Steven Heller is the co-chair (with Lita Talarico) of the School of Visual Arts MFA Design / Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program and the SVA Masters Workshop in Rome. He writes the Visuals column for the New York Times Book Review, a weekly column for The Atlantic online and The Daily Heller.


Steven Heller is the co-chair (with Lita Talarico) of the School of Visual Arts MFA Design / Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program and the SVA Masters Workshop in Rome. He writes the Visuals column for the New York Times Book Review, a weekly column for The Atlantic online and The Daily Heller.  He is co-founder (with Liz Danzico) of MFA Interaction Design, (with Debbie Millman) of MPS Branding and (with Allan Chochinov) MFA Products of Design. He has written more than 160 books on graphic design, illustration and political art, including The Design Entrepreneur (with Lita Talarico), Paul Rand, Merz to Emigre and Beyond: Avant Garde Magazine Design of the Twentieth Century, Design Literacy: Understanding Graphic Design, Citizen Designer, Stylepedia: A Guide to Graphic Design Mannerisms, Quirks, and Conceits (with Louise Fili), The Anatomy of Design: Uncovering the Influences and Inspirations in Modern Graphic Design, Iron Fists: Branding the 20th Century Totalitarian State and 100 Ideas that Changed Graphic Design. He is a contributing editor for Print,  Baseline, Design Observer, Eye. Heller is the recipient of the Art Directors Club Special Educators Award, the AIGA Medal for Lifetime Achievement, the School of Visual Arts’ Masters Series Award and the 2011 National Design Award for "Design Mind."

Steven Heller
American Reich

The Triumph of Graphic Design

Steven Heller
When I'm Sixty-Five

Retiring design

Steven Heller

Playboy’s revolution

Steven Heller
Comic Bacteria

Huber and Corky

Steven Heller
The Basso Modernist

Gustav Jensen

Steven Heller
Animal Kingdom

Steven Heller
Logos Start Media Frenzy!!

Does the media know what designers do?

Steven Heller
The Many Meanings of K

Let me count the Ks 

Steven Heller
When Book Jackets Meant Freedom

Steven Heller
The Name on the Masthead

Remembering Frank Zachary

Steven Heller

The risk-taking magazines of Ralph Ginzburg

Steven Heller
On Being Forgotten

Obscurity or death?

Steven Heller
On the Front Lines of Free Expression

Terror and the satiric press

Steven Heller
A Memory of Mickey

Steven Heller remembers Mildred Friedman, who passed away late Wednesday.

Steven Heller
Confessions of a Frustrated Newsprint Lover

Steven Heller
User-Friendly Paul Rand

Steven Heller
Steven Heller on Mentors

Steven Heller
Steven Heller on Panic

On this episode of Insights Per Minute Steven Heller describes panic.

Steven Heller
Lettering Large

An excerpt and gallery from Steven Heller and Mirko Ilić's new book: Lettering Large: Art and Design of Monumental Typography.

Steven Heller
Steven Heller on Recommendations

Steven Heller
Child Labor

Second in our series "My First Job" is Steven Heller with a story of child labor.

Steven Heller
For the Love of Scripts

Steven Heller
Paul Rand, Painter

Paul Rand had more in common with Paul Klee than a four letter first and last name. He too, painted.

Steven Heller
Souvenirs as Nazi Propaganda

Part three in a three part series on the design practices of the Third Reich.

Steven Heller
Hitler’s Poster Handbook

Steven Heller
The Master Race’s Graphic Masterpiece

Steve Heller hunts down a Nazi graphics standards manual – it had been right under his nose all the whole time.

Steven Heller
My Big Fat Fast Food Feast at Eataly

A comparison of the vast differences of Italy's Eataly to New York's.

Steven Heller
Designer as Author

In 1954, Alvin Lustig gave a lecture titled “What Is a Designer?” at the Advertising Typographers Association of America. It was his first speech after he lost his eyesight.

Steven Heller
Miss Branding: A Cautionary Tale

The 1957 film Blood of Dracula: A cautionary parable about the diabolical power of advertising and branding.

Steven Heller
Heller on Heller

Vignelli Celebration: Steven Heller talks about the redemptive qualities of having the same name as Vignelli's Hellerware.

Steven Heller
Vignelli’s Herald (or Heralding Vignelli)

Vignelli Celebration: Steven Heller remembers the Herald.

Steven Heller
Do You Copy? The Visuals of Ham Radio

The QSL card offered proof, among ham radio operators, that contact had been made. The design of these cards was not an indication of good or bad, of sophisticated or naïve thinking, but was crafted from what was available at the time. Today, they provide physical evidence of early social networking – still at work.

Steven Heller
Fascist Seduction

Steven Heller
Home Is the Sailor, Home from the Sea

In 1943, Margaret Wise Brown, the children’s book author signed a contract with Harper & Brothers to publish The Fathers Are Coming Home.

Steven Heller
Becoming a Designer in the Age of Aquarius

On rereading S. Neil Fujita’s 1968 job manual, Aim for a Job in Graphic Design/Art.

Steven Heller
Harsh Words from T.M. Cleland

Design criticism may be comparatively new, but critical designers are not.

Steven Heller
Christmas Schmaltz

I adore Christmas schmaltz — the sounds, the smells, and the graphics. I don’t mind that the clichés of the season pop up earlier and earlier every year.

Steven Heller
Why Does John Baeder Paint Diners?

John Baeder's goal for the past three decades has been to record on canvas and paper just about every diner and roadside eatery.

Steven Heller
Ramparts: Agent of Change

Ramparts magazine has been dead for almost two decades, but to look back at it, it stands out as one to remember.

Steven Heller
People in Glass Apartments

People in glass apartments shouldn’t throw stones or other projectiles. Nor should they engage in private acts directly in front of their floor to ceiling windows.

Steven Heller
Covering the Good Books

When reading was more fundamental than tweeting, Time Life Books played a significant role in getting the general public to acquire books on almost every subject.

Steven Heller
A Good Trademark: A Historical Perspective

Textile Brand Names Dictionary, included were more than 4,000 names of fibers, yarns, fabrics, and garments registered with the United States Patent Office between 1934 and 1947.

Steven Heller
When Satire Was More Than Funny

In 1901, Samuel Schwarz founded a satiric visual weekly, titled L’Assiette au Beurre, expressly poised to attack the functionaries who made their fortunes off the sweat of the citizenry.

Steven Heller
Take Me Out to the Old Yankee Stadium

The new Yankee stadium, like most retro stadiums, bears the burden of being faux, a recreation, like a Disney version of reality. It works and it doesn’t.

Steven Heller
Mad Music

In 1962, I spent hours listening to Mad magazine’s first LP (Big Top Records), Mad “Twists” Rock ‘N’ Roll. Owning the record made me feel like I was part of a club, which latter evolved into the sardonic, ironic sixties youth culture. It brings me back to a time before art, design, and humor had to be sophisticated to be good.

Steven Heller
How Much Is That Artifact in the Window?

Many of us have bought design objects for pleasure and / or scholarship. We’ve paid varying amounts — high and low. But what or who determines the value of a design artifact?

Steven Heller
Father of Shrek, Grandfather of Tweet

William Steig was the father of vanity license plate abbreviations and the grandfather of the Instant Messenger, SMS, iChat, and Twitter shorthand.

Steven Heller
Japanese Face Masks

You may recall seeing in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, scores of surgical face-mask-wearing passersby navigating their ways through the dense futuristic metropolis that is a cross between Tokyo and LA. So I was totally surprised to find on my first trip to Tokyo that not only is it the custom to wear such masks everywhere, it's big business too, with a nod to graphic design.

Steven Heller
The Good Books

Why can’t American publishers produce a series of good — no great — books on graphic culture like Die Bibliophilen Taschenbücher? Published in 1979 by Harenberg Kommunikation, Dortmund, Germany, each small usually full color volume was based on a visual theme, including American absurdist postcards, German political posters, French cigarette advertisements, vending machine cards, Soviet Posters, and Liebig’s Fleisch Extract advertising cards

Steven Heller
That Pesky Television Test Pattern

What came first, television or the television test pattern? The origin of the pattern is a story of form following function. Aesthetics were irrelevant to the primary purpose, and the technical draftsmen who anonymously designed it could have never predicted that decades later it would become a nostalgic icon.

Steven Heller
My Dada

Way back in 1965, as a fifteen years old, I was an early EVOtee. I had stumbled upon one of the first issues at a newsstand. The cover, which I remember vividly, had a photo collage of a serpent emerging from battle fatigues worn by America's commanding general in Vietnam, William Westmoreland. Haunting is not a strong enough word to describe the impact that this had on a teen just a year or two out of Valley Forge Military Academy, where, surprisingly, I had learned about the military impossibility of winning the war.

Steven Heller
Draw Me Schools Of Commercial Art

Scores of advertisements, like the famous "Draw Me!" matchbook cover, offered willing aspirants the big chance to earn "$65, $80 and more a week" in "a pleasant, profitable Art career." Although the ads often shared space at the back of cheesy pulp magazines with offers to learn, well, brain surgery at home, they offered a legitimate way for anyone with a modicum of talent, limited means and an existing job to train in their spare time for a new profession.

Steven Heller
History of Aggressive Design Magazines

Graphic design evolved during the late nineteenth century from a sideline of the printing industry into an autonomous field with its own lore, icons and personalities. The missing link in this evolutionary process is trade magazines. These magazines did not just reflexively report the current trends instead some aggressively codified key methods and mannerisms that in turn defined a profession.

Steven Heller
In Praise of the Anthropomorphic

Today I’m going to go out on a limb. I’ve decided that the next big thing in illustration, is one of the oldest conceits ever: Anthropomorphism, “the attribution of uniquely human characteristics to non-human creatures and beings, natural and supernatural phenomena, material states and objects or abstract concepts.”

Steven Heller
Charles Peignot: Man Behind the Faces

This is but one example of Charles Peignot’s influence on type and typography, which made his professional life so important to the history of design...

Steven Heller
Go West, Young Art Director

When veteran magazine art directors get together to reminisce about the glory years, one title always gets mentioned: West. This storied weekly supplement of the Los Angeles Times, art directed by Mike Salisbury, was a masterwork of design erudition.

Steven Heller
Breakdowns: A Review

Steven Heller reviews Art Spiegelman’s Breakdowns, his first anthology of autobiographical and experimental comics were originally published in 1978. Thirty years later, a new edition, Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist As A Young %@(#!, is finally out.

Steven Heller
Where Have You Gone R. Cobb?

Steven Heller
Canned Laughter

The verbal and visual puns of porta-a-potties are copious throughout this indispensable industry. Manufacturers and suppliers go to great lengths to make the portable toilet experience clean and sanitary, as well as warm and cute. Portable toiletry is only second after hair salons (i.e. Mane Street, Clip Joint, Hair Today, etc.) for warm and cute, albeit excruciating, pun names. And yet this is a dirty job, so why shouldn’t those who attend to our bodily hygiene have the opportunity to practice a little wit and double entendre?

Steven Heller
Clipping Art, One Engraving At a Time

These books, universally known as clip art books, some edited by Dick Sutphen and many others published by Dover and Chelsea House, were owned by almost every American illustrator, designer, and art director who found solace in them when an idea was needed but their imaginations were not entirely up to the task. This is a personal remembrance and homage to them.

Steven Heller
Vanity Fair Type: 1930 Style

Steven Heller
Homage to Velvet Touch Lettering

It was the wee hours of Monday morning some months back when my computer died while I was designing a brochure that had to be finished later that day. Without a computer what could I do? Dependency is a horrible thing. But rather than self-indulgently wallow in misfortune, I walked over to a flat file where I stored dozens of old press type sheets. It had not been open for a decade.

Steven Heller
Branding Youth in the Totalitarian State

Youth may be wasted on the young, but under the totalitarian state they were not forgotten. For the state to prosper, youth was turned into a sub-brand that both followed and perpetuated the dominant ideology. Graphics played a huge role in making this happen in Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union.

Steven Heller
O.H.W. Hadank

Paul Rand held Hadank in the highest esteem because he practiced modernist formal principles even though he did not follow its dogma or style. And most important, as Rand said “Hadank was then and always an original. A profile of O.H.W. Hadank by Steven Heller...

Steven Heller
The Sky Is Falling

Where once the sky is falling scenarios would not, as Dr. Flicker said, “happen for billions of years yet,” the doomsday clock is steadily ticking away. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could go back to the days when fiction was not fact.

Steven Heller
Underground Mainstream

Today, designers for mainstream advertising companies, weaned on alternative approaches, have folded the underground into the mainstream and called it cool.

Steven Heller
The Magic of the Peace Symbol

There was probably no more galvanizing nor polarizing emblem during the 1960s than the peace symbol. And perhaps few symbols have had origins surrounded in as much mystery and controversy

Steven Heller
Swastika Humor?

Trivializing the swastika is not a crime, but it can be dangerous, particularly since it continues to be used as a weapon of hate. Perhaps this book would have best been titled, “We Have Ways of Making You Wince.”

Steven Heller
Wilhelm Deffke: Modern Mark Maker

The modern corporate logo was born in Germany shortly after the turn of the twentieth century, the direct descendent of burgher crests, coats of arms, trade and factory marks. One of the most prolific of these mark makers is barely recognized in design histories today, except for the occasional footnote. His name is Wilhelm F. Deffke...

Steven Heller
What's In A Name?

In only a few short years, blogs have significantly evolved. And if blogs, and the people who engage with them, are to be respected, then we should all know who everyone is, and everyone — whoever and whatever they have to say — should not hide behind the digital veil.

Steven Heller
It's Easy to Criticize. . . Not

Convention was disrupted last Thursday night in New York City at Designism 2:0 when the sometimes "self-congratulatory" nature of the Art Director Club's social conscience-raising event was upended by Vanity Fair media critic Michael Wolff's unforgiving critique of design's do-goodery.

Steven Heller
Curse of The "D" Word

Do you make things look nice? Do you spend more time worrying about nuance and aesthetics than substance and meaning? Do you fiddle with style while ignoring the big picture? If your answers are yes, yes, or yes, then you are a decorator.

Steven Heller
Topanga, I Hardly Knew Ye

I've always wondered why anyone with taste would pay thousands of dollars to publish one of those text-heavy, type-awful, full-page magazine advertisements void of any semblance of graphic design nuance or sophistication.

Steven Heller
Decorative Books: The End of Print

Back in 1956, The Times promotion department provided a viable answer in the form of its 65 Ways to Decorate with Books in Your Home, a book/zine with a reasonable $1 cover price. Steven Heller looks here for answers to repurpose of these venerable materials into useful life-enhancing goods.

Steven Heller
The Designer As Gumshoe

The aim in this essay is not to raise mass consciousness about gum pollution. Over the past year, I've been something of a gumshoe, investigating and documenting patterns of gum goop, and talking to perpetrators and victims alike. Now I'm ready to share my findings.

Steven Heller
Confessions of a Book Catalog Reader

I read publishers' seasonal book catalogs the way some people go to the movies, in part to watch the trailers for coming attractions.

Steven Heller
Leon Friend: One Teacher, Many Apostles

Leon Friend (born in Warsaw in 1902) was a career art teacher at the Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, New York, with a special passion for what he called graphic design. This is his story and his influence.

Steven Heller
Silas H. Rhodes, Founder of SVA

Silas H. Rhodes, chairman of the School of Visual Arts in New York City, died last Thursday at 91. He was a progressive educator who established a uniquely collaborative learning environment that delicately balanced creative independence with academic rigor.

Steven Heller
Martin Weber in the Third Dimension

You may not have heard of Martin J. Weber, but he was a graphic artist, typographer, art director, and most important, inventor of various photographic techniques that gave two-dimensional surfaces the illusion of being reproduced in three dimensions.

Steven Heller
The Nazi Triangle

Somewhere in the bowels of the Third Reich's bureaucracy a designer who belonged to the graphics "culture chamber," the representative, official body that sanctioned Nazi designers, produced the basic templates for these camp materials and then turned them over to skilled inmates to produce.

Steven Heller
The Other Monocle

Let's look back to another, virtually forgotten but decidedly important, magazine with the very same name — one that published under the motto, "In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king." Monocle.

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