Graphic Life: Michael Gericke, Celebrating Places, Telling Stories and Making Symbols

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Images Publishing releases a new book featuring the work of graphic designer Michael Gericke, celebrating his 35+ year career at Pentagram. Michael will be a keynote speaker, sharing his book and approach to his work at the SEGD 2021 Wayfinding + Placemaking virtual conference this month — June 23rd & 24th.

Contributor Franck Mercurio speaks with author Michael Gericke about his new book.

In a presentation about his recently published book, Graphic Life, Michael Gericke, a long-standing partner at Pentagram, spoke about his philosophy toward design:

“Alan Fletcher, one of Pentagram’s founders said, ‘Painters are concerned with solving their own problems while designers are concerned with solving other peoples’ problems.’ I’ve come to realize I really like the challenge of solving other peoples’ problems and look forward to knowing that each and every one of those will have a different answer and be a different experience.”

The 125 projects highlighted  in Graphic Life—buildings, civic moments, exhibitions, posters, publications and logos—each feature a different answer and a different experience.  This massive publication (520 pages in length!) serves as a portfolio of Michael’s work at Pentagram and shows the depth of his experience as a designer.

Michael’s book features an introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winning architectural critic Paul Golderberger and is organized into four broad categories: places, images, stories and symbols.

“Places” presents examples of placemaking and wayfinding, nearly all collaborations with architects and urban planners, including Moshe Safdie who wrote the preface to Graphic Life. Moshe and Michael worked together on major projects including the Toronto International Airport and Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands.

“Embedded in the spaces they inhabit — often for years, if not decades — projects of scale and longevity require a healthy appetite for and love of collaboration,” says Michael.

“Images” looks at poster designs and book covers that Michael created for a number of clients. One well-known example is a poster designed for the American Institute of Architects (AIA) featuring a central image inspired by architect Philip Johnson’s iconic glasses.

“With a mission to clearly communicate, (images) raise their hands to be seen in an ever crazy and crowded visual environment,” says Michael about his approach to designing posters and publication covers.

“Stories” focuses primarily on exhibitions, including the New York Historical Society’s “Baseball History in NYC,” looking at the heyday of baseball in New York when the Yankees, Dodgers and Mets all played in the city.

“A couple things about stories: I like designing exhibitions, and they let you use the full power of communication design and spatial design,” says Michael. “It’s the challenge of turning a bare room into a journey where you can learn, discover, and hopefully be surprised or entertained for a few minutes or a few hours.”

And the last section, “Symbols,” includes brand identities and logos designed for World Cup 1994 (the world’s largest sporting event) and the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center.

“Symbols are opportunities to make really memorable marks that are packed with meaning and highly distilled,” says Michael.

One other symbol that Michael designed: the SEGD logo. Michael is a long-time member of SEGD—and a past board member.

“I’ve been a long-time fan and advocate of the SEGD. I was extremely proud to be asked to create its identity and help shape the perception of who we are and what we do to make experiences richer and deliberately built with meaning.”

Graphic Life: Michael Gericke Celebrating Places, Telling Stories, Making Symbols is available from Images Publishing at a 30% discount to SEGD members.