The Visible Language Workshop (VLW) was home to “Messages and Means,” a consistently oversubscribed class that introduced students to graphic design, giving them access to methods of production and encouraging them to pursue new forms of graphic communication. Led by visionary director Muriel Cooper, and embedded in the rich technological environment of MIT, the VLW was ideally positioned to innovate those new forms. As early as the 1980s, Cooper had recognized that “the shift from a mechanical to an information society demands new communication processes, new visual and verbal languages, and new relationships of education, practice, and production.”
In 1985, the VLW moved to the MIT Media Laboratory as one of its founding research groups. There, Cooper developed the “information landscape,” a radically new interface design for text, in which the user could fly through three-dimensional textual spaces. Years later, the potential of the interface is still being explored. Recognized in computer and graphic design circles as one of the greatest designers of the 20th century, Muriel Cooper trained many of today’s leading practitioners, including Joel Slayton, whose work shown here, Acquaintances, was created at the VLW.