The Museum of Modern Art acquires the MIT Press colophon


The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has acquired the MIT Press colophon, designed by Muriel Cooper, as part of its permanent collection. Designed in 1965 and now widely celebrated as a hallmark of modernist design, the iconic logo was abstracted from the letters “mitp” into the barcode-resembling design that stamps the spines of the press’s publications. 

Amy Brand, director and publisher of MIT Press, said in a press release that “for almost 60 years, the MIT Press colophon has served as the symbol of the Press’s distinctive design and innovative publishing program… We are proud of the colophon’s legacy and thrilled that it has been selected and acquired for MoMA’s collection.”

Additionally, the Morton R. Godine Library at Massachusetts College of Art and Design gifted a contemporary image of the colophon. Cooper’s full archive is held at the MassArt Archive in Boston. She was an associate professor at the school from 1962 to 1967. 

Cooper was the first design director of MIT Press, cofounder of the Visible Language Workshop (VLW), and a founding faculty member of MIT’s Media Lab. During her tenure at MIT, she designed the covers of Bauhaus by Hans M. Wingler and the first edition of Learning from Las Vegas by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour. 

Cooper’s relationship with publications at MIT began during her leadership as art director and designer at the MIT Office of Publications from 1952 to 1958. The design for the press’s colophon had initially been offered to Paul Rand in 1962—who would later become known for his Eye Bee M logo among others—who turned down the project with the request that it be offered to Cooper. 

Other work by Cooper in MoMA’s collection includes Information Landscapes, developed alongside David Small, Suguru Ishizaki, Earl Rennison, Robert Silvers, Lisa Strausfeld, Jeffrey Ventrella, and Yin Yin Wong at the VLW; the project pushed the potentials of digital graphic design. 

While these are the museum’s only recent graphic design acquisitions, they join architectural acquisitions including work by Sean Canty, Estudio Teddy Cruz + Fonna Forman, James Wines, and Eileen Gray. 

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