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.
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”.
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.
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