When I’m taking a weekend away from work, the last things I usually want to grab for reading materials are the design books sent to me from publishers that march like a Great Wall of Nice Typefaces across my desk. But there was something about the cover of Design Your Life: The Pleasures and Perils of Everyday Things, with its Osterizer blender about to mix and potentially liquefy everything from a sprinkled donut to a roll of Scotch tape, that just begged to be stashed in my pool-bound bag. Good thing I did: This book should be required summer reading for designers.
And it’s not your ordinary design book. First of all, it’s written by identical twins: Ellen Lupton and her sister Julia Lupton, who have collaborated for years on the highly-entertaining Web site Design Your Life, which is kind of like the thinking woman’s Martha Stewart Living. This book successfully bridges the connection between high design–New Urbanism, Bauhaus, sustainability–and the more pressing issues that confront us every day–bras, clutter, baby carrots–in a visual language infused with personality thanks to delightful little paintings by Ellen. The Lupton sisters have managed to teach design thinking through something as simple as rearranging your living room.
Ellen Lupton has written lots of books. Some of them herself–Thinking With Type–some with her grad students at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore–DIY: Design It Yourself–and some with her sister Julia (with contributions from her own children, Jay and Ruby)–DIY: Kids. And besides being an influential author, educator and designer herself (she was awarded AIGA’s Medal in 2007), Ellen also has a pretty nifty day job, as curator of contemporary design at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Here’s where Ellen can put everyday objects alongside cutting-edge design for the Cooper-Hewitt’s incredible exhibitions like the 2001 show Skin, and the current show Design for a Living World, which we’ve written about here before, curated with her husband J. Abbott Miller, a partner at Pentagram and frequent collaborator.
When I tapped Ellen to be a guest blogger, she fired back with an idea already in mind: Her posts would explore something she calls the Visibility Principle. “The links between privacy and productivity, interaction and inspiration, autonomy and creativity,” she explained. I was intrigued. She went on. “Making people, objects, ideas, or messages visible–and knowing when to let them hide–is central to the design process,” she says. “Whether you manage a big office or run your own show from home, you can use The Visibility Principle to enhance your productivity.” I think I’ll let Ellen take it from there.
Here are a few of Ellen’s latest and greatest hits:
Design for a Living World, open at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum through January 4, 2010. Curated by Ellen Lupton and J. Abbott Miller. Photo by John Madere.
Skin. Exhibition at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, 2001. Curated by Ellen Lupton.
Design Your Life, 2009, cover designed by Chip Kidd; illustration by Ellen Lupton. Published by St. Martin’s Griffin.
Indie Publishing, 2008. Edited by Ellen Lupton; cover designed by Kelley McIntyre. Published by Princeton Architectural Press.
D.I.Y.: Design It Yourself, 2006. Edited by Ellen Lupton. Cover designed by Mike Weikert; photo by Nancy Froehlich. Published by Princeton Architectural Press.
Thinking with Type, 2004. By Ellen Lupton. Published by Princeton Architectural Press.
[Ellen’s headshot by John Madere.]