Ellen Lupton.

“My husband, designer Abbott Miller, derisively refers to my office set-up as “A Thousand Plateaus,” in reference to the rambling work surface that I have compiled out of mismatched bits of furniture to create a buzzing nest of productivity. Key elements: two computer monitors (plus an iPad for when I really really need three screens), a “real” telephone, magnetic bulletin board, huge Steelcase secretary’s desk with deep, deep drawers,  heavy-duty tape dispensers with assortment of clear and colored tapes, Eames Aluminum chair with ugly ergonomic backpad strapped on like a Kotex sanitary pad… That’s tea I’m drinking, and also some vegetable soup from my slow cooker.”

Ellen Lupton is curator of contemporary design at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York City and director of the Graphic Design MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore. An author of numerous books and articles on design, she is a public-minded critic, frequent lecturer, and AIGA Gold Medalist.

FROM YOUR DESKS: Who designed your white mug?

ELLEN LUPTON: The white mug features a drawing my son, Jay Miller, who was in fourth or fifth grade at the time. It was created via a “print on demand” service, and it remains a cherished object. He is sixteen now! The green-and-yellow striped mug is by the artist Jorge Pardo. It is an ideal vessel for vegetable soup.


FYD: Is the “real” yellow telephone (pictured above) a family relic?

EL: The phone, designed by the legendary industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss, was featured in my 1993 exhibition “Mechanical Brides: Women and Machines from Home to Office.” Up until the mid 50s, phones were nearly always black. Adding color helped entice women to put in extra extensions in the home and to see the phone as a decorative commodity and not merely a utility. It is a wonderful working phone with big loud ring. I answer it when it rings, but no one in my house really knows how to dial out.

FYD: How do you work?

EL: I am a morning person. Like a farm woman, I rise long before dawn to get an early start on the day. And I crash very early, in bed by 10pm.

FYD: Do you work on the weekends…when do you dial out?

EL: I do work on the weekends, but mostly in the mornings. (It is 7:05am now, and I have been working since 5:30.) Once the household is fully up and moving, I start to dial out.

“Adding color helped entice women to put in extra extensions in the home…”

FYD: There’s a great scene in Kenneth Lonergan’s film You Can Count On Me where Matthew Broderick’s character chastises a bank employee’s computer screen. If you were to “makeover” someone’s office etiquette; what rules would you enforce?

EL: Keep emails short and clear. Most excessively long emails come from one of the following sources: tenure-track faculty in high academia, college students asking for a favor, and Nigerian spammers. All these folks would have a better response rate if they kept their messages direct and to the point. Who are you, and what do you want?

Follow on Twitter @ellenlupton

1 Comment For “Ellen Lupton.”

  1. Carol says:

    This is brevity. (Just to clarify, I apologize for my long emails.)

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