In print and on view: designing for E. MCKNIGHT KAUFFER

How do graphic designers engage with Cooper Hewitt’s own graphic design collection? Curators Caitlin Condell and Emily M. Orr welcome their recent collaborators, designers Lucinda Hitchcock and Lucienne Roberts, to discuss their experiences of interpreting the work of commercial art pioneer E. McKnight Kauffer (American, 1890-1954). Hitchcock and Roberts each drew inspiration from the museum’s vast holdings of Kauffer’s work as they created complex and striking designs for a new book and exhibition at Cooper Hewitt. Hitchcock was captivated by Kauffer as a misfit and wanderer, designing the publication E. McKnight Kauffer: The Artist in Advertising to reflect the contradiction and movement in the artist’s career. For the exhibition Underground Modernist: E. McKnight Kauffer, Roberts’s design draws from Kauffer’s vibrant color palette and signature motifs to activate the visitor experience. Join us to learn how two contemporary designers tackled the joy and the challenge of presenting a groundbreaking commercial artist through two different graphic approaches.

The publication E. McKnight Kauffer: The Artist in Advertising is available at SHOP Cooper Hewitt.

The exhibition Underground Modernist: E. McKnight Kauffer will be on view from September 10, 2021 until April 10, 2022.


Caitlin Condell is the associate curator and head of the Department of Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design at Cooper Hewitt, where she oversees a collection of nearly 147,000 works on paper dating from the 14th century to the present. She has organized and contributed to numerous exhibitions and publications including Underground Modernist: E. McKnight Kauffer (2021-22), The Modernist French Garden: Designs by the Vera Brothers (2021), After Icebergs (2019-20), Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial (2019-20), Fragile Beasts (2016-17), and How Posters Work (2015) at Cooper Hewitt, and Making Room: The Space Between Two and Three Dimensions (2012-13) at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.


Lucinda Hitchcock is a book designer, a typographer, a full-time professor, and until recently, the Graphic Design Department Head at Rhode Island School of Design. She studied at Columbia University (MA) and Yale University (MFA). Her research and practice includes explorations of narrative, letterforms, typography, and place, along with visual histories and the shape of language. Her book design studio, Lucinda Hitchcock Design, works with such clients as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, MFABoston, and numerous other galleries and cultural institutions.


Emily M. Orr is the assistant curator of modern and contemporary American design. She holds a Ph.D. in the History of Design from the Royal College of Art/Victoria & Albert Museum. Her exhibitions at Cooper Hewitt include Underground Modernist: E. McKnight Kauffer (2021-22), Botanical Expressions (2019-21), and Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s (2017). Orr was formerly the Marcia Brady Tucker Fellow in the American Decorative Arts Department at the Yale University Art Gallery (2009-12). She has written articles on a range of design history topics and is the author of Designing the Department Store: Display and Retail at the Turn of the Twentieth Century (Bloomsbury, 2019).


Lucienne Roberts AGI, HonFISTD, FRSA is the founder of design studio LucienneRoberts+ and co-founder of the advocacy initiative GraphicDesign&, a research and practice characterized by her abiding interest in the definitions of ethical design. A graduate of Central Saint Martins, Roberts also studied English Literature at the University of London. The work of LucienneRoberts+ spans exhibition design, books, and corporate identity. Roberts’s books include Good: An Introduction to Ethics in Graphic Design; she was the HMCT Typographer-in-Residence 2018 at ArtCenter, Los Angeles, and is currently the HMCT International Fellow. At GraphicDesign&, she and her colleagues originated and curated the critically-acclaimed London exhibitions Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? and Hope to Nope: Graphics and Politics 2008–18.

ABOUT THE behind the design SERIES

What makes an object “museum-worthy”? How does an exhibition come to life? What discoveries have been unearthed by conservators? Behind the Design features curators, conservators, and other museum staff and guests in a series of lunch-time conversations to offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Cooper Hewitt and its collection.


This free program will feature a lecture followed by an audience Q&A hosted through Zoom, with the option to dial in as well. Details will be emailed to you upon registration. This program includes closed captioning. For general questions or if we can provide additional accessibility services or accommodations to support your participation in this program, please email us at or let us know when registering.

Featured Image: Drawing, Stage design: backdrop, for ”Checkmate”, ca. 1947; Designed by E. McKnight Kauffer; Designed for the Royal Opera House; Produced and choreographed by Ninette de Valois; Music composed by Arthur Bliss; brush and gouache; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, Gift of Mrs. E. McKnight Kauffer, 1963-39-272; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution

Photo Credits: Caitlin Condell: David Alexander Arnold; Lucinda Hitchcock: Joe Sittenfeld for RISD; Emily M. Orr: Allison Hale; Lucienne Roberts: David Shaw

Special Thanks

Underground Modernist: E. McKnight Kauffer is made possible with support from the Barbara and Morton Mandel Design Gallery Endowment Fund and the Esme Usdan Exhibition Endowment Fund.

E. McKnight Kauffer: The Artist in Advertising is made possible in part by Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund.