Ellen Lupton became a designer in an age of “commercial art” and pioneered the idea of a designer being an author. A self-professed art girl in a family of English teachers, she didn’t discover typography and graphic design until she started college. She became a fine art student at Cooper Union and graduated in 1985 with a degree in typography. Upon graduating, Ellen accepted a job at the Cooper Union Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography. This job allowed her to combine her loves of typography, writing, and design. It also allowed her to display her work in her first exhibitions.
In 1992, Ellen became a curator of contemporary design at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, where she produced many exhibitions and books. Her love for writing led her to begin writing books about design, beginning with the 1996 publication of Mixing Messages: graphic design in contemporary culture, a book that describes the revolutionary changes that occurred in the graphic design world. Ellen founded the Design Writing Research lab with J. Abbott Miller in the mid-1980s, and later married the man and had two children, Jay and Ruby. She now lives in Baltimore with her family.
Ellen has been the digital director of graphic design for the Master of Fine Arts program at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore since 1997. Accepting this job allowed her to become a do-it-yourself curator, build her reputation in the writing field, and learn more about exhibitions. She is also the director of MICA’s Center for Design Thinking. Throughout her career, Ellen has contributed to various publications and spoke widely about design. She is the author of many design books, including Thinking with Type and DIY: Design It Yourself.
Ellen is a writer, curator, and graphic designer. She is considered the pioneer of an era of “designer as author” and combines her love for writing with her love for design. She is well known for her typography, which she bases on a communicative level. In addition to collaborating with her husband, Ellen has also collaborated with her twin sister, Julia Lupton, on many design projects and books. She encourages designers to think more and design less.
I hope I can take Ellen’s message about striving for conceptual depth and choosing substance over style to heart, because I think I’ve always had a tendency to rush into making something look good without taking the time to come up with a good idea. I was also inspired by the way Ellen combined her love for writing with her love for design, because I want to so seamlessly integrate my love for writing and my other interests with my design work.