Louise Fili

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Louise Fili
Louise fili by table.jpg
Photograph of Louise Fili by Henry Leutwyler
Nationality American
Education Skidmore College, School of Visual Arts
Known for Graphic design
Spouse(s) Steven Heller

Louise Fili is an Italian-American graphic designer who is "recognized for impeccable craftsmanship, elegant use of typography and designing with a passion and focus that is the envy of every designer".[1] An AIGA 2014 medalist, Fili was always passionate about handwritten type. From an early age, she enjoyed creating her own letterforms, and taught herself calligraphy. Over the years, she has designed close to 2,000 book jackets, "proving again and again that design doesn’t have to shout to be noticed".[2]

Early life[edit]

Louise Fili said she was “interested in design before [she] even knew what it was”. She recalls carving letterforms into her walls and designing book covers as a child.[3] When she was 16, Fili taught herself calligraphy. She went to Saratoga Springs, New York to attend Skidmore College and study studio art.[4]


In 1973 Fili received a Bachelor of Science in studio art from Skidmore College, where she found her love for graphic design. Fili moved to New York City in 1973, interning at the Museum of Modern Art and finishing her degree at the School of Visual Arts.[4]


She worked as a senior designer for Herb Lubalin from 1976–78, where she found type to be an expressive tool, which set the foundation for her later work.[4] Before working for Herb Lubalin, she worked on special book projects for Knopf.

From 1978–1989, she was the art director at Pantheon Books, where she eschewed standard fonts in favor of creating unique typographic treatments for each book jacket. The success of her jacket for Marguerite Duras’ bestseller, The Lover, in 1984, led to increased creative freedom at Pantheon. Fili designed close to 2,000 books during her tenure at the publisher.[4][5]

In 1989, she opened her own studio, Louise Fili Ltd, specializing in the design of restaurant identities and food packaging. “There were a few things I did know when I started my business. I knew I wanted to stay small and I always have. I also wanted to focus on the only three things that interest me: food, type, and all things Italian.” says Louise.[6] During that time, there were few female-run companies, so she knew naming the company after herself could be a liability. But she decided to send a clear message: "If you have a problem with my being female, then I don’t want you as a client.” [7] She has designed identities for many New York City eateries such as Picholine, Artisanal, The Mermaid Inn, and Via Carota, and has created packaging for Sarabeth’s, Tate’s, and Bella Cucina. Her geometric, often Cubist-looking designs show an affinity to European modernism, in particular, the work of Lucian Bernhard, A.M. Cassandre, Jean Carlu and Italian posters of the 1930s.

In 2014 Princeton Architectural Press published "Grafica della Strada", a compilation of her Italian sign photographs. This was followed in 2015 by "Graphique de la Rue: The Signs of Paris".

Fili has authored and co-authored over twenty books, many of them with her husband, the design historian Steven Heller. A best-selling monograph of her work, "Elegantissima," was published in 2012.

In 2009, she redesigned the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for its 100th anniversary.

In 2004, Fili was inducted into the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame. In 2015 she received the medal of lifetime achievement from the Type Directors Club. She has received three James Beard Award nominations, and since 1998 she is an elected member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale.

For over twenty years, Fili has taught at School of Visual Arts, in both the undergraduate and graduate programs as well as the SVA Masters Workshop in Rome every summer.

Books authored and co-authored[edit]

  • (With Steven Heller) Italian Art Deco: Graphic Design Between the Wars, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1993.
  • (With Steven Heller) Dutch Moderne: Graphic Design from De Stijl to Deco, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1994.
  • (With Steven Heller) Streamline: American Art Deco Graphic Design, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1995.
  • (With Steven Heller) Cover Story: The Art of American Magazine Covers 1900–1950, San Francisco: Chronicle Books (San Francisco, California), 1996.
  • Logos A to Z (self-published) 1997.
  • (With Steven Heller) British Modern: Graphic Design Between the Wars, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1998.
  • (With Steven Heller) German Modern: Graphic Design from Wilhelm to Weimar, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1998.
  • (With Steven Heller) Typology: Type Design from the Victorian Era to the Digital Age, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1999.
  • More Logos A to Z (self-published) 1999.
  • (With Steven Heller) Design Connoiseur: An Eclectic Collection of Imagery and Type, New York: Allworth Press, 2000.
  • (With Steven Heller) Counter Culture: The Allure of Mini-mannequins, New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2001.
  • Logos A to Z Three, 2002 (self-published)
  • (With Steven Heller) Euro Deco: Graphic Design Between the Wars, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2004.
  • A Designer’s Guide to Italy. (self-published) 2004.
  • (With Steven Heller) Stylepedia: A Guide to Graphic Design Mannerisms, Quirks, and Conceits, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2006.
  • The Civilized Shopper’s Guide to Florence, New York: The Little Bookroom, 2007.
  • (With Lise Apatoff) Italianissimo: The Quintessential Guide to What Italians Do Best, New York: The Little Bookroom, 2008.
  • (With Steven Heller) Scripts: Elegant Lettering from Design’s Golden Age, London: Thames and Hudson, 2011.
  • Elegantissima: The Design and Typography of Louise Fili, New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2012.
  • (With Steven Heller) "Shadow Type: Classic Three-Dimensional Lettering", London: Thames and Hudson, 2013
  • Grafica della Strada, Princeton Architectural Press, 2014
  • The Cognoscenti's Guide to Florence, Princeton Architectural Press, 2015
  • (With Steven Heller) "Stencil Type", London: Thames and Hudson, 2015
  • Graphique de la Rue, Princeton Architectural Press, 2015
  • (With Steven Heller) Slab Serif Type', London: Thames and Hudson, 2016.

Magazine articles about Louise Fili[edit]

  • 5Ws. Step Inside Design January/February 2005
  • Classic Innovation. Step-by-Step Graphics, January/February 1998
  • For the Love of Italy. Gourmet Live, February 7, 2011. Adam Harrison Levy.
  • Hey, Hot Stuff. Print, August 2009.
  • High Marks. Food Arts, April 2001.
  • Louise Fili. Communication Arts, September/October 1986. Dugald Stermer.
  • Louise Fili: Design Archaeologist. Graphis, September/October 1999. Tracie Rozhan
  • Louise Fili. How, July/August 1986.
  • Louise Fili. Uppercase Journal, May 2011. Jordan Provost.
  • The Women Who Saved New York! Print, January/February 1989. Philip B. Meggs.
  • Women of Design. Step Inside Design, November/December 2005.

Online Articles[edit]


Permanent Collections[edit]


  1. ^ "2014 AIGA Medalist: Louise Fili". AIGA | the professional association for design. Retrieved 2016-03-09. 
  2. ^ "2014 AIGA Medalist: Louise Fili". AIGA | the professional association for design. Retrieved 2016-03-09. 
  3. ^ "Design pioneer Louise Fili on gastronomic passion and gangster clients". Retrieved 2016-06-26. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Eye Magazine | Feature | Reputations: Louise Fili". www.eyemagazine.com. Retrieved 2015-12-08. 
  5. ^ "2014 AIGA Medalist: Louise Fili". AIGA | the professional association for design. Retrieved 2015-12-08. 
  6. ^ Discontent, The Great. "Louise Fili on The Great Discontent". The Great Discontent. Retrieved 2016-03-09. 
  7. ^ "2014 AIGA Medalist: Louise Fili". AIGA | the professional association for design. Retrieved 2016-03-09. 
  8. ^ "Louise Fili". AIGA. Retrieved May 3, 2014. 







Further reading[edit]

  • Gerda Breuer and Julia Meer., ed. (2012). Women in Graphic Design. Berlin: Jovis. pp. 72–74, 444. ISBN 9783868591538. 

External links[edit]

  • Louise Fili LTD. [1]