Anyone interested in graphic design is in for a special treat when husband-and-wife designers Steven Heller and Louise Fili appear at The Wolfsonian on March 22 to discuss their latest books: Heller’s 100 Ideas that Changed Graphic Design, co-written with Veronique Vienne, and Fili’s Elegantissima: The Design and Typography of Louise Fili.
Is body art design? Yes, says Heller, who includes body type in 100 Ideas. Tattoos date back to Neolithic times—Heller calls the tattoo “some of the earliest advertising” and points out that “before t-shirts, there were tattoos.” But why are tattoos so prevalent today? After all, we’re not lacking in t-shirts. “As the computer and the global society make us indistinguishable from each other, people want to individuate themselves,” Heller says. “It’s in keeping with the rise of the DIY sensibility, of hand-crafted goods. There are people who do it for that reason and then others who follow the crowd, lemming-like, not realizing that in fifty years they are going to have an unsightly blemish.”
Falling into the decidedly not unsightly category is Fili’s elegant, classic work. She specializes in logos, food packaging, restaurants, and book design. Fili became internationally known in the 1980s as the art director of Pantheon Books for eleven years, where she designed almost two thousand book jackets. In 1989 she founded the graphic design studio Louise Fili, Ltd. Much of her work will be familiar: her sophisticated typography, often hand-drawn, can be spotted on labels for well-known brands such as Sarabeth’s, Bella Cucina, Jean-Georges, and Good Housekeeping. Famed designer Milton Glaser says of her work: “Louise Fili…has the extraordinary ability to seamlessly transform something old, familiar, traditional, iconic, and reassuring into an image that is surprising, fresh, unexpected, and beautiful. I believe it’s magic.” Reviewers of Elegantissima, a monograph of her nearly four-decade career, are in accord: “Appropriately lavish and stunning, Elegantissima is the perfect showcase of Fili’s intricate, arresting, and always elegant work,” according to Brain Pickings.
We can’t promise that Heller will discuss body art, but he will present several game-changing topics from 100 Ideas, exploring how these ideas have influenced and defined graphic design. The book’s entries are arranged in a broad chronology and cover a wide range of territory, including technical advances and innovations (overprinting, rub-on designs), stylistic developments (loud typography, white space), objects (the book, dust jackets), and methods (paper cut-outs, pixilation). Heller is co-chair of the MFA Designer as Author program at the School of Visual Arts, where he teaches the history of graphic design. He writes, among many other things, the Visuals column for the New York Times Book Review. He is also the author, co-author, or editor of more than one hundred and fifty books, and he was an art director at the New York Times for over thirty years.
In addition to speaking on Friday evening at The Wolfsonian, Heller will also present the talk Branding the Nazis at 1 pm on Friday at the Frost Art Museum as part of the lecture series “Material and Visual Culture of the Holocaust,” organized in conjunction with The Wolfsonian’s teaching exhibition Race and Visual Culture under National Socialism. That event is free and open to the public with registration required: go here  to register.
JOIN US: ALL ABOUT GRAPHIC DESIGN: STEVEN HELLER AND LOUISE FILI. FRIDAY, MARCH 22 AT 7 PM. CO-PRESENTED WITH AIGA MIAMI. FREE TO MEMBERS, FIU COMMUNITY, AND AIGA MIAMI MEMBERS; $10 ALL OTHERS. RSVP REQUIRED: GO HERE . FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT CARL@THEWOLF.FIU.EDU  OR 305.535.2644