It’s not an overstatement to say that Jessica Helfand is a renaissance woman of the design world. She co-founded Design Observer, an authoritative digital publication on the state of visual culture and an oracle of wise and thoughtful discourse on design for many of us. She also co-hosts two podcasts: The Observatory and The Design of Business/ The Business of Design. In all aspects of her work and writing, she asks profound questions about creative practice and challenges our assumptions about how to reconcile an ethical design practice with a successful one.
I knew I wanted to write a book about design as a humanist discipline. We can’t just be about making things pretty.Jessica Helfand
In addition to her thriving art and design practices, Jessica is also a prolific author of numerous books, including her latest work, Face: A Visual Odyssey, recently included on the “new and noteworthy” list of the New York Times. With encyclopedic thoroughness, Jessica examines the cultural significance of the face and its centrality in human experience, from archival mug shots through selfie culture and facial recognition technology.
Her academic career has been no less impressive than her literary and creative accomplishments. She has taught design at Yale University, her alma mater, since 1996. She currently serves as the second ever Artist in Residence at Cal Tech, which is located a few blocks from ArtCenter in Pasadena. Later in the episode, we’ll join her there in the classroom for a fascinating peek at how she’s opening pathways of design to the quantitatively-minded students of science and engineering.
A fascinating conversationalist, Jessica readily peppers her answers with cogent insights into social media’s impact on the next generation of designers and a very honest and moving sense of the ways in which personal experience invariably shapes creative practice.