Ellen Lupton is the Senior Curator of Contemporary Design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City. Her most recent exhibition, organized with Andrea Lipps, was Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial. Some of her other recent exhibitions include How Posters Work, Beautiful Users, and Graphic Design—Now in Production (organized with Andrew Blauvelt). Lupton also serves as the director of the Graphic Design MFA Program at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art) in Baltimore, where she has authored numerous books on design processes, including Thinking with Type, Graphic Design Thinking, Graphic Design: The New Basics, and Type on Screen. Her upcoming book Design Is Storytelling will be published by Cooper Hewitt in 2017. Lupton earned her BFA from The Cooper Union in 1985.
Favorite creative hobby, outside of design?
I love to paint. I studied painting as well as design at The Cooper Union, but I gave up painting because I thought it was incompatible with the seriousness and professional purpose of graphic design. I rediscovered it later, and it brings such joy to my life.
If you could work on any project in the world as we know it, what would it be and why?
I’ve been working on a novel called Miss Helvetica. I’d love to have time to focus on it and finish it.
When did you first realize you wanted a career in design?
When I went to art school in the 1980s, design wasn’t a field that young people knew about. So I figured out what it was when I got to art school. For me, typography was the hook. I discovered that typography is the link between writing and visual art.
Think more, design less.
Favorite design era or style:
I love the visionary designers of the 1920s: Rodchenko, El Lissitzky, Piet Zwart, Moholy-Nagy. These designers were thinkers, makers, and world-changers.
Is there any designer or piece of design that you’re digging right now?
Check out the Moholy-Nagy exhibition at the Guggenheim!