creative juice

Design pioneers: Muriel Cooper

In our ongoing Design Pioneers series, we highlighted Paul Rand, a legend in the design world. Continuing on with our series, we’d like to honor Muriel Cooper, the first female tenured professor in the MIT Media Lab.

Because early pioneers in design were mostly male, it’s rather difficult to find information about female designers. But we did manage to find some info on a very innovative designer, born  in 1925–Muriel Cooper. She was an influential designer in her position at MIT Press, and she was one of the first designers to take design from print to the digital landscape.

Education: BA from Ohio State in 1944, BFA in design in 1948 and a BS in education in 1951 from Massachusetts College of Art.

Early career: Freelance designer at MIT Office of Publications (which later became MIT Press.)

Notable work: MIT Press logo, responsible for creating and overseeing the modernist look of over 500 books and other publications for the MIT Press. She later founded the MIT Visual Language Workshop.

Influences: Bauhaus, Paul Rand.

In an I.D. Magazine article reprinted on the AIGA website and written by Janet Abrams, the author states that Muriel Cooper was “a designer and educator who charted new territory for design in the changing landscape of electronic communication.”

Abrams quoted Bill Mitchell, dean of MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning. “Muriel was a real pioneer of a new design domain. I think she was the first graphic designer to carry out really profound explorations of the new possibilities of electronic media—things like 3-D text. She didn’t just see computer-graphics technology as a new tool for handling graphic design work. She understood from the beginning that the digital world opened up a whole domain of issues and problems, and she wanted to understand these problems in a rigorous way.”

In 1994, the year of her death, Muriel Cooper received the AIGA Medal for recognition of outstanding achievement in the field of design.

Read the AIGA article to learn more about this design pioneer: Muriel Cooper.

Read the first article in our Design Pioneers series: Design Pioneers: Paul Rand.


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