05.25.18
Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand | Audio

Episode 81: American Royalty


When Tom Wolfe died earlier this month, much of the conversation was about Wolfe’s journalism, his fiction, his character.

Tom Wolfe was also a design writer. His breakthrough piece of New Journalism was “There Goes (Varoom! Varoom!) That Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby,” about custom car culture, and he went on

Michael says that, when he began writing more about design, Wolfe was a model:

There was a kind of writing that was in trade magazines like Print and Communication Arts that was sort of like this quasi-fawning reportage. There was another kind of design writing that seemed to be very academic. And neither of them represented the way I actually felt about design.

I was thrashing around for models of people that could really write about design in a way that was lively and made it sound fun and even funny. Then I started reading Tom Wolfe.

Also mentioned this week: Subscribe to The Observatory on Apple Podcastsoryour favorite podcast app, or follow Design Observer on Soundcloud.

Posted in: Arts + Culture, The Observatory


Comments [0]



Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand Jessica Helfand, a founding editor of Design Observer, is an award-winning graphic designer and writer. A former contributing editor and columnist for Print, Eye and Communications Arts magazine, she is a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale and a recent laureate of the Art Director’s Hall of Fame. Jessica received both her BA and MFA from Yale University where she has taught since 1994. In 2013, she won the AIGA medal.

Jobs | August 23