Ellen Lupton

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Ellen Lupton
Ellen Lupton at MICA Thesis Exhibition 2009.jpg
A portrait of Ellen Lupton
Ellen Lupton

1963 (age 58–59)
Alma materCooper Union
Known forWriter, Curator, Educator, and Graphic Designer
MovementDIY, constructionism
AwardsAIGA Medal (2007)

Ellen Lupton (born 1963) is a graphic designer, curator, writer, critic, and educator. Known for her love of typography,[1] Lupton is the Betty Cooke and William O. Steinmetz Design Chair at Maryland Institute College of Art.[2] Previously she was the Senior Curator of Contemporary Design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City and was named Curator Emerita after 30 years of service.[2][3] She is the founding director of the Graphic Design M.F.A. degree program at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA),[2][3] where she also serves as director of the Center for Design Thinking.[4] She has written numerous books on graphic design for a variety of audiences. She has contributed to several publications, including Print,[5] Eye,[6] I.D., Metropolis, and The New York Times.

Early life and education[edit]

Lupton was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1963[7] and grew up in Baltimore, Maryland.[8] Her parents divorced in 1973 when she and her twin sister, Julia, were ten years old.[9] As a self-professed "art girl" from a family of English teachers, her love of typography combined her love of art and writing.[7][10]

Lupton attended Cooper Union College in 1981 as a fine art student, where she discovered graphic design and the "expressive potential of typography."[7][11] Lupton described this discovery of graphic design as "a revelation... Design really wasn't in the mainstream back then. It was esoteric. It was the thing you did if you were very 'neat,' which I wasn't.”[7]


After graduating, Lupton was offered a position as curator of the newly-founded Cooper Union Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography.[7] This combined her long-standing interests in writing and design in her first curatorial position.[7] With an interest in the do-it-yourself movement, Lupton took advantage of limited resources to visually construct the history of graphic design, surprising peers in her ability to meld the visual and verbal.[7] These exhibits provided an arena in which "objects, images, and text functioned as both the method of communication and the subject of inquiry."[7] At this time, Lupton began to write critically about typography and design, utilizing a post-structuralist framework to understand how design is embedded in political, economic, and social contexts, saying, "Typography and architecture are not neutral containers for the content or programs they are thought to neatly accommodate. These are fundamental insights of modern and post-modern thinking."[10] She has cited Ferdinand de Saussure, Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault as informing her (albeit more populist) work.[10]

In 1992, Lupton joined Cooper Hewitt as curator of contemporary design and began writing books about the design world. She ended her tenure as curator in 2022 and received the honorary designation as curator emerita.[12]

In 1997, Lupton became a chair of the undergraduate graphic design program at MICA. She served in this role until 2002.[13][non-primary source needed] In 2003, she launched a new MFA program in graphic design at MICA and has served as the director of that program ever since.[13][non-primary source needed]

D.I.Y. method[edit]

Lupton has cited an interest in the rise of social media, the imagining of online spaces, and the do-it-yourself design movements which shape the design industry.[14] With the booming interest in self-help books in the early aughts, Lupton co-wrote D.I.Y.: Design It Yourself with graduate students from MICA. This book showcased ordinary people and new ways of designing their own work, from blog pages to book covers. "People don't just eat food anymore, they present it; they don't look at pictures, they take them; they don't buy T-shirts, they sell them".[15]

Selected exhibitions[edit]

  • The Senses: Design Beyond Vision, April 3 - October 28, 2018 (Curated with Andrea Lipps). Exploration of experimental works and practical solutions providing new ways to experience the world. Featured work from Christopher Brosius, KunstLAB Arnhem, Studio Roos Meerman, and Maya+Rouvelle.
  • Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial, February 12, 2016 - August 21, 2016.[16] Presented seven kinds of beauty — extravagant, intricate, ethereal, transgressive, transformative, emergent, and elemental — through the international work of 63 designers and teams.
  • How Posters Work, April 17, 2015 - January 18, 2016.[17] Showcased the designer's perception in terms of principles of composition, perception, and storytelling, featuring over 125 posters from the Cooper Hewitt collection.
  • Graphic Design: Now in Production, October 22, 2011 - January 22, 2012.[18] Explored the broadening reach of graphic design over the past decade from a specialized profession to a widely deployed tool.
  • Design for a Living World, May 2009 - January 2010 (Curated with J. Abbott Miller; exhibition designed with J. Abbott Miller, Brian Raby, Jeremy Hoffman, Kristen Spilman/Pentagram).[19][non-primary source needed] Produced for The Nature Conservancy, this commissioned ten designers to create original product prototypes using materials from ten endangered landscapes. Designers included Yves Béhar, Maya Lin, Isaac Mizrahi, Ezri Tarazi, Kate Spade New York, and J. Abbott Miller.
  • Swarm, December 2005 - March 2006. Contemporary art and design from The Fabric Workshop and Museum that reflect the logic of the swarm (simple structures yielding complexity).
  • Skin Show, May - September 2002.[20][non-primary source needed] Brought artificial life into modern furniture, fashion, architecture, and media. Focused on the many different shapes and forms of household furniture.
  • Mixing Messages: Graphic Design in Contemporary Culture, Fall1996 - Winter 1997 (Graphics designed with Jennifer Roos, Frederick Gates, and Christine McKee).[21][non-primary source needed] Critical survey of graphic design in the US from 1980 to 1995, with a focus on aesthetic, cultural, and technological changes.
  • The Avant-Garde Letterhead, Spring 1996 (Curated with Elaine Lustig Cohen, designed with Christine McKee).[22] Showcased original letterheads and ephemera by Herbert Bayer, László Moholy-Nagy, and Le Corbusier.[22][non-primary source needed]
  • Elaine L. Cohen, Modern Graphic Designer, February 7 - May 23, 1995 (Designed with Christine McKee).[23][non-primary source needed] Focus on the groundbreaking designs of books, book covers, and signage from the 1950s through the 60's.
  • Living with AIDS: Education through Design, December 1, 1993 - January 2, 1994. Survey of contemporary AIDS posters addressing diverse audiences.
  • Mechanical Brides: Women and Machines from Home to Office, August 17, 1993 - January 2, 1994 (Curated with Sheri Sandler, designed with Boym Studio).[24][non-primary source needed] Exploration of the design and production of objects central to the women's work throughout the twentieth century, including the washing machine, telephone, electric iron, and typewriter. Considered a visual history of the relationship between women and "feminine" appliances.



Books published by Lupton[edit]

Awards and honors[edit]

  • 2019 – American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellow.[25]
  • 2007 – AIGA Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement, AIGA.[7]
  • 2000 – AIGA Fifty Books/Fifty Covers award, for "Design Culture Now" invitation design.[26]
  • 1999 – Recipient, Iris Award for History of Decorative Arts, Bard Graduate Center.
  • 1999 – I.D. Magazine Distinction Award, packaging category, for Graphic Design in the Mechanical Age.
  • 1998 – AIGA Fifty Books/Fifty Covers award, for "Graphic Design in the Mechanical Age: Selections from the Merrill C. Berman Collection".[27]
  • 1999 – First place, American Association of Museums publication design award, for Graphic Design in the Mechanical Age.
  • 1997 – Norton Family Foundation’s Curator’s Grant, $50,000 grant for exhibition development.
  • 1996 – Winner, 1996 New York Magazine Award. Awarded to 10 New Yorkers who are shaping the life of the city.[28]
  • 1993 – Recipient of the Chrysler Design Award, with J. Abbott Miller.
  • 1992–1995 – AIGA, National Board of Directors.
  • 1994 to the present – panelist, New York State Council on the Arts.
  • 1995 – Juror, Architectural League’s Young Architects Competition.
  • 1994 – Winner, Best of Show award, Aldus Magazine annual design competition, 1994 for design of book, "The IOO Show".
  • 1993 – Chair, American Center for Design “100 Show”.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Boardley, John (2008-01-10). "Buy fonts from the world's favorite typography blog, I Love Typography (ILT)". I Love Typography. Retrieved 2022-09-04.
  2. ^ a b c Greenberg, Ilana (2022-08-02). "Ellen Lupton Is Cooper Hewitt Curator Emerita". Graphic Design USA. Retrieved 2022-09-03.
  3. ^ a b "Ellen Lupton to Receive Honorary Designation as Curator Emerita to Celebrate the Conclusion of Her Tenure as Senior Curator of Contemporary Design at Cooper Hewitt After 30 Years of Service | Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum". www.cooperhewitt.org. 2022-07-27. Retrieved 2022-09-02.
  4. ^ "Ellen Lupton". CSCA. Retrieved 2022-09-02.
  5. ^ Lupton, Ellen; Lupton, Julia (January 2007). "All together now". Print Magazine. Vol. 61, no. 1. pp. 28–29 – via ProQuest.
  6. ^ Lupton, Ellen (2012). "Pages from the library of libraries". Eye. Vol. 21, no. 84. pp. 96–98 – via ProQuest.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Feo, Katherine (2007). "Ellen Lupton". AIGA, the professional association of design. AIGA. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  8. ^ Essmaker, Tina (April 15, 2014). "Ellen Lupton on The Great Discontent (TGD)". The Great Discontent. Retrieved 2018-04-23.
  9. ^ Lupton, Ellen (2010-08-02). "In Praise of the Broken Home". Opinionator. Retrieved 2018-04-24.
  10. ^ a b c Hunter, Lawrie (2006). "Critical Form as Everyday Practice, An Interview with Ellen Lupton". Information Design Journal. 14, 2. doi:10.1075/idj.14.2.05hun.
  11. ^ Callie Budrick (April 24, 2017). "Ellen Lupton: Quotes on Design & Typography". Print Magazine. Retrieved 2018-04-23.
  12. ^ Greenberg, Ilana (2022-08-02). "Ellen Lupton Is Cooper Hewitt Curator Emerita". Graphic Design USA. Retrieved 2022-08-23.
  13. ^ a b Lupton, Ellen. "Ellen Lupton, CV". elupton.com. Retrieved 2018-04-23.
  14. ^ Nicole Bearman; Gabrielle Eade. "Ellen Lupton ' design zealot". www.dhub.org. Archived from the original on 2018-06-22. Retrieved 2018-04-24.
  15. ^ Armstrong, Helen (2009). Graphic Design Theory: Readings From The Field. New York, NY, USA: Princeton Architectural Press. pp. 110–137. ISBN 978-1-56898-772-9. LCCN 2008021063. OL 16865234M.
  16. ^ "Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial". collection.cooperhewitt.org. Retrieved 2018-04-24.
  17. ^ "How Posters Work". collection.cooperhewitt.org. Retrieved 2018-04-24.
  18. ^ Blauvelt, Andrew. "Graphic Design: Now in Production". Walker Art Center. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
  19. ^ Lupton, Ellen. "Living World". Retrieved 1 December 2011.
  20. ^ Lupton, Ellen. "Skin Show". Retrieved 6 December 2011.
  21. ^ Lupton, Ellen. "Mixing Messages". Retrieved 6 December 2011.
  22. ^ a b Lupton, Ellen. "Letterhead Show". Retrieved 1 December 2011.
  23. ^ Lupton, Ellen. "Elaine L. Cohen". Retrieved 6 December 2011.
  24. ^ Lupton, Ellen. "Brides Show". Retrieved 6 December 2011.
  25. ^ "2019 Fellows and International Honorary Members with their affiliations at the time of election". members.amacad.org. Archived from the original on 2020-03-02.
  26. ^ "Lupton Lecture invite". AIGA Design Archives. Retrieved 2019-03-14.
  27. ^ "Graphic Design in the Mechanical Age: Selections from the Merrill C. Berman Collection". AIGA Design Archives. Retrieved 2019-03-14.
  28. ^ Dover, Caitlin (2010-06-09). "Design Couples: Ellen Lupton and Abbott Miller". Print Magazine. Retrieved 2019-03-14.
  29. ^ "Back Issues: Emigre 51". Emigre.com. Retrieved 2009-09-09.

External links[edit]

Design Your Life blog based on the book Design Your Life: The Pleasures and Perils of Everyday Things