I grew up in Ohio in the 60s in a suburban milieu where design was seldom seen and never discussed. My parents encouraged my interest in art, which was in my pimply junior high school days a first a hobby, then an obsession, and finally a refuge. My earliest clients were my classmates who needed decorative lettering for the fall sports banquet, posters for the senior play, and convincing simulations of R. Crumb for their notebook covers. I still remember the thrill of discovering that this method of servicing the varied worlds of jocks, drama nerds and stoners wasn’t just fun but actually had a name: graphic design. I am now in my fourth decade of working as a graphic designer. My clients are different today, but the motivation is still the same: to use the tools of visual communication to enter into other worlds and engage with people I might never know otherwise. For it turns out that graphic design is a social activity that rewards the curious.
It was curiosity that led me to join Jessica Helfand, Rick Poynor, and the late Bill Drenttel in creating Design Observer. Writing about design was a way for me to think about the work we designers do, why we do it, and the effect it has on the world. I also discovered that, like the design process, the act of writing was a way of engaging with different subjects, subjects as varied as cold war diplomacy, baseball, the history of the telephone company, standup comedy and corporate corruption. The Design Observer audience turned out to be varied as its subjects, and as that audience grew, so did our range.
Design Observer was conceived in the world without Twitter or Facebook. Today, the quick satisfactions of social media have proven as effective a way of driving a conversation as any other. But the kind of deeper exploration that first drew me to Design Observer can’t be limited to a fixed number of characters or aimed towards an infinite number of likes. It was that kind of exploring I loved to do here ten years ago, and that I hope to do for many years to come.