Jennifer Morla: “Design is Not Solely a Device That Supports Consumerism”

One of the best parts about recruiting judges for the Regional Design Annual: Getting a chance to browse their brilliant archives. Today, first in a series of six judge profiles, we bring you the words and works of Jennifer Morla, who will be judging the Far West region of the RDA this year. Enter by April 1.


Morla_PortraitOfficial bio: Jennifer Morla is president and creative director of Morla Design, San Francisco. With over 300 awards of excellence, her work has been recognized by virtually every organization in the field of visual communication. She is the 2010 recipient of graphic design’s most honored award, the AIGA Medal. Since opening Morla Design in 1984, she has continued to pair wit and elegance on everything from motion graphics and branding to retail environments and textiles. Her clients include Levi Strauss, Williams-Sonoma, Herman Miller, Stanford University, Sculpture Center, Mexican Museum and Design Within Reach. Morla’s work is part of many permanent museum collections including MoMA, SFMoMA and the Smithsonian. She has been honored with solo design exhibitions at SFMoMA and DDD Gallery in Japan, and has been published extensively, most notably in Meggs’ History of Graphic Design. She lectures and judges internationally and teaches senior design at California College of the Arts.

Path that led you to design: Three pivotal experiences, all occurring before I was a teenager: Growing up in Manhattan and viewing MOMA’s Design Collection; visiting the 1964 World’s Fair and seeing Charles and Ray Eames’ IBM exhibit and films; visiting the Art Department at Conde Nast, where my aunt was an editor. Breuer chairs, white formica, Irving Penn photos on the light box, designing women and a carousel of 100 Magic Markers. What’s not to love.

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Your career, in a nutshell: First job: age 21: PBS San Francisco. Second job: age 24: art director at Levi Strauss & Co. Third job: age 28: Morla Design. And from age 36: adjunct professor at California College of the Arts.

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Design Philosophy: Words are as important as images, and images can be more powerful than words.

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The key to good design: Great design is, quite simply, innovation that reflects the spirit of an era and becomes a classic due to its timeless appeal.

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Work of which you’re most proud: Mexican Museum Poster. It redefined the museum’s audience by rethinking how to perceive their identity.

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Moment in your life of which you’re most proud: In my personal life: Marrying my husband and raising two amazing daughters. In my professional life, receiving the AIGA Medal.

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Cause that means the most to you: Any type of youth education.

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Favorite designer: Alvin Lustig

Favorite typographer: Firmin Didot

Favorite artist: Can’t name just one: Sol LeWitt, Alex Katz, Barnett Newman, Ann Hamilton and the expected: Warhol and Matisse.

Favorite city: Tokyo.

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Biggest inspiration: Conceptual Art.

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What the Far West means to you: Think different.

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What tends to make the Far West’s design unique? Humor combined with smart solutions.

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Motto: Design is not solely a device that supports consumerism. It can be a communicator of dissent. It can market ideology. It can effect change.

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