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Insightful, gifted, and ever mindful of the professional
conscience, Lorraine Wild has changed both the face and voice of
graphic design in the United States. Her accomplishments are
unequivocal. From the inception of her career, she has brought her
considerable intellect and creativity equally to graphic design
practice, education, and history. Fluently traversing the realms of
design and writing, of personal sensibility and social
circumstance, Lorraine recognizes design both as a body of
knowledge and a pursuit of knowledge. At heart, she is a
negotiator. In her studio practice, she demonstrates the power of
understatement as an artful means of binding form and content; in
her teaching and writing, she wields the eloquence of polemic to
engage her colleagues and students in an ongoing examination of
their collective project.
Canadian-born, but a life-long American resident, Lorraine's
career was indelibly stamped by her years at Cranbrook Academy of
Art in the influential design program run by Michael and Katherine McCoy.
After receiving her BFA from Cranbrook in 1975, she worked for
Vignelli Associates in New York from 1977 to 1978. During this
time, she began her research on the history of American graphic
design, which led to her graduate studies at Yale University and a
lifelong pursuit of the latent possibilities in design history.
While at Yale she designed Perspecta 19, Yale's
architectural journal and, in the ensuing years, the Chamber
Works and Theatrum Mundi portfolios for architect
Daniel Libeskind (1985), and architect John Hejduk's book Mask
of Medusa (1985)-projects that launched her reputation for
thoughtful and distinctively designed books on architecture, art
It was not long after her graduation from Yale in 1982, however,
that Lorraine would also demonstrate the power of her own prose and
her commitment to publishing. During her tenure at the University
of Houston's architecture school, she wrote the highly influential
essay “More than a few questions about graphic design education.”
First published in The Design Journal in 1983, Lorraine's
provocative analysis served as the impetus for recharacterizing
graphic design education in the United States. Her critique
considered the shape of what might constitute a serious specialized
program of graphic design study. In particular, she described two
distinguishing values: First, that of making form meaningful and,
second, the importance of “students seeing themselves within the
historical continuum of visual and verbal communicators.”
The latter—the sense of continuum—was born out in Lorraine's
seminal contribution to the exhibition catalogue Graphic Design
in America (Walker Art Center, 1989). Titled “European
Modernism and American Graphic Design Between the Wars,” her
groundbreaking essay established a new consciousness of graphic
design's evolution in the United States, articulating the
convergence of European Modernism with American commercialism
during the first decades of the 20th century. Four years later, in
“Graphic Design: Lost and Found,” which appeared in The Edge of
the Millennium (Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, 1993),
Lorraine turned her focus to the state of contemporary design, then
and now, caught between modernism and postmodernism. Arguing for a
more relevant role for designers, she observed, “The pressure on
the young designer is not to become a star, a master or mistress of
the universal, but to become a participant in the communication
process, a co-conspirator, a co-author, maybe even an
author/designer.” This is a role she has effectively modeled in her
practice and her teaching.
When Lorraine became director of the graphic design at California Institute of the Arts she
saw an opportunity for the program to become a laboratory for the
model of education she first explored in “More than a few
questions.” Her experiment transformed the ad hoc nature of much of
graphic design education at the time into a distinct plan for a
structured program specific to teaching the knowledge and skills
required by graphic designers to function at the highest levels.
Lorraine positioned design as part of an evolving rather than
static professional culture that was inextricable from culture (and
cultures) at large. Her model of education placed a premium on
encouraging work that was highly imaginative and open to
unanticipated outcomes, a legacy from the philosophy of Cranbrook.
Lorraine stepped down as program director in 1985 and has continued
to serve on the Cal Arts faculty, also serving as project tutor,
Jan van Eyck Akademie, Maastricht, The Netherlands from 1991 to
At the same time she was transforming the curriculum at Cal
Arts, Lorraine was becoming increasingly visible as a designer.
During these years, she forged a collaborative design ethos of
respectful translation, marked by sensitivity to the vision of
others that is especially apparent in her contributions to the
field of book design. She also continued to hone a design
philosophy dedicated to restoring the experimentation, innovative
vision, criticality and awareness of context by which modernism was
In 1991, Lorraine became one of the founders of the design
office ReVerb, which received the Chrysler Award for Innovation in
Design in 1995. In 1996, she left ReVerb to establish Lorraine Wild
Design, which became known as Green Dragon Office in
2004, to focus on collaborations with architects, artists, curators
and publishers in this country and abroad. In 1999, as a side
project, she partnered with Roman Alonso and Lisa Eisner to found
Greybull Press, an
imprint specializing in the publication of photographic archives
Lorraine's exceptional contributions to graphic design have been
celebrated in exhibitions, honored by awards and by the formal and
informal testimonies of her colleagues, students and professional
critics. In 1998, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art exhibited
“Lorraine Wild: Selections from the Permanent Collection,” a
display of work acquired as part of their collection of significant
design produced in California. In 2001, Lorraine was one of three
finalists for the Communication Award of the National Design
Awards, sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution's Cooper-Hewitt,
National Design Museum. Her work was also included in the
Cooper-Hewitt's 2003 National Design Triennial.
In 2001, Lorraine was awarded a Gold Medal by the New York Art
Director's Club for the design of Height of Fashion, one
of numerous publications for which she has been recognized. She has
received numerous awards from such prestigious organizations as the
American Center for Design, the American Institute of Architects
and the American Association of University Publishers. Lorraine's
award-winning books have been repeatedly included in AIGA's highly
selective “50 Books/50 Covers” competition. Her thoroughly informed
and deeply sympathetic understanding of the nature of art and
design has brought her commissions for monographs on artists and
architects as far-ranging as Mike Kelley and Ludwig Mies van der
Rohe, as well as books and exhibition catalogues for institutions
such as Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Contemporary Art
in Los Angeles, The Getty Museum, UCLA's Hammer Museum, and the
Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal.
Always alert to the vagaries of culture that inform how design
operates and how it is understood, Lorraine's work continues to
generate new, considered models of practice, of thinking, and of
design itself. In furthering design as an intellectual and creative
discipline, she does not flinch from raising questions that
challenge the evolving discipline of graphic design. Witty,
anecdotal, and always profoundly insightful, she has raised the
quality of debate within the profession. Increasingly influential,
she has now found a forum to share her ideas with a vast audience
as a regular contributor to the online journal Design Observer.
In all of her work, Lorraine continues to explore and extend the
parameters of practice to encompass a wider notion of literacy, be
it in politics, in art, in architecture, or in the significance of
the ephemera of daily life. She is as ecumenical in her appetites
as she is generous in her practice and in her friendships. Her
contributions as an educator, practitioner, historian and writer,
have been, and are, vital to the growth of this discipline and will
be felt through the continuum of generations.
The distinguished AIGA Medal is awarded to individuals in recognition of their exceptional achievements in the field of design.
Section: Inspiration -
AIGA Medal, design educators, students
Recognized for her invaluable role as an educator, author and curator in the field of design and for her intellect and mastery of words, Ellen Lupton was awarded an AIGA Medal in 2007.
Section: Inspiration -
AIGA Medal, Womens Leadership, education
Kali Nikitas on Lorraine Wild In 1986 my mother and I saw a presentation of graphic design
from CalArts. It was my mother who encouraged me to look into their
MFA program (insightful on her part).
Several months later, at the ICOGRADA conference in Amsterdam, I
met Lorraine Wild. She was the CalArt's Design Direc
Section: Inspiration -
personal essay, graphic design, mentoring, students
Ed Fella (2007 AIGA Medalist) is an artist, educator and iconoclastic designer who dared to reshape contemporary typography and graphic design, largely by making visible the postmodern concept of deconstruction.
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Section: Tools and Resources -
personal essay, INitiative, in-house design
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Section: Inspiration -
interview, INitiative, advertising, illustration, branding, graphic design, identity design, in-house design, print design, corporate design
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