A native of San Francisco, Louie graduated from the California College of Arts and Crafts. For several years she worked in the Bay Area, at that time a hotbed for graphic design. In 1982, at age 26, she moved to New York. After freelancing briefly, she landed the Vintage Contemporaries job through her new boyfriend—soon husband—fellow graphic designer Daniel Pelavin.
The Vintage Contemporaries design didn’t come quickly. Louie did numerous drafts of the first cover in the series—Raymond Carver’s Cathedral—and, says Pelavin, ”took a great deal of pride in the process.”
The series was a critical and commercial success; Bright Lights, Big City sold 300,000 copies in two years, and publishers raced to start their own knock-off imprints. But by the early nineties, personnel and tastes within Vintage Contemporaries had changed and the design was phased out.
Louie would continue to design covers until her death in 1999. Though she revolutionized book design, she never received much fanfare. And according to Pelavin, that was just fine.
“She was never much impressed with fame,” he says. “It was much more important to just do meaningful work.”