The Beautiful Work of Louise Fili

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One of the best parts about recruiting judges for the Regional Design Annual: Getting a chance to browse their gorgeous archives. Today, first in a series of six judge profiles, we bring you the words and works of Louise Fili, who will be judging the New York City region of the RDA this year.

Official bio: Louise Fili is principal of Louise Fili Ltd, a New York City graphic design firm specializing in food packaging, restaurant identities, and publishing. She has written, co-written, and designed over twenty-five books on graphic design and Italy, including Italian Art Deco, Italianissimo, and Grafica della Strada. A monograph of her work, Elegantissima, was published in 2012. She is a member of the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame, and is the recipient of a medal of lifetime achievement from the AIGA.


Originally from: New Jersey

Path that led you to design: When I was sixteen years old, I sent away for an Osmiroid pen that I had seen advertised in the back of The New Yorker, and I taught myself calligraphy. Soon I would be making illuminated manuscripts of Bob Dylan lyrics to sell to classmates. That same year I took my first trip to Italy, where I fell in love all at once with the country, its food, and design.

Your career, in a nutshell: After working for Herb Lubalin, I became art director of Pantheon Books, where I designed close to 2,000 book jackets. I started my own design studio in 1989, with the sole intent of focusing on food, type, and all things Italian. I design food packaging, restaurant identities, and I create my own book projects (many with my husband, Steven Heller).

Design philosophy: Find something you are passionate about and create your own projects. That is the only way to find your true design voice.

The key to good design: Authenticity.

Work of which you’re most proud: Grafica della Strada, a book of Italian signs which I have been obsessively photographing for over 30 years.

Moment of which you’re most proud: When my son, Nicolas Heller, was born.

Cause that means the most to you: Gender equality.

Favorite designer: Fortunato Depero

Favorite artist: Domenico Gnoli

Favorite typographer: Samuel Welo

Favorite city (anywhere): Florence

Biggest inspiration: Steve Heller

What makes NYC design unique? It is a city of design perfectionists.

Motto: Follow your heart.

Anything else: Get paid up front.


Print’s Regional Design Annual 2015: Enter TodayThe 2015 Regional Design Annual is now open. Don’t miss your chance to have your work reviewed by the best minds in design today and to be spotlighted in our most popular issue of the year—the industry’s most prestigious and well-respected annual.



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About Zachary Petit

Zachary Petit (@zacharypetit on Twitter) is a freelance journalist, the editor-in-chief of Design Matters Media, and the former editor-in-chief of PRINT.

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