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Comments (16) Posted 07.07.10 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Jessica Helfand

Happy Birthday, Steven Heller

In the early 1990s, fresh out of grad school, I was working as the Design Director at the (now-defunct) Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine where, surrounded by writers and editors, I became interested myself in writing. At that time, the only writing credit I had to my name was my thesis, and the only person besides me who'd read it was Paul Rand, who wasn't terribly impressed. Undaunted, I mentioned all this to Steven Guarnaccia, who kindly mentioned it to Steve Heller, and a few days later this letter arrived. 

Sight unseen, I was being offered a chance to write — to write about design! — for the AIGA Journal. I was over the moon, and leapt at the opportunity. 

This marked the beginning of a long and rich collaboration and friendship, and I say this knowing that there are others who, like me, have benefited from Steve's pure generosity of spirit. Not only does he seem to write a book every ten minutes (and if you're missing any of them, we've provided links for our readers below), but he is always willing to share — a credit here, a recommendation there — all of them genuine and heartfelt and real. A willing collaborator, a supportive editor and a devoted friend to artists and designers across the globe, Steve Heller is about as close as we come, in America, to a national treasure. And today is his birthday.

Happy Birthday, Steve. 

101 Books Authored, Co-Authored or Edited by Steven Heller

New Ornamental Type: Decorative Lettering in the Digital Age
Steven Heller & Gail Anderson
Thames & Hudson, 2010

Design School Confidential
Steven Heller & Lita Talarico
Rockport Publishers, 2009

Art Direction Explained, At Last!
Steven Heller & Veronique Vienne
Laurence King, 2009

Marketing Illustration: New Venues, New Styles, New Methods
Steven Heller & Marshall Arisman
Allworth Press, 2009

Anatomy of Design
Steven Heller & Mirko Ilic
Rockport, 2009

Illustration: A Visual History
Steven Heller & Seymour Chwast
Abrams, 2008

Design Disasters
Steven Heller, editor
Allworth Press, 2008

The Design Entrepreneur
Steven Heller & Lita Talarico
Rockport, 2008

Iron Fists
Steven Heller & Mirko Ilic
Phaidon, 2008

The Swastika
Steven Heller
Allworth, 2008

Teaching Motion Design
Steven Heller & Michael Dooley
Allworth, 2008

New Vintage Type: Classic Fonts for the Digital Age
Steven Heller & Gail Anderson
Watson-Guptill, 2007

Looking Closer 5
Steven Heller, Michael Beirut & William Drenttel, editors
Allworth, 2007

The Education of a Photographer
Steven Heller, Charles H. Traub & Adam B. Bell
Allworth, 2006

Steven Heller & Louise Fili
Chronicle, 2006

Nigel Holmes On Information Design
Steven Heller
Jorge Pinto, 2006

Handwritten: Expressive Lettering in the Digital Age
Steven Heller & Mirko Ilic
Thames & Hudson, 2006

Becoming a Graphic Designer
Steven Heller & Teresa Fernandes
Wiley, 2005

The Education of an Art Director
Steven Heller & Veronique Vienne
Allworth, 2005

The Education of a Graphic Designer
Steven Heller & Veronique Vienne
Allworth, 2005

Cuban Carnival
Steven Heller & Vicki Gold Levi
Universe, 2005

The Education Of A Comics Artist
Steven Heller & Michael Dooley
Allworth, 2005

Euro Deco: Graphic Design Between the Wars
Steven Heller & Louise Fili
Chronicle, 2005

Inside the Business of Illustration
Steven Heller & Marshall Arisman
Allworth, 2004

Design Literacy: Understanding Graphic Design
Steven Heller
Allworth, 2004

Times Square Style
Steven Heller & Vicki Gold Levi
Princeton Architectural Press, 2004

Hola Cuba!
Steven Heller & Vicki Gold Levi, editors
Little Bookroom, 2004

The Designer's Guide to Astounding Photoshop Effects
Steven Heller & Gail Anderson, editors
North Light Books, 2004

Bandit Love
Steven Heller, editor
North Light Books, 2004

East Side West Side
Steven Heller, editor
Little Bookroom, 2004

The Education of a Typographer
Steven Heller, editor
Allworth, 2004

Teaching Graphic Design
Steven Heller, editor
Allworth, 2003

Citizen Designer
Steven Heller & Veronique Vienne, editors
Allworth, 2003

Merz to Emigre and Beyond
Steven Heller
Phaidon, 2003

Cuba Style
Steven Heller & V. Levi
Princeton Architectural Press, 2002

Design Humor
Steven Heller
Allworth, 2002

Looking Closer 4
Steven Heller, William Drenttel & Michael Bierut, editors
Allworth, 2002

The Education of a Design Entrepreneur
Steven Heller
Allworth, 2002

The Graphic Design Reader
Steven Heller
Allworth, 2002

Counter Culture: The Allure of Mini-Mannequins
Steven Heller
Princeton Architectural Press, 2001

The Education of an E-Designer
Steven Heller, editor
Allworth, 2001

Graphic Design History
Steven Heller & Georgette Ballance
Allworth, 2001

Red Scared!
Steven Heller & Michael Barson
Chronicle, 2001

Graphic Style
Steven Heller & Seymour Chwast
Harry N. Abrams, 2001

Texts on Type
Steven Heller & Philip B. Meggs, editors
Allworth, 2001

Genius Moves
Steven Heller & Mirko Ilic
North Light Books, 2001

The Education of an Illustrator
Steven Heller & Marshall Arisman, editors
Allworth, 2000

Graphic Design Time Line
Steven Heller & Elinor Pettit
Allworth, 2000

Design Connoisseur
Steven Heller & Louise Fili
Allworth, 2000

Letterforms: Bawdy, Bad and Beautiful
Steven Heller & Christine Thompson
Watson-Guptill, 2000

Wedding Bell Blues
Steven Heller & Michael Barson
Chronicle, 2000

Paul Rand
Steven Heller
Phaidon, 2000

Looking Closer 3
Steven Heller, Jessica Helfand, Michael Bierut & Rick Poynor, editors
Allworth, 1999

Design Literacy (Continued)
Steven Heller
Allworth, 1999

Less Is More
Steven Heller & Anne Fink
North Light Books, 1999

Steven Heller & Louise Fili
Chronicle, 1998

German Modern
Steven Heller & Louise Fili
Chronicle, 1998

Design Dialogues
Steven Heller
Allworth, 1998

Belles Lettres A 19th Century French Writing Tablet
Steven Heller & Louise Fili
Chronicle, 1998

Belles Lettres An Arts and Crafts Writing Tablet
Steven Heller & Louise Fili
Chronicle, 1998

Belles Lettres An Art Deco Writing Tablet
Steven Heller & Louise Fili
Chronicle, 1998

Belles Lettres An Art Nouveau Writing Tablet
Steven Heller & Louise Fili
Chronicle, 1998

British Modern
Steven Heller & Louise Fili
Chronicle, 1998

Food Wrap
Steven Heller
St. Martin's, 1998

Design Culture
Steven Heller & Marie Finamore, editors
Allworth, 1997

Teenage Confidential
Steven Heller & Michael Barson
Chronicle, 1997

Digital Designer
Steven Heller & Daniel Drennan
Watson-Guptill, 1997

Deco Espana
Steven Heller & Louise Fili
Chronicle, 1997

Looking Closer 2
Steven Heller, Michael Beirut, William Drenttel & DK Holland, editors
Allworth, 1997

Faces on the Edge
Steven Heller &
Anne Fink
Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1997

Deco Type
Steven Heller & Louise Fili
Chronicle, 1997

Magazines Inside & Out
Steven Heller & Teresa Fernandes
PBC International, 1997

That's Entertainment
Steven Heller & Anne Fink
PBC International, 1997

Low Budget
Steven Heller
Watson-Guptill, 1997

Newsletters Now
Steven Heller & Elinor Pettit
PBC International, 1997

American Typeplay
Steven Heller & Gail Anderson
PBC International, 1996

French Modern
Steven Heller & Louise Fili
Chronicle, 1996

Cover Story
Steven Heller & Louise Fili
Chronicle, 1996

Japanese Modern
Steven Heller, Seymour Chwast & Fraser
Chronicle, 1996

Business of Illustration
Steven Heller & Teresa Fernandes
Watson-Guptill, 1995

Jackets Required
Steven Heller & Seymour Chwast
Chronicle, 1995

Steven Heller & Louise Fili
Chronicle, 1995

Looking Closer
Steven Heller, Michael Bierut, William Drenttel & DK Holland, editors
Allworth, 1994

Covers and Jackets!
Steven Heller & Anne Fink
Rizzoli, 1994

Designing for Children
Steven Heller & Steven Guarnaccia
Watson-Guptill, 1994

Graphic Style
Steven Heller & Seymour Chwast
Harry N Abrams, 1994

Dutch Moderne
Steven Heller & Louise Fili
Chronicle, 1994

Borrowed Design
Steven Heller & Julie Lasky
John Wiley & Sons, 1993

Savage Mirror
Steven Heller
Watson-Guptill, 1992

School Days
Steven Heller & Steven Guarnaccia
Abbeville, 1992

You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby
Steven Heller, Vicki Gold Levi & Seymour Chwast
Hyperion, 1992

Angry Graphics
Steven Heller & Karrie Jacobs
Gibbs Smith, 1992

Designing With Illustration
Steven Heller & Karen Pomeroy
Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1990

Trylon and Perisphere
Steven Heller, Barbara Cohen & Seymour Chwast
Harry N Abrams, 1989

Sourcebook of Visual Ideas
Steven Heller
Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1989

New York Observed
Steven Heller, Barbara Cohen & Seymour Chwast, editors
Harry N Abrams, 1987

Innovators of American Illustration
Steven Heller, editor
Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1986

Art Against War
Steven Heller, D. J. R. Bruckner & Seymour Chwast

Man Bites Man
Steven Heller, editor
Hutchinson, 1981

Artists Christmas Cards
Steven Heller
Fireside, 1981

25 More Books Authored, Co-Authored or Edited by Steven Heller
The Book of Waters (A&W Press) - 1979
The Empire State Building Book (St. Martins) - 1979
Sin City Fables (A&W Press) - 1980
Jules Feiffer's America (Knopf) - 1981
War Heads: Cartoonists for a Nuclear Weapons Freeze (Penguin) - 1982
The Art of Satire: Painters as Cartoonists and Caricaturists for Delacroix to Picasso (Horizon Press) - 1984
Seymour Chwast: The Left Handed Designer (Abrams) - 1985
The Fifties Revisited (Universe) - 1985
The Little Theatre: A Christmas Carol (Viking Kestrel) - 1985
Design Career (Van Nostrand Reinhold) - 1987
Graphic Style: From Victorian to Post-Modern (Abrams) - 1987
Low Budget/High Quality Design: The Art of Inexpensive Visual Communications (Watson Guptil) - 1988
Graphic Wit: The Art of Humor in Design (Watson Guptil) - 1989
Carta Italiana (Chronicle) - 1995
100 Best Posters of Europe and America (Toppan) - 1997
Papier Francias (Chronicle Giftworks) - 1999
The Italian Art Deco Address Book (Chronicle Giftworks) - 1999
Design Dialogues (Allworth Press) - 1998
Becoming a Graphic Designer (Van Nostrand) - 1999
Sex Appeal: The Art of Allure in Advertising and Graphic Design (Allworth) - 2000
Graphic Design Timeline (Allworth Press) - 2000
Genius Rules: 100 Icons of Graphic Design (North Light Press) - 2001
The Push Pin Graphic (Chronicle Books) - Fall 2004
Inside the Illustration Business (Allworth Press) - Fall 2004
Design Literacy Revised (Allworth Press) - Fall 2004
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Comments (16)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT COMMENT >>

Happy 39th!!!

Joe Moran
07.07.10 at 04:10

Happy Birthday Stev(en)!
Design 101

Carl W. Smith
07.07.10 at 04:47

Happy Birthday Steven! I hope it's the best ever.

Thanks for all you've done to advance the intellect of our profession. My bookshelves are full of you.
Saint Dwayne
07.07.10 at 06:19

Happy birthday, Steve!
Tanner Woodford
07.07.10 at 07:29

Yay! Yay! Yay! Yay! Yay!
Bobby Martin
07.07.10 at 10:35

Happy Birthday!
07.08.10 at 10:03

In 1946 there was a little movie that came out titled "It's A Wonderful Life," in which an angel shows a suicidal protagonist, (the character played by James Stewart) what the world would be like if he was never born. Turns out, that world is a dreary and drab place. The angel thus saves his life.

Drab and dreary is what the world would be like without Steve Heller. Aside from his extraordinary output (101 books! Hundreds of forewords, introductions, articles, blog posts, and so on!), Jessica has accurately zeroed in on what makes Steve a true national treasure: his pure generosity of spirit. He has selflessly and quietly helped and influenced so many, many designers, illustrators and writers. In fact, if it weren't for Steve, I would not have the life that I have. But I owe him more than my gratitude; I owe him for so many introductions and opportunities I would never, ever have had without his help.

Thank you, Steve, for all you have done for me, for the design community, for the School of Visual Arts, for the New York Times, for AIGA, for Print Magazine and so on! My life would be drab and dreary without you. A most Happy, Happy Birthday to you. You deserve all the joy in the world.
debbie millman
07.08.10 at 11:08

the blind leading the blind
07.08.10 at 11:27

Happy birthday Steve! You are a gentleman, scholar, and have made all our lives richer.
Christina Jackson
07.08.10 at 11:32

Several years ago, mutual colleagues at AIGA let me know that I'd be meeting Steven Heller for the first time. While they did a wonderful job of preparing me, then introducing us, nothing could have prepared me for the conversation we had that sunny afternoon, leading to a friendship and mentorship that has truly changed my life, but more importantly, the lives of others in turn, as that conversation spawned unseen and un-numbered projects, ideas, collections, introductions, internships, more mentorships, and now a masters program — the likes of which I couldn't have considered early that Monday afternoon.

Steve, for the generosity you offer with every conversation, with every email, with every essay, with every book, with every moment of your time, I thank you. Thank you for seeing connections among people, ideas, objects, eras, antagonists, heros, and underdogs, unlike no one can. Thank you for crafting them into stories so that we can all see them as well. Most of all, the happiest of birthdays to you!
Liz Danzico
07.08.10 at 11:32

This is lovely.
07.08.10 at 12:18

I love the offered themes in the letter at the top of this piece: The End of the Book, The Preservation of Design, Eccentricity! These remind me that you never know what you're going to run into with Steve; how you will be inspired; what he'll cross your path with. On the days I teach in the Designer As Author Program at SVA, Steve's office is adjacent to my classroom, so one of the treats of the trip is to stop by and see what he's got cooking, some new opportunity, some rich provocation. I treasure the time I get to spend with Steve Heller, and am truly grateful for his friendship. Happy birthday Steve!
Allan Chochinov
07.08.10 at 12:42

I can't even begin to comprehend the amount of books you have written. what a great service to the design community. Happy Birthday.
07.09.10 at 01:43

My name also goes on the long list of those whose early design writing careers were boosted by Steve Heller. I'm looking forward to the book (or PhD thesis) someone does, reviewing his body of work and his influence. Steve is the hardest working man in design business.
Gunnar Swanson
07.12.10 at 12:41

It all began with my writing a very cranky letter of complaint about the blatant sexism at the AIGA National Conference in Miami in the early 90s. Steve Heller encourage me to write another small piece for the AIGA Journal. His expert editing helped me learn to write better.
Thank you Steve, and a belated Happy Birthday!
Elizabeth Resnick
07.22.10 at 02:58

And happy birthday, Steve, from Australia too.

Perhaps you are not aware of the impact of your books around the world.

Certainly, they were among the first graphic design titles to hit Australian bookstores - and soon encouraged a new category - 'Design' - instead of being mixed up with Michelangelo, Rubens and Indigenous art.

So I'd like to thank you for your seemingly inexhaustible range of interests - and the quality of your collaborations and publications. My bookshelves contain many of these books and they are treasured.

Incidentally, 'Trylon and Perisphere' was one of my favorites but was lost in a flood, so I'm delighted to find that it's still available!

(And thanks, too, to Jessica for giving people an opportunity to acknowledge Steven like this!)

All best wishes (again, belatedly) and thank you.
David Whitbread
07.22.10 at 07:57

Design Observer encourages comments to be short and to the point; as a general rule, they should not run longer than the original post. Comments should show a courteous regard for the presence of other voices in the discussion. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments that do not adhere to this standard.
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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.
More Bio >>


BOOKS BY Jessica Helfand

Screen: Essays on Graphic Design, New Media, and Visual Culture
Winterhouse Editions, 2001

Scrapbooks: An American History
Yale University Press, 2008

Reinventing the Wheel
Winterhouse Editions, 2002

Paul Rand: American Modernist
winterhouse Editions, 1998

Looking Closer 3
Allworth Press, 1999

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