Pentagram celebrates the work of Muriel Cooper

To mark the 50th anniversary of designer Muriel Cooper joining the MIT Press, Michael Bierut and his team at Pentagram NY have created a series of animations celebrating her hugely influential work

In the long list of ‘designers who are not as celebrated as they should be’ Muriel Cooper sits right at the top. In her four decades at the MIT Press, Cooper (who died in 1994) produced an extraordinary body of work. In 1962 she created one of the most influential (and arguably most copied) marks ever designed – the MIT Press colophon in which seven bars represent the lowercase letters ‘mitp’ as books on a shelf.

Mechanical artwork for the MIT Press colophon, 1962–1963

Her work across print and, as one of its early pioneers, the screen and digital media, displays an extraordinary verve and energy. In short, Cooper’s work looked like the future.

Not only that but in her positions as design director at MIT Press, co-founder of the Visible Language Workshop at MIT, and later co-founder of the MIT Media Lab, she, as Pentagram explain, “explored new forms, methods and techniques for graphic design within the emerging context of the computer display, and taught a new generation of designers who have helped shape our digital world”.

Samuel Bing, Artistic America, Tiffany Glass, and Art Nouveau (Cambridge, Mass. MIT Press, 1970), design by MIT Press Design Department with Katherine McCoy
Webber, Michael J., Impact of Uncertainty on Location, Cambridge, The M.I.T. Press, 1972

For a special event on October 19 celebrating the 50th anniversary of Cooper joining the MIT Press, Pentagram New York created a series of animations, each referencing a different aspect of her work and key designs from her work.

The invitation-only symposium at MIT included a panel discussion led by Michael Bierut, with Ellen Lupton, author Aron Vinegar and Ben Fry. It coincided with the publication of Muriel Cooper, a new monograph by David Reinfurt and Robert Wiesenberger, with a foreword by former Pentagram partner Lisa Strausfeld, who studied with Cooper.

Designed by Murial Cooper, Date Unknown
MIT Media Lab fifth anniversary booklet, 1990
MIT Media Lab rendered as Soft Type, 1990
Information Landscapes (still from introduction animation), Muriel Cooper, David Small, Suguru Ishizaki, and Lisa Strausfeld, 1994
Exhibition poster and mechanical artwork for *Asterisk, designed by Otto Piene, printed at the Visible Language Workshop, 1974

Hopefully this project, and the publication of The MIT Press monograph, will help to introduce a new audience to Cooper’s work.


Original music for the project was composed by Jacob Rosati

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