Jessica Helfand

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Jessica Helfand
Born1960 (age 58–59)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Alma materB.A. and M.F.A. Yale University
OccupationDesigner, educator, author
Known forDesign writing and criticism

Jessica Helfand (born 1960 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is a designer, author, and educator. She is a former contributing editor and columnist for Print, Eye and Communications Arts magazine, and founding editor of the website Design Observer.[1] She is Senior Critic at Yale School of Art since 1994,[2] a lecturer in Yale College, and Artist-in-Residence at Yale’s Institute for Network Science. Named the first Henry Wolf Resident in design at the American Academy in Rome in 2010, she is a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale and the Art Director’s Hall of Fame. In 2013, she won the AIGA medal.

Education and career[edit]

Jessica Helfand is a 1978 high school graduate of George School in Newtown, Pennsylvania.[3] She also received both her B.A. in 1982 in Graphic Design and Architectural Theory and her M.F.A. in 1989 in Graphic Design from Yale University.[4] After graduation, she took a job writing soap operas for Procter & Gamble, and eventually became junior scriptwriter on CBS’s Guiding Light.[5] After completing Graduate school in 1989, she returned to Philadelphia as design director for the Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine.

She has taught since 1996 in the graduate program in Graphic Design in the School of Art, where she is currently Senior Critic in Graphic Design, Artist in Residence at the Yale Institute for Network Science, and a lecturer in Yale College, where she teaches the freshman seminars "Studies in Visual Biography"[6] and "Blue".[7] She has been visiting professor at Wesleyan University and Paris College of Art, and with Andrew Howard and Hamish Muir is a co-founder of the summer editorial course in Porto, Portugal.

Helfand and partner William Drenttel founded the Winterhouse Studio design firm in 1997. In 2003, along with Michael Bierut and Rick Poynor, they launched the Design Observer blog and website.[1] Helfand and Bierut are co-hosts of the podcast Observatory, which are now hosted by Design Observer.[8][9]

Helfand has written for many national publications, including the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Aperture, and The New Republic.[10] 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 "the best of this year’s gift books" by The New York Times.[11] Design: The Invention of Desire, was published in 2016 by Yale University Press.

She is a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI) and a 2010 member of the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame with William Drenttel. In 2010, Helfand and 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 chaired the Design Subcommittee until 2012. Helfand and Drenttel were honoured with AIGA medal in 2013.[1]

Books by Jessica Helfand[edit]

  • Design: The Invention of Desire, Yale University Press. (ISBN 978-0300205091)
  • 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)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "William Drenttel and Jessica Helfand". AIGA | the professional association for design. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  2. ^ Gonzalez, Susan (2013-04-01). "Yale graphic designers honored for work in the studio and classroom". Yale News. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  3. ^ "Jessica Helfand '78 Publishes Design: The Invention of Desire - George School". George School. 2016-05-30. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  4. ^ "Design Insight—and Breakfast!—with Jessica Helfand". Continuum Innovation. 2017. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  5. ^ "William Drenttel and Jessica Helfand". AIGA | the professional association for design. Retrieved 2018-04-13.
  6. ^ Studies in Visual Biography Archived 2011-12-11 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Creative Classroom: Seminar immerses freshmen in many things blue". Yale News. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  8. ^ "Design Observer". SoundCloud. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  9. ^ "Designers Jessica Helfand and Michael Bierut Launch Podcast on Business and Design". Yale School of Management. 2016-10-19. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  10. ^ Breuer, Gerda; Meer, Julia (2012). Women in graphic design 1890-2012 = Frauen und Grafik-Design [1890-2012] (2nd rev. and corr. ed.). Berlin: Jovis. pp. 471–473. ISBN 9783868591538.
  11. ^ Garner, Dwight (27 November 2008). "Suggestions for Gift Books". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 March 2017.

External links[edit]