Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Michael studied Graphic Design at the University of Cincinnati. He underwent an internship in school for Chris Pullman at the Boston public television station, WGBH, and in 1980 began work for Massimo and Lella Vignelli at Vignelli Associates, eventually becoming the Vice President of Design at the iconic firm.
In 1990, he became a partner at the New York office of Pentagram, where he led his team in creating brand identities, environmental graphic design and editorial signage, for clients such as Alfred A. Knopf, the Walt Disney Company, Mohawk Paper Mills, Motorola, and MillerCoors.
He has spearheaded projects such as I Want To Take You Higher, an exhibition for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, redesigned The Atlantic magazine, developed brand strategy and packaging for Saks Fifth Avenue and recently created signage and an identity for the Morgan Library Museum.
He is the recipient of numerous design awards, including being named to the ‘Art Directors Club Hall of Fame’ and receiving the 2006 ‘AIGA medal’. Michael’s work is exhibited in the permanent collections of several prominent museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Cooper-Hewitt, the Library of Congress in Washington DC, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Museum für Gestaltung in Zürich.
He was the national president of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) in 1998 to 2001 and is a senior critic in graphic design at the Yale School of Art.
Michael has published a book called Seventy-Nine Short Essays on Design and is the co-founder of the blog Design Observer.
His commentary on graphic design can be heard on the Public Radio International program Studio 360.
He is a member of AGI.