Steven Heller

Steven Heller is a very influential name in the design world.  In addition to graphic design, his works are included in categories such as art critic, author, director, and editor (Famous Graphic Designers).  Currently, Heller is credited with author rights on over 60 books.  Not only has Steven Heller provided his own influence on the world through graphic design, he has also studied and reported on the history and influence of graphic design focuses such as typography and illustration. Steven Heller has held several positions that have provided him a platform to influence graphic design, among these positions, are senior art director at New York Times Book Reviewand U&lcmagazine (Famous Graphic Designers).  Currently, Heller is employed at the School of Visual Arts in New York as the co-chair of the Author Program. Heller has made a strong impact on graphic design.  After a simple search, it is easy to be overwhelmed with the sheer quantity of writing, awards, and appearances Heller has had in regard to graphic design.


Steven Heller was born on July 7, 1950, in New York, New York where he now resides.  During his childhood, he attended a military school as well as a “progressive prep school which is located in Upper West Side of Manhattan” (Paula Scher).  An interesting note is that Heller never actually received a formal art education himself.  At the young age of seventeen, Heller began working for the New York Free Press where he was given the position of art director.


During the first few years at the New York Free Press Heller did not care much about what could be categorized as graphic design, or at least the details of such, but rather chose to focus on illustration content rather than the actual design (Paula Scher).  After meeting Brad Holland, an illustrator at New York Free Press, Heller gained an interest in design and began to research and produce collections on the topic. This newfound concentration was influenced by two individuals, Seymore Chwast and Louise Fili.  It was with Chwast that Heller produced several books, among which include “Art Against War, The Art of New York, and Graphic Style”, that are highly regarded among graphic designers.  The importance of this partnership was that the two had opposing focuses on the works, as previously stated Heller was focused on content what things said or meant, while Chwast focused on what it looked like and made sure it was visually appealing (Paula Scher).  It was the combination of these two that made the works so respectable.


The other major influence on Heller’s rising interest in graphic design, and more specifically typography was his relationship with Louise Fili (“Steven Heller”, NCSU).  Heller began dating Fili and the two would eventually marry in 1983. However, it was during dating when Heller’s interest in typography grew as a way to impress Fili.  The two would then collaborate on several works such as, “Chronicle on Italian Deco, French Deco, British Deco and other beautifully designed compendiums” (Paula Scher).


Heller’s influence on graphic design was largely through print media, it was his position as editor for “design magazines, such as Eye, Baseline, Print and I.D. magazines” (Famous Graphic Designers).  Though he held many positions that put him in a position of influence, one of Steven Heller’s more notable positions was being the editor of AIGA Journal of Graphic Design.  At the AIGA Journal of Graphic DesignHeller changed the general feel of the works (Paula Scher).  Heller sent the journal on a more stern path, this move gave the journal a new reparable name contrary to its former shoddy reputation.  The real significance of this change is how Heller used this new-found credibility to even further influence the graphic design domain.  Due to the notability of the AIGA Journal of Graphic Design, many aspiring graphic designers came to work there at some point in their career, and with his position as editor, Heller had an influence on their work and furthermore the direction of graphic design as a whole.


Steven Heller’s lists of accomplishments, projects, positions, and works are far too long to list in full, however, his self-titled webpage lists a few of his most notable ones. Among Heller’s many accomplishments are “AIGA Medal for Lifetime Achievement in 1999the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame Special Educators Award in 1996, The Pratt Institute Herschel Levitt Award 2000, and the Society of Illustrators Richard Gangel Award for Art Direction in 2006” (hellerbooks).  Heller has also worked on many exhibitions including:


“”Art Against War,” “The Satiric Image: Painters as Cartoonists and Caricaturists,” “The Malik Verlag,” and “The Art of Simplicissumus: Germany’s Most Influential Satire Magazine,” among them. He has organized various conferences, including The School of Visual Arts’ “How We Learn What We Learn,” devoted to the future of design education, and the AIGA’s “Looking Closer: Graphic Design History and Criticism”” (hellerbooks).


These along with the many other references made throughout this biography do not even begin to scratch the surface of the sheer mass of works produced by Heller.


Even though Heller has racked up an enormous number of wrings and accomplishments he is certainly not done. Heller is currently the senior art director of the New York Times Book Review as well as being the co-chair with Lita Talarico of the MFA Designer as Author program at the School of Visual Arts, New York (Famous Graphic Designers).  If this was not enough he is also credited with as the co-founder of the program, he is reported of giving guest lectures on the history of graphic design. With a list of accomplishments like Steven Heller’s it begs the question, where does he find the time to build this extensive resume?


After looking at the life of Steven Heller there is no question as to why he is on the list of graphic designers given for this assignment.  Heller is clearly one of the most influential designers of the late 20thcentury.  Furthermore, he is still working to educate on and promote the field of graphic design.





“Steven Heller.” Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2016. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 1 Apr. 2018.


Biography by Paula Scher. (n.d.). Steven Heller. Retrieved April 01, 2018, from


Hellerbooks, Retrieved April 01, 2018, from


Steven Heller | Biography, Designs and Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved April 06, 2018, from