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This Just In: Jennifer Morla

The AIGA Medalist, AGI Member, and National Design Award Recipient donates her archive.

Left to Right: AIGA for SFMOMA Lecture Series; Morla Design Lecture for AIGA Los Angeles (cropped); Environmental Poster for AIGA
Left to Right: AIGA for SFMOMA Lecture Series; Morla Design Lecture for AIGA Los Angeles (cropped); Environmental Poster for AIGA.

“Words are as important as images. And images can be more powerful than words.” — Jennifer Morla

Over the course of her 40-year career, Jennifer Morla has tapped into the hidden strengths of word and image. Her work can’t be pigeon-holed into a specific style because she responds so directly to the particular needs of each project, but one common thread is her creative use of letters and visuals – together, in isolation, or in stark contrast. She frequently wields the power of counterpoint, playing word and image against (and for) each other, producing a whole that is even more engaging than its parts.

Originally from Manhattan, Morla received a conceptual art education at the Hartford Art School, University of Hartford and her BFA in Graphic Design from the Massachusetts College of Art. She moved to San Francisco in 1978 and worked as a designer for PBS/KQED where she created show identities and on-air openings. Three years later, she was hired as Art Director for Levi Strauss & Co. After leaving Levi’s, she opened Morla Design and continues to design there every day.

More than a graphic designer, Morla is a quintessential creative director. She is masterful at getting to the crux of a client’s needs, visualizing a unique solution, and then orchestrating the perfect approach, process, materials, and collaborators for the job. Her portfolio is filled with examples of how she’s led designers, photographers, printers, filmmakers, and other craftspeople to do their best work. She’s also a perennial educator, having taught Senior Level Design at California College of the Arts for over 20 years.

Morla has been recognized by virtually every organization in the field of visual communication. Among her hundreds of accolades are the AIGA Medal and the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian National Design Award. You can find her work in essential references like Meggs’ History of Graphic Design and in the permanent collections of institutions like the Museum of Modern Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

We’re honored to announce that Letterform Archive will be the home for Morla’s archive, including design for books, branding, environments, packaging, and posters. The first delivery includes more than 100 objects in print, film, and digital form, highlights from which are shown here.

Selections from the Morla collection at Letterform Archive

All images in this gallery are hi-fi captures. Click an image to enter fullscreen view, then pinch or use browser zoom to enlarge.

This collection will expand the Archive’s holdings of contemporary commercial art. “Our curatorial vision for the Archive is to look beyond the examples of historical printing collected in traditional libraries and museums. We aim to preserve a more complete and current chronicle of graphic design,” said Founder and Curator Rob Saunders. “Jennifer Morla’s work is essential for telling the most recent chapter of that story.”

When it came to placing her archive, Morla told us she was seeking an institution that truly celebrates the craft of graphic design and makes it available to a wide audience. “I am honored to be included in Letterform Archive’s collection,” she said. “Design diversity, historical breadth, and accessibility are the institution’s defining traits. From original concept sketches to the final printed matter, the Archive offers the public a rare glimpse into the creative process and its historical significance.”

We are excited to announce that the Archive’s publishing program continues with Morla: Design, the first comprehensive collection of Morla’s work, ranging from print, branding, packaging, web, and retail store design. Help make this book a reality by supporting our Kickstarter campaign.