Jessica Helfand

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Jessica Helfand (born 1960, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is an author, columnist and lecturer on graphic design. She is the partner of William Drenttel of Winterhouse Studios, Winterhouse Editions and Winterhouse Institute located in Falls Village, Connecticut. She is a critic in graphic design at Yale University, where she earned her M.F.A. in Graphic Design and her B.A. in graphic design and architectural theory.


Jessica Helfand is a 1978 graduate of The George School in Newtown, PA. "After graduate school, Jessica joined the staff of a respected magazine design studio, and soon moved on to become Design Director for the Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine. She credits those years of relentless photo layouts with teaching her the fundamentals of visual storytelling. In 1992, a seminar on computer imaging sparked her interest in new media, and she began to envision creating her own studio. By 1996 she was back at Yale, this time beginning her long-term faculty association in graphic design with the School of Art, where she is now Senior Critic."[1] "She has lectured at the AIGA National Biennial Conference, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Walker Art Center, Columbia University School of Journalism, the Annenberg School of Public Policy, and the Netherlands Design Institute."[2]

Helfand has written for many national publications, including the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Aperture and The New Republic. She is the author of numerous books on design and cultural criticism, including Paul Rand: American Modernist (1998), Screen: Essays on Graphic Design, New Media and Visual Culture (2001) and Reinventing the Wheel (2002), which formed the basis for an exhibit in 2004 at the Grolier Club in New York City. Her critically acclaimed 'Scrapbooks: An American History' (Yale University Press, 2008) was named that year’s best visual book by 'The New York Times'. [3]

She is a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI) and a recent laureate of the Art Director's Hall of Fame. In 2010, she and William Drenttel were named the first Henry Wolf Residents in Design at the American Academy in Rome. She was appointed by the Postmaster General to the U.S. Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee in 2006, where she chairs the Design Subcommittee. Helfand and Drenttel were honoured with AIGA medal in 2013.[4]

Jessica Helfand received both her BA in Graphic Design and Architectural Theory and her MFA in Graphic Design from Yale University. She has taught for fifteen years in the graduate program in Graphic Design in the School of Art, where she is currently Senior Critic in Graphic Design and a Lecturer in Yale College, where she teaches the freshman seminar "Studies in Visual Biography."

Helfand is also a "founding writer" of the Design Observer weblog. with Michael Bierut, Wiliam Drenttel and Rick Poynor.

Scrapbooks: An American History[edit]

Scrapbooks is critically acclaimed and was named the best visual book by The New York Times in 2008. In writing this book, Helfand set out to learn about the widespread hobby of scrapbooking, how it got started, how it has evolved, and why people keep visual diaries of their lives. She collected hundreds of scrapbooks that range in time from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the present. She learned so much more than she expected and remarks, "To spend any time at all with these scrapbooks is to fall a little bit in love with the people who created them. They remind us who we are, where we’re going – and perhaps why, in the end, it might actually matter.”

Books by Jessica Helfand[edit]

  • Scrapbooks: An American History", Yale University Press. (ISBN 978-0300126358)
  • Screen: Essays on Graphic Design, New Media, and Visual Culture, with John Maeda, Princeton Architectural Press. (ISBN ´978-1568983103)
  • Reinventing the Wheel, Princeton Architectural Press. (ISBN 978-1568985961)
  • Looking Closer 3, Vol. 3: Classic Writings on Graphic Design with Michael Bierut, Steven Heller and Rick Poynor, Allworth Press. (ISBN 978-1581150223)
  • Paul Rand: American Modernist, William Drenttel Editions. (ISBN 978-1884381164)
  • Graphic Design America 2: The work of many of the best and brightest design firms from across the United States, with DK Holland and Chip Kidd, Rockport Publishers. (ISBN 978-1564966810)

Online Essays[edit]

The following essays are drawn from Helfand's work for Design Observer.[5] ==

  • “On The Shoulders of Midgets: A Conversation about Reality TV” Design Observer, July 11, 2011
  • “The Look of Freedom” Design Observer, July 4, 2011
  • “The Public Face of Disgrace” Design Observer, June 16, 2011
  • “The Royal Tweet” Design Observer, February 29, 2011
  • “New Lives for Old Paper” Design Observer, February 23, 2011
  • “Penny Dreadfuls” Design Observer, February 14, 2011
  • “The Little Savages” Design Observer, February 12, 2011
  • “When Do We Call it Art?” Design Observer, January 27, 2011
  • “Certificate of Approval” Design Observer, January 25, 2011
  • “Does It Have To Be A Lightbulb?” Design Observer, January 20, 2011
  • “Bring In Da Ponk!” Design Observer, January 19, 2011
  • “You Never Go Down The Candy Aisle” Design Observer, January 18, 2011
  • “Sweet Spot: Cake as Craft?” Design Observer, January 4, 2011
  • “Be Careful What You Wish For” Design Observer, December 15, 2010
  • “Wait a Minute, Mr. Postman!” Design Observer, December 15, 2010
  • “Oh, To Be An English, Um, Person!” Design Observer, December 12, 2010
  • “Pretty Pictures, Bad Judgment” Design Observer, November 26, 2010
  • “The Bantjes Covers” Design Observer, October 25, 2010
  • “An Introduction to Graphic Design” Design Observer, October 11, 2010
  • “AIGA Winterhouse Awards for Design Writing: 2010 Recipients” Design Observer, October 5, 2010
  • “The Kindness of Strangers” Design Observer, September 16, 2010
  • “Fat Chance” Design Observer, September 9, 2010
  • “The Real Skinny on the Real Skinny” Design Observer, September 7, 2010
  • “In the Palm of Your Hand: Dexterity Puzzles” Design Observer, August 23, 2010
  • “Viva The Villain: A Review of Despicable Me” Design Observer, July 14, 2010
  • “Happy Birthday, Steven Heller” Design Observer, July 7, 2010
  • “The Next Great Graphic Designer” Design Observer, June 23, 2010
  • “Rome's MAXXI: Force Field as Field Space” Design Observer, June 1, 2010¬
  • “Every Poem an Epitaph: The Protestant Cemetery in Rome” Design Observer, April 15, 2010
  • “Prisoners of Logic” Design Observer, February 19, 2010
  • “Better Living Through Artistry” Design Observer, February 17, 2010
  • “All Things Matter.” Design Observer, October 28, 2009.
  • “A Stich in Time: Review of 9.” Design Observer, September 21, 2009.
  • “Significant Objects : The Elvis Chocolate Tin.” Design Observer, August 21, 2009.
  • “Can Graphic Design Make You Cry?” Design Observer, August 3, 2009.
  • “An Open Letter to Design Students Everywhere.” Design Observer, June 4, 2009.
  • “What's The Story?” Design Observer, April 26, 2009.
  • “Land in Crisis: The Antelope Valley Story.” Design Observer, April 15, 2009.
  • “My Facebook, My Self.” Design Observer, March 11, 2009.
  • “The Kindness of Strangers.” Design Observer, February 11, 2009.
  • “Ten Things That Need to be Redesigned.” Design Observer, January 14, 2009.
  • “Graphic Design Spam.” Design Observer, November 17, 2008
  • “The Posters of Padua." Design Observer, October 6, 2008.
  • “Second in a Series: Completions.” Design Observer, September 18, 2008.
  • “Biblionomatopoeia.” Design Observer, August 25, 2008.
  • “First In A Series: Cartophily.” Design Observer, August 8, 2008.
  • “Annals of Ephemera, Part III: Aging 2.0.” Design Observer, July 16, 2008.
  • “Reflections on the Ephemeral World, Part Two: Food.” Design Observer, June 19, 2008.
  • “Reflections on The Ephemeral World, Part One: Ink.” Design Observer, May 30, 2008.
  • “Iron Man: The Screen Behind the Screen.” Design Observer, May 16, 2008.
  • “National Scrapbooking Day.” Design Observer, May 3, 2008.
  • “Viewer Discretion Advised.” Design Observer, March 21, 2008.
  • “Animal Magnetism.” Design Observer, February 14, 2008.
  • “Gone, Baby, Gone (Things, Part II).” Design Observer, January 30, 2008.
  • “Remembering Paul Rand.” Design Observer, January 3, 2008.
  • “Things, Part I." Design Observer, December 3, 2007.
  • “Type Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry.” Design Observer, November 7, 2007.
  • “Science and Design: The Next Wave.” Design Observer, October 16, 2007.
  • “Stan Brakhage: Caught on Tape.” Design Observer, October 1, 2007.
  • “Back to School." Design Observer, September 8, 2007.
  • “Another Myth Brilliantly Debunked.” Design Observer, August 23, 2007.
  • “Harry Potter and The Enchanted Letterforms.” Design Observer, July 17, 2007.
  • “Cock-a-Doodle-Don’t.” Design Observer, July 10, 2007.
  • “Why is This Font Different From All Other Fonts?” Design Observer, June 26, 2007.
  • “My Dirty Little Secret.” Design Observer, May 28, 2007.
  • “Ad Reinhardt: Graphic Designer.” Design Observer, May 17, 2007.
  • “The New Manifest Destiny.” Design Observer, April 22, 2007.
  • “Annals of Ephemera: The Town and Country Cookbook.” Design Observer, March 26, 2007.
  • “Art Director Ken.” Design Observer, March 14, 2007.
  • “Lost, O Lost.” Design Observer, March 4, 2007.
  • “I’m Not Ready to Make Nice.” Design Observer, February 12, 2007.
  • “The Not-So-Golden_Age of Zero Tolerance.” Design Observer, December 15, 2006.
  • “How Hollywood Nailed the Half-Pipe.” Design Observer, November 27, 2006.
  • “Into The Pink.” Design Observer, November 8, 2006.
  • “My Cup Holder Runneth Over.” Design Observer, October 22, 2006.
  • “Death ‘N’ Stuff.” Design Observer, September 21, 2006.
  • “Annals of Small Town Life: The Logo Stops Here.” Design Observer, September 4, 2006.
  • “The Ovalization of The American Mind.” Design Observer, August 20, 2006.
  • “A Good Pan Is Hard To Find.” Design Observer, July 28, 2006.
  • “The Global Curse of Comic Sans.” Design Observer, July 20, 2006.
  • “The Right Stuff.” Design Observer, July 7, 2006.
  • “Absolut Signage.” Design Observer, July 3, 2006.
  • “Crafting All The Way To The Bank.” Design Observer, June 29, 2006.
  • “Oui, Oui, Oui All The Way Home.” Design Observer, June 1, 2006.
  • “Annals of Academia: The New Exoticism.” Design Observer, May 22, 2006.
  • “Disaster Relief 101: No Door Hanger Left Behind.” Design Observer, April 30, 2006.
  • “The Art of Thinking Through Making.” Design Observer, April 21, 2006.
  • “The Propensity for Density.” Design Observer, April 11, 2006.
  • “A Sequence in Time.” Design Observer, April 4, 2006.
  • “Give Me Privacy or Give Me an ID Card.” Design Observer, March 2, 2006.
  • “What We Talk About When We Talk About Design History.” Design Observer, February 16, 2006.
  • “Separated at Birth: Method? Or Madness?.” Design Observer, February 5, 2006.
  • “Freedom of Speech or Filching of Style? The New Law of Eminent Lo-Mein.” Design Observer, February 2, 2006.
  • “The “D” Word.” Design Observer, January 29, 2006.
  • “Civilian Typography: The Power and the Fury.” Design Observer, January 8, 2006.
  • “Calling All Angels Design Observer, December 24, 2005.
  • “Face Value.” Design Observer, December 16, 2005.
  • “Cease and Design.” Design Observer, November 10, 2005.
  • “On Considering the Source.” Design Observer, November 3, 2005.
  • “The Shock of the Old: Rethinking Nostalgia.” Design Observer, October 27, 2005.
  • “On Citizenship and Humanity: An Appeal for Design Reform.” Design Observer, October 6, 2005.
  • “Why Bugs Don’t Belong on TV.” Design Observer, September 1, 2005.
  • “Eye of the Storm.” Design Observer, July 31, 2005.
  • “A Mosaic of Vision and Memory.” Design Observer, August 12, 2005.
  • “Why Bugs Don’t Belong on TV.” Design Observer, July 31, 2005.
  • New Models for Design Efficiency: Introducing Otto.” Design Observer, July 8, 2005.
  • The Adventures of Cynic Mom and Design Boy in 3D.” Design Observer, June 22, 2005.
  • “The Cut: When Art Imitates Life.” Design Observer, June 10, 2005.
  • “Method Designing: The Paradox of Modern Design Education” Design Observer, May 23, 2005.
  • “Scrapbooking: The New Paste-Up.” Design Observer, March 17, 2005.
  • “The New Paper Chase: Cyberspace on The Auction Block.” Design Observer, February 16, 2005.
  • “My Friend Flickr.” Design Observer, February 18, 2005.
  • “Paris Dispatch: A Long Way Down.” Design Observer, January 23, 2005.
  • “Code (PMS) Blue.” Design Observer, December 23, 2004.
  • “The Designibles.” Design Observer, November 15, 2004.
  • “The Rodneydangerfieldization of Graphic Design: Part I.” Design Observer, October 8, 2004.
  • “Gentlemen Prefer Blogs.” Design Observer, September 24, 2004.
  • “Under The Microscope.” Design Observer, September 9, 2004.
  • “Ladislav Sutnar: Mechanical Beauty.” Design Observer, Aug 10, 2004.
  • “An Instrument of Sufficiently Lucid Cogitation” Design Observer, August 5, 2004.
  • “Ask Not What Your Typeface Can Do For You: Ask What You Can Do For Your Typeface” Design Observer, July 8, 2004.
  • “Take Two Logos and Call Me in the Morning.” Design Observer, July 1, 2004.
  • “Annals of Academia, Part II: Graphic Design and The New Optimism.” Design Observer, May 20, 2004.
  • “Annals of Academia, Part I: What I Didn't Learn In Graduate School.” Design Observer, May 12, 2004.
  • “Time Waits for No Fan.” Design Observer, May 1, 2004.
  • “One Person, One Vote, One MRI?.” Design Observer, April 20, 2004.
  • “Graphic Flanerie.” Design Observer, April 15, 2004.
  • “Annals of Typographic Oddity: Mourning Becomes Helvetica.” Design Observer, March 9, 2004.
  • “Regarding the Photography of Others.” Design Observer, March 5, 2004.
  • “The Crisis of Intent.” Design Observer, February 24, 2004.
  • “The Span of Casual Vision.” Design Observer, January 13, 2004.
  • “Mind the Light, Light the Mind.” Design Observer, January 2, 2004.
  • “Sign Language: Endangered Species or Utopian Uprising?” Design Observer, December 5, 2003.
  • “On Visual Empathy.” Design Observer, November 22, 2003.
  • “Implausible Fictions.” Design Observer, November 12, 2003.
  • “Fatal Grandeur.” Design Observer, October 30, 2003.
  • “Edward Tufte: The Dispassionate Statistician I.” Design Observer, September 26, 2003.
  • “The Art of Elegant Abstraction.” Design Observer, September 10, 2003.
  • “The Real Declaration.” Design Observer, September 6, 2003.


  • Breuer, Gerda, Meer, Julia (ed): Women in Graphic Design, p. 471, 473, 525, 528, Jovis, Berlin 2012 (ISBN 978-3-86859-153-8).


External links[edit]

See also[edit]