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Design is Art People Use: Ellen Lupton at the Block Museum

By Hannah Arata

Ellen Lupton, Curator of Contemporary Design at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York City recently gave a lively talk to the Northwestern community on the relationship between experimental artists and commercial design. Her talk parallels the current exhibit at Northwestern’s Block Museum of Art, “Up is Down: Mid-Century Experiments in Advertising and Film at the Goldsholl Studio.” Goldsholl Studio was a Chicago graphic design firm that worked through the 1950s and 70s. They became popular for their use of experimental art in commercial advertisement creations. The exhibit is named after the Millie Goldsholl short film Up Is Down ( I would recommend watching this before you visit the exhibit to get a sense what type of work the Goldsholl’s did. It’s also an interesting and quick watch that, although made in 1969, is still relevant today.

I recently gained a lot of interest and have been doing my own research into the intersections between art and advertising, so Lupton’s talk and the coinciding exhibit gave me some great insight into this type of work! It was great to hear so much about the Goldsholls (they created the Motorola logo!) from Ellen Lupton since she contains such an infectious energy and passion for their work and design/art in general. It was wonderful to hear from such a leader in the design world.

After Lupton’s talk, I had the opportunity to check out the exhibit at the Block Museum. I found out that the The Block recently underwent a rebranding effort as a part of their Strategic Plan for 2018-2022 ( They debuted a new logo design that uses the Northwestern font and colors. It’s interesting how this redesign of the logo bears so much relevance to the exhibit. The Strategic Plan is available to view on their website and gives great insight into their mission and to what kind of a public institution they hope to be. As someone interested in arts non profits, taking a look at The Strategic Plan has been very insightful. The Block Museum is open to the public and is always free so be sure to take advantage of this amazing museum while on campus. They will be hosting many other exhibitions, artist talks, movies, and more throughout the year!

For more information on the Block Museum click here! For more information on how MSLCE students engage with the industry, click here.

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