “i” in design shuffle into a question mark when Bierut says “incomplete”.


During studio on 04/07, Brett mentioned that the distance between the s and the g was much too far. I was trying to accommodate for the question mark because the question mark is much wider than the i. I will have to fix that later as I want to get everything down in the animation before I start refining.

I worked on the transition between the introduction and first scene. Here is what that looks like right now.

I wanted to show some of his work before going into the Saks Fifth Avenue story. Brett said he liked the idea of going from broad to specific to broad again.

I also worked the time scene. I wanted to use clocks as a metaphor for “time spent”. I’m still currently figuring out the layout and how the clocks are going to fall into the screen.

I’m not sure if I want to fade to white from here or have another clock over the screen. I want to show the progression of the Saks Fifth logo throughout the years after this scene.


I talked with Brett today over zoom. We talked about how the gap between the s and the g in design needs to be fixed. We also talked about using the line that transitions from the intro to the first scene as a catalyst to form the i in design. Additionally, he said that it would be nice to have some dates below the Saks Fifth logo timeline to show the progression. Currently, it is kind of confusing.


I added the dates underneath the timeline and I had them line up with his words! The dates underneath really give the timeline a sense of scale. I’m not sure I’m going to be doing much more with this scene.

I also started working on the following scene. I wanted to start the analysis of the Saks Fifth logo. I went back to his talk at Design Indaba in 2016 where he talks in detail about his process and story behind the logo. Time stamp: 7:52.

I transitioned from the logo on the timeline into the logo he designed. I then brought back the grids in red to overlay on top of the most recent logo and zoomed into a specific portion.

Here is what it looks like right now:

I think I’m going to use a mask layer to zoom to cover the rest of the logo and focus solely on one of the squares. I think I’m also going to do another shuffle animation with the rest of the small squares created by the red square. I’m not sure if I’m going to use small or large squares to cover the screen though.


I made some rough sketches of what I was thinking for the rest of the animation. I talked it over with Langston to get his input as well.

I wanted to reveal one of his sketchbook pages with sketches of potential packaging for Saks Fifth after the shuffle effect. I planned on having the sketchbook turn into a rough hand-drawn animation going from the back to the building to the packaging and logo. It would theoretically line up perfectly with the audio when Bierut says “building, product, logo”.

I started building some assets for the hand drawn scene as well as finishing up the shuffle.

I had the lines shake a little bit because I wanted the drawing to give the illusion of being sketched out.

Here is the shuffle effect I have at the moment.

I’m really enjoying how it reveals the sketchbook. I’m not sure if I want to add a dissolve effect to make it feel more smooth.


Today I got to see my peers’ videos as well as get some feedback from the class. Here are some comments I found useful.

  • Overall, very nice transitions! I wonder towards the later half could there be surprising uses of color occasionally since it is mostly b/w most of the time? Also, you are using a lot of different styles so I would cautious later on to make sure everything feels cohesive and tight
  • the line turning into the i doesn’t feel seamless, especially when it goes from D to E. maybe it can do a little jump — overall, the concept is really pleasing! also the ticking clock feels too literal (as discussed during storyboarding), maybe explore ways of conveying time subtly
  • I really enjoyed the movement and transitions between scenes. However I wonder about the figure that appears in the end as it doesn’t fit the style of everything else.
  • I really like how I can directly see how the visuals relate to the voiceover, and how smooth the transitions are. I especially like the part where the I in design moves into a question mark. I think that the last scene with the lady holding the saks fifth bag would be nice if it was live footage instead of drawn.

There seemed to be a general consensus to make the lady vectorized instead of having it sketched out. I personally like the sketchy feeling, but I will try to find ways to make it more cohesive.


With the feedback from studio, I got started on the remaining scenes.

I put together the people scene and the “building, product, logo” scene as well as the “if that scares you” scene.

It’s much harder to tell that the scene is in a sketchy aesthetic because of the amount of things in the scene. I think that it is currently working pretty well!

Not sold on this scene at the moment. The height of the text just feels really strange, even though it is giving the word “Scare” tons of emphasis. Not sure how I would approach it different as well.

I also started working on this scene about design’s role. I wanted to have these two balls collide and form a larger circle when Bierut says “world”.


I finished the design’s role scene today. It turned out really well.

I started coming up with ideas for the rest of my video. I wanted to incorporate some of his other work with Saks Fifth Avenue like the “Going to Saks” and “Look” campaigns. I think I’m going to probably use a grid for both and try to turn their respective stand out characteristics into a transition.


Tuesday was a work session, so I started working finishing up the final few scenes of my animation. I started the final few scenes and began to add transitions between a some scenes I hadn’t connected yet. I wanted to keep the transitions smooth and less complicated because of what Langston and Brett said earlier in project: keep the way you move from scene to scene consistent and generally less complicated because it can be jarring for the viewer if the camera is moving in a bunch of different directions.

I transitioned from the “design’s role” scene by using the circle from that scene to become to “o” in the Saks Fifth Look Campaign scene. I brought in a grid as well to keep it cohesive with the rest of the animation.

I also started working on the scene following this. I wanted to show the other branding Bierut has done for Saks Fifth Avenue. The other brand identity is called “I’m Going to Saks”. I used the arrows from this brand identity to point to a question mark because the following scene was about anonymity.

Here is what I have so far.

I started work on the final scene as well. I wanted it to be a collection of his work at the end, and we would be traveling through it. I had it randomly laid out on the screen.

I also added text at the end to highlight what I felt was the most important message of the entire video.

I thought the ending scene with just text was actually a great addition because it kept the video breathable. I decided to add a few more scenes in between as transitions just using text to highlight what Bierut was saying.

I also added a few sound effects for the clock scene and for the “scares” scene because I felt like it would enhance the overall viewer experience.


  • simply design scene, smooth it out
  • add more work, more random first scene
  • slow down logo progress scene