MichaelVitali.net | Exponent(50) · MichaelVitali.net


Title Exponent(50) : A Tribute to Complexity
Project Book
Client Exponent
Design Marcus Associates
Service Writing
Content organization
Creative consultation


Complex but comprehensible



In April 2017, Exponent published a followup to its 2007 book Ex(40): An Exponent Retrospective, entitled Exponent(50): A Tribute to Complexity.

While Ex(40) began as a one-off project for its 40th anniversary, the success of that book inspired its 50th anniversary sequel — in part because of the company’s dramatic growth over the previous ten years, and in part because of the warm reception the first book received among Exponent’s clients and prospects.

Michael Vitali was the ghostwriter for both books, employing his ability to take widely divergent areas of highly technical material and make them intelligible and attractive to nonspecialist but influential audiences. Both books featured dozens of richly illustrated case studies, and both were handsomely designed and produced by Marcus Associates.

The process

Organization of the material was implemented after consulting with the client. Fifty-five case studies were included in the book, with each classified by its industry. A timeline of organizational milestones, a letter from the CEO, and additional front and back matter rounded out the book’s content.

Story selection was driven by Exponent, their clients, and Michael Vitali to create the most representative series of case studies that illustrated the breadth and depth of Exponent’s historical development. Consideration was given to client sensitivities as well as Exponent’s strategic objectives for its future business direction.

Visual material was initially recommended by Michael Vitali within the first drafts to correspond to and to illustrate specific points made in the text. Both Marcus Associates and Exponent experts weighed in on these recommendations based on the availability, relevance, and visual dynamics of this and related imagery for final selection.

The title of the book was recommended by Michael Vitali after the stories as well as the front and back matter were largely written. The theme of complexity, especially of an interdisciplinary nature, grew out of conversations with Exponent principals. The proposed title was supported by the case studies themselves because so many of them relied on a network of experts typically unavailable to solve problems such as the ones Exponent tackles daily.

The audience for the book was assumed to be a general audience of highly educated individuals who are not necessarily versed in the various disciplines profiled. Beyond the human impact, one of the most crucial aspects of the book’s success was the legibility of the scientific issues behind the stories, particularly when the technical aspects were so complex.