Muriel Cooper at her desk.

Visible Language Workshop Archive

1973 – 1994

The Visible Language Workshop Archive is a small collection of videotapes, 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.


The Visible Language Workshop was derived in 1973 from a course, “Messages and Means,” taught by Muriel Cooper, who had already spent two decades at MIT. Entering the MIT community as a designer with the Office of Publications, Cooper instigated a career in design that is most often described as “pioneering.” She became the head of the Office of Publications, a CAVS Fellow, oversaw the transition of the Office of Publications to Design Services as its head, and then its final iteration as MIT Press as art director before leaving to co-found 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 printed (and often designed) posters and other materials for campus groups, and was well connected to both the Center for Advanced Visual Studies and the Architecture Machine Group. The VLW became one of the original research groups of the Media Lab in 1985.


Collection Processing and Access

The VLW portfolio binder has undergone digitization and will be made freely, publicly available on this site in fall 2016. Slides documenting VLW work and academics are currently undergoing digitization and will be available in spring 2016.

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.


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 Institue organizations:

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