Curator, director of a graphic design MFA program, author, design critic, lecturer, DIY advocate and AIGA Gold Medalist. Only someone who works hard and smart could receive titles like this. For nearly 25 years, Ellen Lupton has been curator of contemporary design at Cooper-Hewitt’s National Design Museum. During her time there, she’s not only created numerous exhibits, but has also published several books—19 to be exact—including The Bauhaus Design Theory with J. Abbott Miller, Letters from the Avant-Garde: Modern Graphic Design with Elaine Lustig Cohen, Design Culture Now: Notional Design Triennial withDonald Albrecht and Steven Skov Holt, and plenty more.
Lupton started as a fine art student at Cooper Union in 1981, where she discovered the “expressive potential of typography.” After graduating in 1985, she received an offer to head the Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design & Typography at her alma mater. She accepted and merged her love for design and writing, resulting in impeccable curatorial skills. Soon after with partner J. Abbott Miller, Lupton cofounded the Design Writing Research Lab where the two combined theory and practice to supplement their work lives. Lupton is quoted saying, “We were young and had theories, so we created DWR as a thing where we could take on work with clients and do artsy-farsy stuff for the real world.”
As an educator and director of the MFA graphic design program at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Lupton created D.I.Y.: Design It Yourself with help from her grad students. The book’s purpose is to empower non-designers with basic design skills.
In 2007, Lupton was awarded the AIGA Gold Medal for “[making] this industry smarter.” As Katherine Feo says, “If graphic design has a sense of its own history, an understanding of the theory that drives it and a voice for its continuing discourse, it’s largely because Lupton wrote it, thought it or spoke it.”
Lupton’s voice has impacted the graphic design field for years. And now she’s bringing her intimate knowledge of the subject to Print‘s Regional Design Awards as a judge. The deadline to enter is Monday, May 1st. Below is a collection of quotes from Ellen Lupton—may they inspire, teach and embolden you.
Curious Quotes of Ellen Lupton