Jennifer Morla’s Life In Design

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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Jennifer Morla’s design is a joyful combination of raw improvisation and energetic discipline. For four decades she has embodied the California sense of chaotic frenzy and personal iconoclasm. It is hard to believe that Morla, who has been honored so many times, has not yet had a monograph. Well, thanks to Letterform Archive’s publication of Morla : Design, now on Kickstarter (ending September 7), she has pulled out all the well-deserved stops. Quoting the KS site the book is “A dynamic and essential monograph that spans Jennifer Morla’s 40-year career, this book offers a glimpse into her creative process and personal design philosophy, and shares the backstory behind more than 150 worthy projects, including fine art as well as client work.” I asked Morla to say more about Design the book and design the practice.

Jennifer Morla’s book "design"

What makes this monograph of your work the quintessential representation of your career?

The book is more of an insight as to my sources of inspiration, my design approach and my thoughts on how design can influence society. Most of my writing for the past 40 years has been client facing; the book gave me the opportunity to not only describe project intent from a creative perspective, but also to elaborate on how and why I design and teach.

For example, I reference the juxtaposition of two seminal Peter Brook pieces I saw in the 1980’s, his minimalist La Tragedy de Carmen versus his visually excessive Mahabarata (at the Brooklyn Academy of Music). His work, his vision, had a profound influence on my design approach, specifically the importance of magnifying extremes in order to maximize visual and narrative impact.

The sculptural cover, obviously, makes this into more than a book but an object. How does this fit into the work you’ve been doing in the past decade as an artist and designer?

The design of the book, most especially the cover, which is all white with no type, is meant to entice (seduce?) the viewer into taking a peek inside. The cover design was taken from a concept textile pattern that was never produced. Titled “Mitosis”, the cover emulates the biological circular division of the mother cell into two daughter cells. An apt metaphor for a mother with two daughters.

The vacuum form cover, on the Deluxe Edition, was inspired and informed by a book I designed for Clorox in 2012 (also an all white vacuum formed cover depicting the iconic bleach bottle). I was intrigued by what I learned during the cover’s fabrication and looked forward to using the process again when the appropriate opportunity arose. Morla : Design was that perfect opportunity.

And re: white, from my essay on Color: Growing up in the ’60s, when design exploded with the saturated colors of silkscreen posters, I was educated as to how color can be a primary design element. However, I was also emotionally and aesthetically drawn to white, the modernity and modesty of the total lack of color: The white Polaroid Swinger camera, the white Braun appliance, the White Beatles Album. I always investigate if a design solution can be clearly communicated in black and white. It is often the only color palette necessary.

What do you want the reader to take away from this book and your work?

It is my hope that the book will be of interest to both left brain and right brain thinkers, as being a graphic designer occupies that middle space, one that rejoices in conceptual solutions that have pragmatic applications.

Jennifer Morla’s book "design"
Jennifer Morla’s book "design"