Why Every Designer Needs to Know Steven Heller

Designer Steven Heller on Design Literacy

If you’re a design student or practitioner and don’t know who Steven Heller is, I’m here to help. He’s an author, critic, commentator, speaker and educator, and the leading voice in design criticism and writing of our time. He is also the co-chair of the School of Visual Arts MFA Design program (where I was fortunate to be a student of his), and here’s more:


1. He has written so many books and articles on design, it’s impossible to keep track of them all.

Steven Heller has written over 170 books on the subject of design, articles for countless blogs and magazines, and has managed to document the history and practice of design with depth and clarity. It is impossible to study graphic design without his contributions.

2. He’s the authority on design that the design world turns to.

Google has a new logo? Obama’s campaign font? Orange juice packaging? Any breaking design news of the moment isn’t news until Steven Heller adds his two cents.

Here’s a teaser of our full interview with Steven, on Paul Rand’s deal with Steve Jobs.

3. He’s an influencer and a taste maker.

The people Steven Heller has worked with read like a who’s who of the design world, and many of them credit their careers him. Whether it be the opportunity to illustrate for the New York Times (he was the Art Director for the Book Review for over thirty years), or the invitation to be a part of a publication, Heller’s ability to spot talent and provide opportunities to creatives has been going on for decades.


4. He’s a celebrity (among designers) and so is his wife.

Did you know that he’s married to Louise Fili, another influential figure in the design world? Her studio’s Italy-inspired designs for packaging and restaurants helped start a lettering trend and launched the careers of young designers like Jessica Hische and Dana Tanamachi.

5. He’s generous.

He’s helped so many people, from students needing advice, to readers needing inspiration. There’s no possible way the world of design could ever properly thank him. He’s already received every major design award including AIGA’s lifetime achievement award (be sure to check out AIGA’s poetic biography of Heller) and National Design Award ‘Design Mind’ (presented by Michelle Obama at the white house ceremony).

Learn more about designer Steven Heller and his instrumental role in graphic design, in our free video interview: Design Literacy and Paul Rand.

Lara McCormick FOLLOW >

Lara is an accomplished designer, educator, and the head of design education at CreativeLive. She has her MFA in Design from SVA, graduated from Cooper Union's prestigious typography program, and is the author of ‘Playing with Type: 50 Graphic Experiments for Exploring Typographic Design Principles’ published by Rockport Press.