MIT Press Archive, with all publications arranged in chronological order with
, designed by Muriel Cooper in foreground.
David Reinfurt is an independent graphic designer and writer in New York City. Over the next year, David will research and write a long-form article examining the work of graphic designer Muriel Cooper (1926-1994).
Muriel Cooper spent a career critically examining the methods and means of graphic design production. Beginning as a book designer, then as a fellow at the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies, serving as Design Director of MIT Press, and co-founding (with Ron MacNeil) the Visible Language Workshop in the MIT Media Lab, Cooper pursued a constant examination of graphic production in multiple media. With the Visible Language Workshop, Muriel led a team of graduate students and researchers in the search tor new forms, techniques, and methods for graphic design that were specific to the emerging context of the computer screen.
Cooper's desire to confront the conditions (daily, specific and technical) of graphic design production was consistent throughout her career. Her 1972 resume describes: "Interests and Goals: The significance of participatory and non-authoritarian communication forms in relation to specialization and professionalism... Direct, responsive means of reproduction."
Designing books for MIT Press, including the first edition of Learning from Las Vegas and the MIT Press logo, she experimented consistently with the forms and methods of book design and production. As she described, "So I had a little support for this R&D; unit at MIT Press... We did some stuff with rubber stamping, cut and paste -- it was the Whole Earth Catalogue era. There was a lot of Method Acting in what I was doing."
While describing the graphic design of Herbert Muschamp's first book, File Under Architecture, Muriel Cooper said: "This was my favorite book. Very innovative, in the mid-70s. It was done on brown wrapping paper and set on an IBM composer, which was a typewriter (designed by Eliot Noyes) that has a head with a type ball on it. The ball let you change typefaces. It was very tedious of course — change the ball to get bold type."
David has written for publications including New York Times Magazine, Dot Dot Dot, Social Text, Visual Communications (UK), Metropolis M (NL), Idea Magazine (JP), and No Zone Empire. He has been a visiting critic at design schools including University of Texas, Gerrit Rietveld Akademie, Yale University, and Royal College of Art. David currently teaches at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and Rhode Island School of Design.