Ellen Lupton was born in 1963. She is a graphic designer, curator, writer, critic, and educator. Known for her love of typography, Lupton is the Senior Curator of Contemporary Design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City and the founding director of the Graphic Design M.F.A. degree program at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), where she also serves as director of the Center for Design Thinking.
Lupton was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1963 and grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. Her parents divorced in 1973 when she and her twin sister, Julia, were ten years old. As a self-professed "art girl" from a family of English teachers, her love of typography combined her love of art and writing. Lupton attended Cooper Union College in 1981 as a fine art student, where she discovered graphic design and the "expressive potential of typography. Lupton described this discovery of graphic design as "a revelation. Design really wasn't in the mainstream back then. It was esoteric. It was the thing you did if you were very 'neat,' which I wasn't.
She has written numerous books on graphic design for a variety of audiences. She is a contributor to several publications, including Print, Eye, I.D., Metropolis, and The New York Times. After graduating, Lupton was offered a position as curator of the newly-founded Cooper Union Herb Lublin Study Center of Design and Typography. This combined her long-standing interests in writing and design in her first curatorial position. With an interest in the do-it-yourself movement, Lupton took advantage of limited resources to visually construct the history of graphic design, surprising peers in her ability to meld the visual and verbal.
These exhibits provided an arena in which "objects, images, and text functioned as both the method of communication and the subject of inquiry. At this time, Lupton began to write critically about typography and design, utilizing a post-structuralist framework to understand how design is embedded in political, economic, and social contexts, saying, "Typography and architecture are not neutral containers for the content or programs they are thought to neatly accommodate.