If you look to the right edge of the Bulletin’s website home page, just under the data visualizations, you will see a simple but captivating GIF that reads “It is two and a half minutes to midnight.” This small animation has a powerful design; somehow, it gives the 70-year-old Doomsday Clock a fresh urgency. You can almost feel the world becoming more dangerous as the GIF—and the Clock—tick forward.
Renowned graphic designer Michael Bierut created the GIF (and, as our regular readers may know, much of the Bulletin’s current visual look and feel). He also created the near-perfect logo—the letter H with a horizontal arrow integrated and driving forward—for Hillary Clinton’s less-than-perfect 2016 presidential campaign. In both cases, he makes the familiar surprising. In a recent Design Observer piece, Bierut explains the equally surprising journey during which the Hillary 2016 logo went from panned to praised to past tense.
Bierut was approached in January 2015, when soon-to-announce candidate Clinton needed a logo; he was also at the Jacob Javits Center on election night in 2016, surrounded by banners, placards and jumbotrons bearing the logo he had created as the prospect for victory faded. Along with many others that evening, Bierut came to a realization: “We had spent months developing a logo; Trump had spent years building a brand.”
Bierut’s passion for design, which comes across clearly in this piece, is infectious. He is oddly capable of compelling excitement when he decides to move from a “traditional serif typography” to a “clean, bold sans serif.” He creates a sense of shared disdain when he describes his encounters with “amateurish design; haphazard, inconsistent, downright ugly communications.”
As the Design Observer piece shows, Beirut’s H logo was, after an initial period of harsh criticism, remarkably successful, and it helped propel Hillary Clinton’s campaign forward. But like so much that has happened since November, the arrow now seems to have gone topsy-turvy. It seems to have lost its direction, notwithstanding its beautiful design. The fresh urgency of the logo has faded, but the challenges that the planet faces remain in place. And so, Bierut’s other design, his reinterpretation of the Doomsday Clock, continues to tick, too close to midnight. Unfortunately, good design can’t fix that.