Friday 24 February 2012

Muriel Cooper's Legacy

Muriel Cooper (1926-1994) is a regrettably overlooked figure in the history of graphic and interactive design. Perhaps no one has had a greater effect on the way information—printed and electronic—is presented today. She became the first Design Director of MIT Press in 1967 and remained through 1974, charting new territory for design in the changing landscape of electronic communication. As founder and co-director of MIT’s Visual Language Workshop in 1974 (where she encouraged students to use graphic design techniques to translate computer data into more user-friendly text and images), her explorations into the interactions between technology and design broke new ground in both graphic design and computer interface development. Cooper: "I guess I'm never sure that print is truly linear: it's more a simultaneous medium. Designers know a lot about how to control perception, how to present information in some way that helps you find what you need, or what it is they think you need. Information is only useful when it can be understood." The work produced there form 1975-1994 changed the way designers thought of the possibilities of electronic media, forming the foundation of contemporary interactive design practice. “Whoever she saw, a C.E.O. or whoever, she’d do this feet-on-the-desk thing,” says former student John Maeda. “In Muriel’s era, men were tough, and she said, ‘I’ll be tougher,’ so she showed them by putting her feet on the desk.” Hats off.

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