I must admit that the term Designer as Author has always perplexed me. It gets thrown around quite a bit in our profession when describing entrepreneurial activities of designers (see the Designer as Author MFA program at SVA). Of course, there are many designers who are authors (the kind that write books, that is), but how does that term translate to new business ventures?

Thanks to Ellen Lupton, now I understand.

Lupton, the designer, educator, and author (of books, including Thinking With Type) recently gave an enlightening presentation at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, as part of the Walker/AIGA Minnesota Insights series, in which she traced the history of this term back to Rick Poynor’s 1991 article in BluePrint magazine entitled, The Designer as Author. She expanded my understanding of the term “author” to include not just the written word, but the development of content. The transformation of designers from their traditional role of crafting the form of a message, to impacting—and eventually creating—the message itself, is, after all, at the core of what this blog is all about.

The video below is a short preview of Ellen Lupton’s presentation. You can find the full lecture at the Walker’s fantastic website or on iTunes U. The Walker should be commended for bringing their content to the masses in such an open and accessible way—the iTunes U outlet has an amazing catalog including past design lectures by Ed Fella and Experimental Jetset.