Graphic Novel: Authors Among Us

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“Conversations” Episode 15: Connie Imboden

Ellen Lupton speaks at Bird in Hand for The Ivy Bookshop’s Storyteller Speaker Series by Tyler Mendelsohn

In Thinking with Type, author Ellen Lupton compares the combination of different typefaces to making a salad, using a common experience to build a rich analogy. For Lupton, a nationally recognized authority on graphic design, a curator at the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York, and a professor at MICA, typography and design are immediate and powerful ways to interact with all aspects of the world.

When Lupton began her work as Director of MICA’s Graphic Design Program, she saw a dearth of textbooks to assign her students. They were all either condescending or full of distancing jargon. This is where the idea for Thinking with Type started—Lupton decided she would write the book herself.

Lupton’s DIY approach to design has impacted all aspects of her career. When she sees a need for something in her life, she creates it, and she wants to make design this accessible to everyone. This inclusive philosophy has been clear in all her books. She also regularly blogs for Design Your Life and DIYkids, both sites that bring design to the everyday. She calls our current time “the age of unstoppable self-education.” In a sense, that is a story of this era—and she is helping to tell it.

Lupton says of her teaching philosophy: “I want students to think about design as a bridge between themselves and the broader culture… Design is practical and theoretical, personal and public. Students can engage with these ideas through hands-on work and by talking, writing, and thinking about design.”

Though working as a curator and a teacher in two different states can be a lot at times, Lupton says she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I would feel incomplete if I were only a teacher or only a curator. I crave both kinds of work and both kinds of public impact.”

At 7:30 PM on November 16th, Lupton will speak at Bird in Hand, the new book café in Charles Village, as part of The Ivy Bookshop’s Storytellers series. Lupton will talk about her book, How Posters Work, to highlight how design can tell a story.

The richly colorful book explains design concepts, using a diverse range of more than 330 works from The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City where Lupton is Senior Curator. According to the museum, “How Posters Work provides a stunning education in seeing and making, demonstrating how some of the world’s most creative designers have mobilized principles of layout, composition, psychology and rhetoric to produce powerful acts of visual communication.”

Explaining the role of posters in today’s society, Lupton says, “Posters are still widely used on urban streets, including all over Baltimore. I often take pictures of Baltimore street posters, which tend to be for local artists, musicians, and political causes. Posters are also a commercial medium. You see this more in New York City, where big brands do ‘wild posting’ campaigns to amp up their street cred. I enjoy seeing all kinds of communication on the street.”

Whether you’re a graphic design expert or a novice, the book provides a great example of storytelling through art—how all the decisions, big and small, coalesce to convey meaning. After her talk, Lupton will sign books.



Author Tyler Mendelsohn is a Baltimore writer and a member of The Ivy Bookshop’s team. Tyler has an MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing Arts from The University of Baltimore.

Authors Among Us is sponsored by The Ivy Bookshop. The Ivy Bookshop offers a wide and wonderful range of books, including art books, books on creativity, and books that highlight art’s importance in our lives. You can also find more information on The Ivy’s blog here.

The Storytellers series celebrates the richness of hearing and telling stories in many different formats. Various speakers—including filmmakers, photographers, and musicians—focus on the intersection of art and literature.

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