A smiling person with a light complexion has short, blonde hair and is wearing eyeglasses, a black shirt, and a gold geometric necklace.

Photo by Christina Chahyadi

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum today announced that Ellen Lupton will receive an honorary designation as curator emerita to celebrate the conclusion of her tenure as senior curator of contemporary design effective July 30. Throughout her 30-year career at Cooper Hewitt, Lupton’s acclaimed exhibitions, lectures and publications have covered every aspect of design—from broad concepts of typography to practical elements of everyday life. The honorary designation celebrates Lupton’s decision to continue exploring and advancing contemporary design matters through her teaching, writing, workshops and lectures.

“I am so honored to bestow Ellen with such an incredibly well-deserved curator emerita designation from the Smithsonian on behalf of Secretary Bunch. Ellen’s work has inspired entire generations of museum professionals and design thinkers,” said Maria Nicanor, director of Cooper Hewitt. “My own knowledge of design history as a young scholar was profoundly shaped by Ellen’s publications and their international reach. I stand today as Cooper Hewitt’s director with a deeper, more nuanced and critical understanding of the field thanks, in part, to the depth of her groundbreaking, fun and provocative work. Ellen will be greatly missed at the museum, but we are genuinely happy for her to pursue her teaching and research, while still remaining part of the Cooper Hewitt family in her new emerita capacity.”

“Over the last 30 years, Ellen has played a pivotal role in introducing and educating a broad spectrum of people to the importance of design in our lives,” said Matilda McQuaid, acting curatorial director. “As a gifted curator and author, Ellen has organized many prescient exhibitions and publications, and her extraordinarily popular workshops and public programs attest to her generosity and inspiration as an educator.”

“It has been a great privilege to contribute to Cooper Hewitt’s important work,” said Lupton. “Cooper Hewitt demonstrates every day that good design is necessary for people and the planet. I have lined up some exciting new projects, and I will continue my role teaching graduate students at the Maryland Institute College of Art.”

Among the milestones of Lupton’s celebrated tenure at the museum are:

  • Exhibitions—Lupton’s 22 exhibitions offer insightful commentaries on contemporary culture and a clear understanding of the design process. From her first exhibition “Mechanical Brides: Women and Machines, from Home to Office” (1993) to her latest exhibition “Design and Healing: Creative Responses to Epidemics” (2021), Lupton identifies the many connections and intersections of design across disciplines.
  • Publications—Among her 34 published books, Design is Storytelling (2017), How Posters Work (2015), Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, and Students (2010) and The Bauhaus and Design Theory (1991, 2019) are primers for design history and studio practice internationally.
  • Education—From workshops for middle-school students to graduate lectures and seminars, Lupton has helped educate several generations of designers, design educators and design thinkers. Topics for lectures and symposia have included inclusive design, poster design, Bauhaus typography, hacking, robotics, artificial intelligence and more.
  • Collection—Lupton has been an important advisor on many graphic design acquisitions for the Drawings, Prints and Graphic Design department, including major 20th-century works related to AIDS activism and experimental typography in the 1990s.

Prior to joining Cooper Hewitt in 1992, Lupton served as curator of the Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography at The Cooper Union, where she organized exhibitions and related publications on graphic design.

Lupton received her bachelor’s degree from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and earned a doctorate in communication design from the University of Baltimore.

Alongside her work at Cooper Hewitt, Lupton also serves as the Betty Cooke and William O. Steinmetz Design Chair at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore. In 2003, she launched MICA’s Graphic Design MFA program after serving as chair of the undergraduate program from 1997 to 2002.

Lupton has been recognized with notable international awards, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, inducted 2019; Alliance Graphique Internationale, inducted 2016; and the AIGA Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement, 2007.


Cooper Hewitt is America’s design museum. Inclusive, innovative and experimental, the museum’s dynamic exhibitions, education programs, master’s program, publications and online resources inspire, educate and empower people through design. An integral part of the Smithsonian Institution—the world’s largest museum, education and research complex—Cooper Hewitt is located on New York City’s Museum Mile in the historic, landmark Carnegie Mansion. Steward of one of the world’s most diverse and comprehensive design collections—over 215,000 objects that range from an ancient Egyptian faience cup dating to about 1100 BC to contemporary 3D-printed objects and digital code—Cooper Hewitt welcomes everyone to discover the importance of design and its power to change the world.

For more information, visit www.cooperhewitt.org or follow @cooperhewitt on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.