Louise Sandhaus by Anahelena Arévalo

Louise Sandhaus (1955) is an American graphic designer, educator, and author who currently resides in Ojai, California. She is the founder and director of LSD Louise Sandhaus Design, and current faculty and former director of the California Institute of the Arts’ Graphic Design program. She obtained her BFA and MFA in Graphic Design from CalArts in the early 1990s, and soon after received a Graduate Laureate from the Jan Van Eyck Akademie in Maastricht, Netherlands. Her work is now featured in the permanent collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.


Self-proclaimed ‘old hippie,’ Louise Sandhaus, never planned on living in California, but after a short visit to the Golden State, she found herself walking around the California Institute of the Arts by serendipity, and she new that was the right place for her. Ever since then, California went from being merely a fantasy, to a wonderful reality. After being a student in CalArts in the early 1990s and spending some years abroad in Europe, she returned once again to California in order to begin her career as a design professor in her alma mater.

Her approach to design is quite natural and sincere. She understands the “multiple roles that designers take on and how it is hard to find the distinctions between writing, designing, and thinking systematically.”[1] She considers herself to be a designer who is skillful when it comes to designing structures, and she collaborates with other designers whose strong suit concerns formal design elements and aesthetics, in order to create better, more powerful designs.

Her design firm “partners with multiple disciplines to realize interpretive projects from the simple to the complex, regardless of media.”[2] Even so, she has been mostly specialized in exhibition design. She has done projects for LACMA Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LAMA Los Angeles Modern Auctions, UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles Natural History Museum, among others.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions Catalogue Covers, 2006-2007

Louise Sandhaus has also engaged in other very interesting projects. Along with Derrick Schultz, she co-curated the Graphic Design Section of the 2010 California Design Biennale: Action/Reaction. She also designed the LEED signage for the Tom Bradley International Terminal of the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

The 2014 book, Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires & Riots: California and Graphic Design 1936–1986, is probably one of her most extraordinary research and design works. It is a 416-page book featuring work by known and unknown designers from the Golden State. Inspired by the architectural critic Reyner Banham and the freedom that California embodies, Louise Sandhaus poured her heart and soul into creating a visual narrative that depicts design products that are, by all means, ‘Californian.’

“According to the cliché, California is the place where anything goes and everyone does their own thing. Maybe that’s because everyone knows that in California there’s no terra firma: earthquakes, mudslides, fires and the occasional civil uprising cause constant upheaval and change. California is fluid. It has a sense of humor. It is a place of constant innovation, where the entertainment, aerospace and high-tech industries found a home. California is the great mecca of consumerism, but it is also legendary as fertile ground for creativity, freedom and social consciousness, where the status quo undergoes constant renovation.”


Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires & Riots took 10 years in the making, and it includes a compilation of essays along with books, magazines, album covers, title sequences, video games, and signage created in California.

This award-winning book is, essentially, the quintessence of Louise Sandhaus’ multidisciplinary practice and her role as a graphic designer, historian, creative thinker, and problem solver. It captures the allure of the Golden State – feeding on clichés, but also decoding myths and revealing the astonishing value of the mundane.

Featured in the book: album cover design for the band Earthquake by L.A. designer Louis Danziger.


Los Angeles Modern Auctions Catalogue Covers, 2006-2007
A spread from the book: on the left, the defining missive from the Sister Corita Kent’s class, and on the right, CA Magazine.


[1] “Design Matters With Debbie Millman: Louise Sandhaus.” SoundCloud. N.p., n.d. Web.

[2] “Louise Sandhaus.” Faculty/Staff Directory. N.p., n.d. Web.

“Huh? #12: A Micro-interview with Louise Sandhaus.” Perpetual Beta. N.p., n.d. Web.
“Louise Sandhaus.” Design Observer. N.p., n.d. Web.
“Design Matters With Debbie Millman: Louise Sandhaus.” SoundCloud. N.p., n.d. Web.
“Louise Sandhaus.” Faculty/Staff Directory. N.p., n.d. Web.

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