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The Muriel R. Cooper Collection, 1948-1996

Identifier: MCAD003

Scope and Contents

Freelance Design Series Printed Samples Sub-Series Arranged alphabetically by project, then chronologically This series contains printed samples of Muriel R. Cooper’s freelance design work. Cooper worked with many Boston area agencies to create unique and informative pamphlets, reports, newsletters, business materials and more. Notable companies include Allied Kid Company, Cabot, Cabot & Forbes, Arthur D. Little, Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the Institute for Contemporary Art, and Radcliffe, Simmons, and Wellesley Colleges. Much of her work in this collection is also available to look at in its creation phase in the Branding Mock-Ups sub-series of her freelance design work.

Branding Mock-Ups Sub-Series Arranged alphabetically by project, then chronologically During her career as a freelance graphic designer, Cooper designed a number of logos, pamphlets, and books. This series contains her work as it was in process, including the famed MIT Press logo.

Business Papers Sub-Series Arranged alphabetically Materials in this sub-series are administrative in nature relating to Cooper’s work as a freelance designer, including correspondence, contracts, and self-promotional materials.

Financial Records Sub-Series Arranged by record type, then chronologically

MIT Press Series Book Jackets Sub-Series Arranged chronologically This sub-series contains book jackets designed by Muriel R. Cooper during her tenure with the MIT Press. Many items listed (noted by [COL#] in the record) were once on loan at Columbia for their exhibition on Muriel Cooper in 2014. Books jackets that are not small enough to fit in folders may be found in the oversize collection.

Administrative Files Original Order maintained where possible The contents of Muriel R. Cooper’s file cabinets and desks relating to her career with the MIT Press can be found in this sub-series. Much of this part of the collection is available as Cooper had organized it. Files include notes, correspondence, MIT Press catalogs, MIT Summer Session flyers, and more.

Visual Language Workshop Series Teaching Materials/Student Work Sub-Series Arranged by course, then chronologically This sub-series contains course preparation materials from course instructors for the Visible Language Workshop, as well as student projects for a number of the courses taught. Courses include Creative Seeing, Messages and Means, and Typographics.

Research Sub-Series Arranged chronologically This sub-series contains materials related to research conducted by faculty and staff of the VLW as part of their work with the program. Files include funding proposals, an NEA grant application, and pre-prints of publications by VLW faculty and researchers.

Creation and Administration Subseries Arranged chronologically This subseries contains materials relating to the creation and day-to-day operation of the VLW.

Early Design Courses Arranged chronologically This series contains files relating to a small number of design courses taught by Cooper before the founding of the VLW.

Personal Items Arranged topically, then chronologically This series contains personal items relating to Muriel R. Cooper’s life and interests. In this part of the collection, a significant collection of handwritten recipe cards and artistic correspondence from Muriel’s friends can be found.

Artwork This small series contains Muriel’s personal artwork. Included are sketchbooks and paintings.

Memorials Arranged by event This series contains materials relating to various memorial events held in Muriel R. Cooper’s honor after her death.


  • 1948-1996

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research. Restricted Fragile Material may only be consulted with permission of the archivist. Preservation photocopies for reference use have been substituted in the main files.

Conditions Governing Use

The Muriel R. Cooper Collection is the physical property of The MassArt Archive. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns.

Biographical / Historical

Muriel Cooper (1925-1994) began her work with the MIT Press in 1952 as a freelance designer when it was known as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Office of Publications. She was quickly promoted to head of the Design Services, as the Office was renamed. In 1958, Cooper left MIT when she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in Milan to study exhibition design.

Upon her return from Milan in 1963, Cooper pursued an independent graphic design career by opening her own design consulting agency in Brookline, Massachusetts. The MIT Press was among her many clients, including their commission for the MIT Press logo that is still in use today. Cooper resumed her career with the MIT Press as Design Director in 1967 until she left the position in 1974 to found the Visible Language Workshop (VLW) with colleague Ron MacNeil, remaining only in a part-time capacity as the Special Projects Director.

As the Director of the VLW, Cooper encouraged students to use a variety of techniques and technologies to accomplish their design goals. The VLW was later absorbed into the MIT Media Lab along with the MIT Architectural Machine Group and the Center for Advanced Visual Studies in 1985 where Cooper continued her career as an educator. Cooper unexpectedly died of a heart attack on May 26, 1994 in Boston at the age of 68.


50 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Custodial History

Upon Cooper’s death in 1994, materials were collected from her offices by longtime friend and colleague Tom Wong who gave them to the MassArt Archive. The collection was officially donated to the MassArt Archive in November of 2019 by Muriel Cooper's sister Charlotte Lopoten.
The Muriel R. Cooper Collection, 1948-1996
In Progress
Leah Walker, E. Smith Umland, Katy Purington and Danielle Sangalang
February 2018 ; last updated February 2019
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design Archive Repository