I was supposed to be a lawyer.
During my last semester of high school, I acted as special executive intern for the Mayor of New York. I was a student in the city’s accelerated public education programs, and after high school I was supposed to go on to study law.
At this point, you may be asking yourself: how did someone who was supposed to break into the world of law end up getting her master’s degree in design at ArtCenter. . . and later, starting a renowned Typography Center?
Maybe it’s best if I backtrack a bit. After hearing the word juxtaposed, I did a 180 degree turn after high school and decided to study fine art. As you could probably imagine, my mother, a single parent raising four children, was not pleased. I had gone from the early stages of a potentially stable career in law, to a new found passion for (gulp) art. I completed my BA and decided to pursue an advanced degree, still in the field of fine art/art history. Yet I had to eat, pay rent, etc. – all those trivial things.
A friend of mine who was a graphic designer helped me to understand the basic nuts and bolts of the graphic design field. She also introduced me to a small firm that was looking to hire.
At the time, I had no experience, no degree in graphic design, and only the most rudimentary understanding of what design entailed. She encouraged me to take the plunge, to give it a try. So I did.
Determined as ever, I proceeded to learn the skills that I would need to succeed. I worked overtime and sought out mentors and design firms in NYC where I could hone these skills. I found that I was actually very good, better than good. I thrived in the field of graphic design, eventually being hired to establish an in-house packaging studio for Avon.
But I wanted to legitimize my learned-by-doing knowledge of design and typography. Even though I now had years of professional experience and was running my own small design studio, I came to ArtCenter to earn a master’s degree. (It cost me the sale of my beloved sapphire ring to pay for my last semester.) Yet it was here that I fell in love again not only with words such as juxtaposed, but with the letterforms that were used to create them.
I was supposed to reenter the professional design arena but I was persuaded by my mentors to give teaching a try.
I came into contact with Leah Hoffmitz Milken – a legendary teacher at the College – during my first semester of teaching. Unlike my patchwork quilt of experiences, she was a typographic thoroughbred who had studied at the renowned Basel School of Design. Over the course of the next twenty plus years, Leah would become my best friend, a beloved colleague, and someone who would change my life forever.
Leah and I shared more than just time together. We shared students. We shared our thoughts on the work they produced. We shared our thoughts on typography, although from two ends of the technology spectrum. She created the digital font design program and I became the director of Archetype Press, ArtCenter’s letterpress studio. We shared a unique and symbiotic creative bond.
Today, the Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography lives on as Leah’s legacy. Our mission is to advance and elevate typography on a global scale. Home to a dynamic program of classes, lectures, exhibitions, and symposia, the HMCT also supports students and faculty, and partners with all ArtCenter departments.
One of the things I remember most when I think of Leah is our shared love of language, our passion for typography, and the way that letterforms converge to make the shapes we know as words.
I guess I was never supposed to be a lawyer.
Professor & Executive Director, Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography
FullCircle Board Member
MFA 93 Graphics/Packaging