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Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Visible Language Workshop records

Identifier: AC-0665

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Scope and Contents

The Visible Language Workshop records contain materials related to the the original Visible Language Workshop course taught by Muriel Cooper including a sampling of slides she used as teaching aids.


  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1973 - 1994


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open.

Conditions Governing Use

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection or MIT.

Historical note

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 went on to hold roles as a Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) Fellow, the head of Design Services, art director at MIT Press, co-founder of the VLW with Ron MacNeil, and a founding faculty member of the Media Lab.

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.


8 Linear Feet (8 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Visible Language Workshop records is a collection of materials pertaining to the subject of design within the framework of MIT’s arts-science-technology academics. The collection focuses primarily on the work of Muriel Cooper at MIT.

The materials include a binder of collected materials demonstrating the activities, practice, and published output of the Visible Language Workshop, as well as teaching slides, audio and videotape, and presentation materials from a 1994 TED5 conference talk given by Muriel Cooper.


This collection has been arranged in two series: Series 1 - Teaching Materials, Series 2: Audiovisual Materials.

Physical Location

Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.

Custodial History

Materials were originally held in the Archive at the Art, Culture, and Technology program at MIT and were transferred to Distinctive Collections in January 2023.


Materials were appraised by ACT archivist Jeremy Grubman in the early 2010s.

Processing Information

Some collection descriptions are based on legacy data and may be incomplete or contain inaccuracies. Description may change pending verification. Please contact the MIT Department of Distinctive Collections if you notice any errors or discrepancies.

Preliminary Inventory to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Visible Language Workshop records
Jeremy Grubman
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US