The Universe of Muriel Cooper

mc-portraitMuriel Cooper was an adventuress. When the digital meteorite hit the world of graphic design, she was quick to put on the technical suit and ride off into the vast space of new unexplored mediums.

She was a pioneer, being known to always have the latest tech items, even if she didn’t always knew how to use them, and she used to be frustrated how resistant they were to be hacked. Muriel wanted to explore deeper into what the new technology could do in creating more dynamic environments, moving from 2D to 3D and how this could be used to manipulate information. For her the most important was that information was usable[1]. She realised early in her investigation the importance of the connection to interfaces to us, and the need for them to be intuitive.

Muriel Cooper was born in 1925 in Brookline, Massachusetts. She was a graphic designer, a teacher and a researcher. Some of her greatest work comes from her work with MIT, MIT Press and MIT Media Lab, where she spent more then 40 years to articulate their graphic language. She created the MIT Press logo, which is an abstract play on vertical strokes. She designed classic books like The Bauhaus (1969) and founded the Visible Language Workshop where she taught experimental printing and hands-on production. [2]


Muriel went her own way, often walking around barefoot and jumping up on tables when getting excited about a project.[3] Her interest and passion of getting rid of static objects and turning time into space started off with an obsession with the possibility to zoom in and zoom out, and resulted in Messages of Means which imessages-and-meanss about design and communication for print that through integration with already existing tools in the thinking process reduces the gap between process and product. She built systems to standardize formats and productions and to give it a consistent look for publications. She believed in using technology as “a partner in the creative process”. This is also why MIT hired her in the first place. They needed someone with a passion for service able design, someone that could create them a stronger design presence. And Muriel was perfect for the job. Even Paul Rand was impressed when presented Muriel’s graphical skills and recommended her forward.[4]

As a computer graphics cartographer, she worked with mixed media and modern typography, creating nebulas of type and the idea of a galactic universe of overlapping opaque rectangles; she was through electronic media breaking the 2D barrier, without ever knowing how to write code.

In 1994, she was very involved in I.D Magazine and their computer interface design. She was very keen to always emphasise the importance that while creating systems and making artificial intelligence, a very ethical and human approach had to be present. She had an idea that one-day technology would have the power to think for itself and that it was for the designer to create with human intentions.[5]

When Muriel showed her latest work of the VLW (Visible Language Workshop) at the TED 5 conference in February the same year, even Bill Gates of Microsoft personally asked for a copy of the presentation. [6]

Muriel Cooper died suddenly of a heart attack the 26 of May1994 in Boston, Massachusetts.[7]Through her thorough work, she helped us designers to control perception and find ways to help the public find what they think they need.acg-0002-large









·       Walker Art Center, The Gradient, Dante Carlos Blog. April 9, 2014.
·      AIGA, the professional association for design, 1994 Aiga Medal, Muriel Cooper biography, Janet Abrams, Reprinted from I.D. Magazine

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