What’s the Secret Behind Pentagram’s Stellar Work? The Agency Has No CEO or Creative Directors

Shop has 21 partners in 4 cities

Each partner can make his or her own decisions about hires, new projects or even billing without consulting other partners. (L. to r.) Partners Michael Gericke, Michael Bierut and Natasha Jen. Federico Rodriguez-Caldentey/Courtesy of Pentagram
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Pentagram has been around for nearly 50 years, but the structure—set up by an architect, a product designer and three graphic designers in 1972—has allowed for the design firm to continue its growth. Today, Pentagram has 21 partners in four cities. Each partner jointly owns a piece of the firm, and there are no managing directors or CEOs. “It’s a completely flattened collectivist utopia,” explained Michael Bierut, a partner in New York. “Each of us runs, on any typical day, what feels to us like our own studio.”

A key benefit to the structure is that each partner can make his or her own decisions about hires, new projects or even billing without consulting other partners. But the partners say they stay in constant communication to keep the ideas flowing. Because of the studio’s structure, partners can take on major projects like constructing a brand identity for ecommerce duvet company Buffy, giving Rotten Tomatoes a fresh brand identity or helping brand the women’s co-working space, The Wing. (The Wing brand identity was designed by Emily Oberman, partner at Pentagram.)

This story first appeared in the October 8, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@ktjrichards katie.richards@adweek.com Katie Richards is a staff writer for Adweek.