Biographical / Historical
For more than fifty years, Estelle Ellis has advised American businesses about the changing face of American society: its demographics, its social structures, its values. She has helped these institutions understand social change and address the needs and interests of their diverse customers, audiences, and constituencies. Her work has spanned a period of significant social and economic change affecting women's lives and expectations. These shifts are apparent in her pioneering work for
House & Garden
magazines and with corporate clients including the Kimberley-Clark Corporation, Evan-Picone, and the Carter Hawley Hale group of department stores.
Ellis was born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 12, 1919. She graduated from Hunter College in 1940, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and a minor in Journalism. Her publishing career began at
magazine, which published three issues of Design for Living in 1942, before abandoning the new venture due to war-time paper shortages. Design for Living was aimed at "high school girls and the home economics teacher," and signaled the direction of Ellis' future career. Ellis also worked for Walter Annenberg's
magazine (Triangle Publications), assembling an impressive portfolio of articles.
In 1943, Editor-in-Chief Helen Valentine hired Ellis to help launch a new publication that she had conceived.
was the first magazine to identify young girls as an economically viable market. Ellis combined her strong sense of design and advertising with emerging techniques in marketing to awaken her advertisers to this viable consumer demographic. To personalize the research data, she created "Teena," a fictional character who spoke for her age group and symbolized the typical
Helen Valentine and Art Director Cipe Pineles became mentors in Ellis's life and work. Following the success of
, the trio was asked by its publisher, Street and Smith, to revitalize
and to gear it towards a new segment of female consumers. This decision re-established the focus of the magazine on the growing working woman market. To persuade advertisers to address this group, Ellis distilled market research into a series of publications titled "Interview." The "Interview" and "Teena" reports commissioned by Ellis were among the first market research studies to establish teenage girls and working women as distinct and economically powerful markets. During the period from 1950 to 1957, Charm increased in circulation and importance to the business and advertising communities. After a business merger with Newhouse Magazines,
was incorporated into
magazine, and Ellis resigned to create her own firm, Business Image, Incorporated.
Starting in 1958, Business Image, Incorporated, offered creative marketing solutions to a diverse array of clients. Ellis was among the first to identify the importance of market and product positioning, a key aspect of what today is called "branding." According to Ellis, Business Image, Inc. was dedicated "to helping business understand the impact of social change on business trends." Ellis continued to work with publishing and magazines, and she counted
House & Garden
, and their parent company, Condé Nast Publications, as clients. Ellis worked closely with editors to keep them abreast of "shifting consumer markets, values, and lifestyles." She also advised them on how to convey the relevance of their publications and the consuming power of their readers to magazine advertisers. Ellis took on smaller projects for other Condé Nast publications such as Bride's (late 1960s) and Vogue (early 1970s). Publishing industry clients also included the Girl Scouts of America's
magazine (early 1960s),
Better Homes and Gardens
(late 1980s), and East West Network (1980s), publishers of airlines magazines.
The list of Ellis's clients outside of publishing is equally long and impressive. Ellis's work for the Kimberly-Clark Corporation in the late 1960s and early 1970s is of particular note. In addition to recommending new products for the firm, she guided the development of its Life Cycle Center, a resource for women of all ages-from menstruation to menopause-headed by a professional education director. Ellis joined the Board of Phillips-Van Heusen and produced its innovative publication,
We the People of PVH
. Evan-Picone, Yves Saint-Laurent Fragrances, Scoville, AT&T, and the Jos. Schlitz Brewing Company also were Business Image, Inc. clients.
For some thirty years, beginning in the mid-1960s, Ellis provided a wide range of professional services for New York's Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). She created the successful FIT fundraising campaign/event "One Person Makes a Difference," which raised money for student scholarships. She created programs to build the school's enrollment and its financial support. Ellis's work also promoted awareness of the global fashion influence of New York and FIT.
Beginning in the 1990s Ellis concentrated on writing. She combined her experience in publishing with her personal interests to co-author three books:
At Home with Books: How Booklovers Live With and Care for Their Libraries
(Southern Books, 1995),
At Home with Art: How Art Lovers Live With and Care for Their Treasures
(Potter, 1999), and
The Booklover's Repair Kit: First Aid for Home Libraries
(Alfred A. Knopf, 2000). Most recently, Ellis co-authored
Cipe Pineles: Two Remembrances
(RIT, Cary Graphic Arts Press, 2005), about her mentor and friend.
Ellis was married for fifty years to Samuel I. Rubenstein, now deceased. Rubenstein was critical in the development of Business Image, Incorporated, and partnered with her in the firm for twenty-five of its forty-five years. She has two children, Ellis Marc Rubenstein, currently President and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences, and Nora Jane Rubenstein, Ph.D., a writer, ethnographer, and president of her Vermont-based Place/Space Associates. Ellis died on July 12, 2012.