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Jessica Helfand
Essays | Biography | Articles & Essays | Books | Contact

Jessica Helfand on Brevity

The premiere episode of our new podcast series: Insights Per Minute. Just as certain ideas fit into an essay and others are more suited to a tweet, we believe that 60 seconds of a singular voice is a powerful format for new, uncluttered insight.

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Our Shopping Lists, Our Selves

Lists are the practical roadmaps by which we quantify our obligations. They're scorecards for accomplishment, spreadsheets for success. At once truncated and annotated, they urge us to consider hierarchy and value, want and need. Lists embrace both duty (what we’re meant to do) and aspiration (what we yearn to do), thereby perpetuating the enduring illusion that maybe we’re actually making progress.

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Ezra Winter Project: Chapter Twelve

1939. John Steinbeck publishes “The Grapes of Wrath”. MGM releases “The Wizard of Oz”. Germany invades Poland. Ezra Winter, feverishly hard at work in his mountaintop studio, steeps himself in the Fourteenth Century, where he contemplates Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

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Ezra Winter Project: Chapter Eleven

A huge fireplace of native stone at one end keeps the room warm while the high walls provide ample space for the ropes, pulleys and other impedimenta which hold the canvas in place. For much of the preliminary sketching the canvas is stretched on the floor and assistants fill in or measure as Mr. Winter, mounted on a high ladder, paints his final compositions from sketches. — From an article in The Waterbury Republican, January 26, 1941

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Ezra Winter Project: Chapter Ten

In 1932 Ezra Winter marries for the second time and buys a farm in the berkshires that he names Juniper Hill, sitting as it does on a massive parcel of land covered in multiple variations of low-growing conifers. In Latin, the word juniperus combines junio (which means young) with parere (a verb meaning “to produce”). And how perfect a setting this is for the painter, who has now concluded the painting about — but not necessarily his own quest for — the Fountain of Youth. And for his ambitious Bride, who will transform this property into a working farm where she will grow acres upon acres of fresh herbs.

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Ezra Winter Project: Chapter Nine

It is now three years after the stock market crash, and with the nation besieged by a deeply paralyzing economic depression, Ezra Winter has never been busier. Between 1929 and 1931 alone, the artist produces murals for the Birmingham Public Library, The Rochester Savings Bank, Willard Straight Hall at Cornell University, The Union Trust Building in Detroit and the Savarin Restaurant in New York. And then, five days after his forty-sixth birthday, Winter wins a commission to produce a mural in the main lobby of Radio City Music Hall. Everything is about to change.

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Bill Moggridge 1943-2012

Bill Moggridge was the first person I knew who understood that interaction design could be a revolutionary medium for change. He understood that the screen was a blank canvas with no visible lingua franca. He made everything sound possible and could make the dullest design project sound utterly fascinating — everything seeming somehow more exotic because of his glorious British accent. And he was unpretentious: a rarity among people whose gifts are so extraordinary, and whose contributions to public life are so indelible and rich.

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Jessica Helfand, a founding editor of Design Observer, is an award-winning graphic designer and writer and a former contributing editor and columnist for Print, Communications Arts and Eye magazines. A member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale and a recent laureate of the Art Director's Hall of Fame, Helfand received her B.A. and her M.F.A. from Yale University where she has taught since 1994.


Recent Book



Scrapbooks: An American History
Jessica Helfand
Yale University Press, 2008
More Books >>


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