Jacqueline Casey was a graphic designer best known for the posters she created for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Casey was born in 1927 in Quincy, Massachusetts. She studied for a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in fashion design and illustration at the Massachusetts College of Art (MassArt), graduating in 1949. After graduating, she had a number of jobs, including work in interior design and advertising.
In 1955, she was recruited by fellow MassArt alumna Muriel Cooper to work at the Office of Publications at MIT. In 1972, Casey became Director, taking over this position as her colleague joined the MIT faculty. The two women were among the few working at this professional level at MIT of the time.
During her tenure as Director, Casey became known for designing distinctive publicity posters for MIT events, working alongside Ralph Coburn and Dietmar Winkler. Casey’s designs were influenced by the International Typographic Style recently developed in Switzerland, particularly designers such as Karl Gerstner, Armin Hofmann and Josef Müller-Brockmann.
Casey’s posters generally consisted of a striking image or bold typography, accompanied by informational details in small text. She often used typographic wordplay and visual puns in her work. Speaking of her designs in 1988, she said: “My job is to stop anyone I can with an arresting or puzzling image, and entice the viewer to read the message in small type and above all to attend the exhibition.”
As well as being used for promotion of on-campus events and in MIT publications, Casey’s work was exhibited at MIT, the Chelsea School of Art in London and the London College of Printing.
Casey retired from her role as Director in 1989, but continued to work as a visiting scholar at the MIT Media Laboratory.
Casey’s work is held in the permanent collections of the Library of Congress, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Cooper-Hewitt Museum.
The MIT Museum mounted an exhibition of Casey’s graphic work in 1992, and again in 2012. In addition to the MIT holdings, the Rochester Institute of Technology has a collection of 99 posters, donated posthumously at the designer’s request.
“I just think of the problem at hand, and I solve it in what I consider an appropriate way…There is emotion, there must be. I’ve always thought of design as being a creative act itself, creating something with a lot of emotion and excitement. I don’t see that you can pin it down with any equation.” –Jacqueline Casey
Nicholas P. Negroponte, Director of the MIT Media Laboratory: recalling meeting Jacqueling Casey when he was and 18-year-old sophmore at MIT
“We had lunch together almost every day for four years. During this time I loitered in the offices of Design Services where I learned all I know about Graphic Design. I learned how a design could be at once Swiss in its cleanness, Italian in its imagination, and playful like Jackie herself… Jackei always says she cannot teach. Ha! She does not need to. She has already taught thousands of young designers through her work… Those of us who have had the privilage of working with Jackie did nothing but learn from her insights. She captures the essence of a design program in less time than it takes most of is to understand its constituent parts. What is most extraordinary is that she does all of this with profound humor, which in my mind, is what separates great from good design”