Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand | Audio

Episode 68: Learning from Muriel Cooper

More people should know the name Muriel Cooper. The first woman to be granted tenure at MIT's Media Lab, Cooper and her Visible Language Workshop presented Information Landscapes at the 1994 TED conference, showing the possibilities of interface design for decades to come.

At MIT Press, where she was the first design director, she designed the first edition of Learning From Las Vegas. Jessica explains that Cooper wanted to simulate

the experience of movement through the city using the language of graphic design, which is pictures and words. And going of course deeper because she was so brilliant, things like kerning and where the footnotes were and how the footnotes become like these little points of entry for the reader, almost like the signs on the street or like the lights in the city.

However, Michael says,

all Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi wanted was a really regular looking book... a book that people can afford, that didn't live on a coffee table, that a student could throw in a backpack and read on the quad or read in bed. You cannot read the first edition of Learning from Las Vegas in bed.

And they got their way, publishing a revised edition.

For decades, the first edition of Learning From Las Vegas was a rarity, but now MIT Press has issued a facsimile edition of Muriel Cooper's first edition.

Also mentioned this week:

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Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand Jessica Helfand, a founding editor of Design Observer, is an award-winning graphic designer and writer. A former contributing editor and columnist for Print, Eye and Communications Arts magazine, she is a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale and a recent laureate of the Art Director’s Hall of Fame. Jessica received both her BA and MFA from Yale University where she has taught since 1994. In 2013, she won the AIGA medal.

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