Elaine Lustig Cohen by HK Seo

Elaine Lustig Cohen portrait

Elaine Lustig Cohen is a pioneer. Wearing several hats as a graphic designer, a painter, an archivist, and an art dealer, she acquires her title as a successful women designer of the 21st century. The way Elaine got herself into the art world is rather interesting. Having had a renown designer as her husband, Alvin Lustig, she worked as an assistant at his design firm in Manhattan. She recalls him training her as his ‘office slave,’ not allowing her to be apart of the design process. “As a rule, no one in the Lustig office designed except Alvin himself” (Elaine Lustig Cohen.) However, her years of overlooking Alvin’s work allowed her to pick up some of his design style of an American modernist. When Alvin passed away Elaine was responsible for both his clients and for their unfinished commissions. Her first job was to finish Alvin’s biggest commission by Philip Johnson: the Seagram Building signage. And because Alvin had not started to work on this project, Elaine eventually was able to design the whole signage with her own system, procedure and aesthetic style. After her first successful project, she also had to design an ad for the building of New York Times for Alvin’s another leftover commission. Johnson saw how talented she was and hired her once again for the Seagram catalog. After having finished these three huge projects, her name was suddenly at the top of the design field and she was further commissioned by the Jewish Museum, the Museum of Primitive Art, Rio de Janeiro’s Museum of Art, 1964 NY World’s Expo, Yale buildings, and for the Lincoln Center. She quotes, “much work came from Philip as he would recommend me to people he was working for” (Elaine Lustig Cohen. http://www.aiga.org/medalist-elainelustigcohen/)

1957 and advertisement, 1959.
1957 and advertisement, 1959.

Having done these amazing projects, Elaine developed her very own style of design which was simple, clear, functional with using typography as a guiding factor. “Pioneer graphic designer, artist and archivist, Elaine Lustig Cohen is recognized for her body of design work integrating European avant-garde and modernist influences into a distinctly American, mid-century manner of a communication. She is a living link between design’s modernist past and its continually changing present” (Steven Heller. http://elainelustigcohen.com/)

Jewish Museum

Elaine’s career as a woman wasn’t just paved out for her after Alvin’s death. “Although Elaine was one of the few high-profile women working in the graphic design field at the time, she insists it was not a defining issue. Instead, she says, running a small business was her biggest challenge. ‘My gender may have been an issue for other designers,’ she says, ‘but not for my clients.’” (Michael Barron, http://holtermanndesign.com/elaine-lustig-cohen/) As Elaine articulated, her gender didn’t matter for her clients. Purely her design spoke loud and strong for her to remain as history’s one of a kind graphic designer.

Websites :

1. Michael Barron. (May 8th, 2013) “Interview with Elaine Lustig Cohen”


Accessed: May 4th, 2015



2. Ellen Lupton. (unknown) “Cohen, Elaine Lustig”


Accessed: May 4th, 2015



3. ‘Michael’. (December 13th, 2012) “Video: Elaine Lustig Cohen”


Accessed: May 4th, 2015



4. Steven Heller. (2011) “2011 AIGA Medal”


Accessed: May 4th, 2015



5. Steven Heller. (2011) “Biography”


Accessed: May 4th, 2015


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