Ellen Lupton

A poetic transformation of industrial waste


The Cabbage chair was created for an exhibition organized in Japan by Issey Miyake, who challenged his contemporaries to conceive of new products for the twenty-first-century. What types of furniture and objects are appropriate, Miyake asked, for people who “don’t just wear clothes, but shed their skin?” He invited Oki Sato of Nendo to find a use for pleated paper, a material employed to process the signature fabric featured in Miyake’s garments. Vast amounts of this material are discarded as a by-product of the manufacturing process.
chair, Nendo, paper, sustainability, Issey Miyake, Japan

A cartogram of global internet use


Most maps are built around representations of geographical land mass. Worldmapper show us something different. This collaborative team of cartographers from the University of Sheffield and the University of Michigan is exploring the uneven effects of globalization. Rather than depict how much land a given territory occupies, each map shows how a social or economic activity—from emigration to cell phone use—is distributed across the globe.
Worldmapper, cartogram, algorithm

Alphabet


When do graphic design and textile design merge and overlap? The great mid-century designer Alexander Girard is best known for his work as founding director of the Herman Miller Textile Division, a post he held from 1952 through 1973. There, working alongside such design legends as George Nelson and Charles and Ray Eames, he created a vast range of textiles that complemented and completed the era’s groundbreaking furnishings. Although nubby textures and neutral stripes abound in Girard’s textile oeuvre, his most memorable designs are distinctly graphic in character.
alphabet, graphic design, textile design, Alexander Hayden Girard, Herman Miller Inc.

Remembering Niels Diffrient


Niels Diffrient loved many things, from airplanes to ice dancing. He loved his three children and his wife Helena Hernmarck, the internationally known tapestry artist. Encircling those close attachments was his abiding love for people. Human beings were the ultimate subject of Niels Diffrient’s world-changing career. Calling himself an “ombudsman between the user and his circumstance,” he believed that product design should start with human needs and human experience and end with aesthetic considerations.
User-centered design, Niels Diffrient, National Design Awards
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Fractions


How does a critic design textiles? With a typewriter, of course! Bernard Rudofsky was one of design’s great polymath thinkers. The exhibitions he organized in mid-century New York provoked designers to look at the world in new ways. Trained as an architect in his native Moravia (present day Austria), he was not licensed to practice architecture in the United States. He went on to have an enormously influential career as a curator, writer, critic, exhibition designer, and even fashion designer.
Bernard Rudofsky, New York, Schiffer Prints, typewriters, GRiD

Light Years


Michael Bierut, Nicole Trice, Tobias Frere-Jones, Josef Müller-Brockmann, Ed Ruscha, Pentagram, Architectural League of New York, film, graphic design, poster

Corporate Calico: Angelo Testa’s Fabric for IBM


When IBM premiered its boxy, geometric logotype in 1956, designed by Paul Rand, the idea of a coordinated corporate identity system was just taking off. Indeed, Rand’s logo design set the mark for a new standard of graphic communication in business. A corporate identity was intended to be more than a logo, however: it was conceived as a broader program encompassing signage, letterheads, packaging, publications, and more.
IBM, Angelo Testa, branding, logos, Paul Rand, William Golden, CBS

Alvin Lustig’s Incantation


Although his career was tragically short, Alvin Lustig was among America’s most influential mid-century graphic designers. Textiles like Incantation (1947) reflect a rich multidisciplinary practice that encompassed furniture, graphics, architecture, and animation. After studying design and printing at Los Angeles Junior College, Lustig started creating geometric patterns in the medium of letterpress in the early 1930s.
Alvin Lustig, Laverne Originals, Paul Klee, Joan Miro, Elaine Lustig Cohen, textiles

A Poster by Michiel Schuurman


Every summer, hundreds of thousands of visitors travel by ferry to Governors Island, a former Coast Guard outpost that has become one of New York City’s most popular public parks. In summer 2012, Cooper-Hewitt was proud to host our exhibition, Graphic Design: Now In Productio​n, on Governors Island, and I was proud to be among the organizing curators.
Michiel Schuurman, Graphic Design: Now in Production, posters, graphic design, 21st century

Abacus


Among the most influential books in the history of American graphic design is Paul Rand’s Thoughts on Design, published in 1947. Covering the jacket of this ground-breaking manifesto of modernist theory and practice is a series of oblong dots arranged in uneven rows, rendered in translucent shades of gray. The image is based on a photogram, made by exposing a wood-and-wire abacus to a sheet of photographic paper. At once abstract and recognizable, the photogram is a direct imprint of a physical object.
textiles, graphic design, abacus, Paul Rand, photogram, L. Anton Maix

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