Author: Ellen Lupton

Dark red textile with stripes
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...
Poster, LIGHT/YEARS: Poster for the Architectural Leagues Beaux Arts Ball, March 13, 1999
Light Years
Graphic design plays a sinister supporting role in Steven Soderbergh’s film Side Effects (2012), starring Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Mara plays an emotionally distressed junior designer with problems much bigger than kerning type. Slammed with depression, her professional life rapidly falls apart in several crucial scenes that were shot in...
A repeating pattern of the letters 'IBM' in three different graphic presentations: narrowly outlined in black, heavily outlined in black, and solid blue.
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...
Length of printed cotton with an all-over fine linear design in black on a white ground. The figures seem to be inspired by hieroglyphs.
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...
HorseProjectSpace Presents: Ritual Tendencies by Michiel Schuurman
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...
Length of printed linen with heavy horizontal stripes and narrower vertical stripes in black, with irregularly spaced ovals, as the beads of an abacus, in black, blue and green on a natural linen ground.
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...