Jennifer Sterling Finally Gets the Last Word

Having lived and worked on both coasts, Jennifer Sterling knows a thing or two about cultural and political discourse in design. Her illustrative typographic renderings have produced praise and ignited loathsome critiques from her peers.

She experienced a profound backlash in the early 2000s for her design of the now infamous 2001 AIGA 365 Annual. No designer has ever taken such a public beating for their work as she did. And she never responded. Until now.

That catalog sent designers into a tizzy. Today, I doubt anyone would raise a brow. Sterling did what she did best: She created typographic and textural images to create meaningful discourse and showcase the work as it was meant to be seen. But, perhaps she was ahead of her time. People didn’t get it and the reaction was visceral and harsh. Today that book would be a precious keepsake, and anyone featured within would be honored.

It seemed as if Sterling—then in San Francisco—dropped out of the design world, only to re-emerge five years ago in New York. That’s not quite the case. She has continually worked, but she intentionally kept a low profile. She was never looking for the spotlight, but it found her in the ugliest of ways. Despite that, her love for design never wavered and she continued to work with clients like Adobe, Aveda, Gilbert Paper, Hillary Clinton, and more. Her work has been included in the permanent collections of The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Library of Congress, Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Museum Fur Kunst Und Gewerbe, Hamburg, and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

Here, we talk to her about her passion for design and typography, and we let her have the final word on that book she designed more than 15 years ago. Read the interview here.

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