Habitat: Louise Fili

Louise Fili photographed in her Kips Bay studio. KATHERINE MCMAHON

Louise Fili photographed in her Kips Bay studio.


Habitat is a weekly series that visits with artists in their workspaces.

This week’s studio: Louise Fili; Kips Bay, New York. “They were going to raise their rent from $12,500 to $50,000 per month, just like that!” Louise Fili said, discussing a Manhattan restaurant whose logo she designed and which was recently forced to close. “When I started my studio, I realized that you can never really depend on any one client. The other thing I learned quickly is that you really have to balance your own projects, because that’s the only way you can grow creatively and find your own voice.”

Fili is perhaps best known for her influential hand-drawn logos and branding, which she’s created in her studio since 1989, but she has also photographed signage in Europe for close to 40 years. “The photos were meant for my own enjoyment and reference—reproduction was never my goal,” she said. “But as technology improved, I reached a point where I could consider putting these photos into a book. Ironically, it was the same technology that was making the signs disappear—to be replaced with clumsily crafted computer type. I felt a sense of urgency to record as much as possible before these images were gone forever.”

In addition to her day job as a designer, Fili teaches at the School of Visual Arts and recently created a line of pencils that she says has become popular with the burgeoning community of adult coloring-book enthusiasts. Fili collects pencils from all over the world, and named CW Pencils on the Lower East Side as a recent source of inspiration. “It’s a young woman who is really passionate about pencils and just sells pencils from all over the world,” she said. Fili has work in permanent collections of the Library of Congress, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, and the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. Below, a look around her workspace.


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