"ELEGANTISSIMA" The Design & Typography of Louise Fili
The Memorial Gallery at Farmingdale State College presents Louise Fili, a world-renowned graphic designer who has created over 2000 book covers and countless logos, packaging and signage that have been seamlessly woven into our everyday lives. Her designs and elegant typography continue to influence the way designers work around the world.
Louise Fili (born in 1951, in New Jersey) attended a school where if one couldn't paint, one was labeled "graphically oriented." Actually, the proverbial shoe fit. From a very early age she was fascinated with letterforms; later, in high school, she sent away for an Osmiroid pen and taught herself calligraphy and soon discovered that this skill could prove lucrative. Her career was born!
Out of school she worked as a freelance designer before being hired as a designer by the legendary maestro of type, Herb Lubalin, a formative experience to be sure. A few years later, she was named the art director of Pantheon Books, which gave her the extraordinary opportunity to experiment daily with many different periods of design history. During this time she designed close to 2000 jackets and covers, including the now-classic "The Lover," where she introduced a form of nuanced shadow lettering that influenced many other typographers. Design historian Philip Meggs wrote in PRINT magazine that Fili was one of "The Women Who Saved New York," a reference to the revival of revivalist (or retro) graphic design emanating from the city. Yet Fili's work never slavishly referenced the past but rather incorporated its virtues into her signature typographic compositions.
After the birth of her son in 1988, she left Pantheon to diversify and pursue another passion: Food. Founding Louise Fili, Ltd., enabled her to focus on the direction of everything typographic, Italian and food. First came a string of restaurant clients, star chefs and restaurateurs, looking for unique identities, which invariably began with logos. Fili's logos are elegant, witty and memorable. Next, a variety of food entrepreneurs, producers of everything from gelato to jams, sauces to cookies, wines to liquors, came in search of her distinct package designs, always with her intense focus on type and typography.
With the circle now complete, Fili, who has co-authored and designed over a dozen books on design history and graphic style with husband Steven Heller, recently authored a monograph of her work, Elegantissima, and is currently creating books on the shop and restaurant signs of Italy and Paris. A series of shopping guides to different Italian cities is also in preparation, as well as products, including Perfetto pencils, designed with an Italian art deco flair (all Princeton Architectural Press).
Fili started her business small (herself and one assistant) and it remains small (herself and two designers) because "I am a hands-on designer," she proudly says. "If I can't design, I have no reason for being in this business. Increasing my staff would mean spending more time in meetings -- more revenue, perhaps, but much less satisfaction." As this exhibition reveals, there is no lack of satisfaction here.
— Steven Heller
(Heller, Fili's husband, is author and co-author of hundreds of books on graphic design.)