Muriel Cooper at her desk.

Visible Language Workshop Archive

1973 – 1994

The Visible Language Workshop Archive is a small collection of video and audio tapes, teaching slides, and a large portfolio of detailed notes and documents exposing the theories, inner workings, and products of Muriel Cooper’s VLW, examining interactive media design, electronic communication, and experimentation with computing and printing technologies. This archive also contains materials from the 1994 TED 5 conference in Monterey, California, where Cooper presented a collection of student work from the Workshop, and a box of unique materials from the dedication of first Media Lab building (E15) in 1985, where the VLW was a founding group.


The Visible Language Workshop (VLW) was derived in 1973 from a course, “Messages and Means,” taught by Muriel Cooper. Entering the MIT community as a designer with the Office of Publications, Cooper instigated a pioneering career in design. She became the head of the Office of Publications, and also held roles as a Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) Fellow, the head of Design Services, art director at MIT Press, and co-founder of the VLW with Ron MacNeil.

The VLW took a varied approach to design, particularly examining interactive design, but also photography, typesetting, platemaking, and a broad variety of explorations. The VLW was well-connected to both the CAVS and the Architecture Machine Group; and it was one of the original research groups of the Media Lab at its founding in 1985.

Collection Processing and Access

The VLW portfolio binder, along with some slides, videos, and audio, have undergone digitization and are available upon request for research. Other collection materials may be digitized in the future.

The collection may be browsed on request by appointment. Records containing certain personal information are restricted. Access granted to researchers does not imply permission to publish. See Policies page for details. As materials are processed and made publicly accessible via repositories, announcements will be made on this page.

For inquiries on the use of images, video, and other materials, contact ACT’s Project Archivist.. See Policies page for access details.

Other Collections

Materials concerning Muriel Cooper, the Visible Language Workshop, and associated persons exist in varied collections throughout MIT and the rest of the world. At MIT, the following collections may be found at other Institute organizations:

  1. Institute Archives and Special Collections at the MIT Libraries
  2. MIT Museum
  3. MIT Media Lab