a writer, finding one's voice is a challenge. There is always
the tendency to think of one's self as having a particular
sensibility, whether serious, comic, or somewhere in between.
For a scholar,
the question also arises of how to communicate with different
audiences from the popular to the academic. Scholars sometimes
feel that writing for a broad public reduces the subtlety
of their arguments while journalists and critics are often skeptical
of what they believe to be scholarly pretensions. In my career,
I have sought to address diverse audiences in a style that
varies as little as possible from one to another. I have tried
the intellectual level of public discourse, while also producing
clearly written and accessible scholarly work.
published writings were in the Jester, the humor magazine of
Columbia College in New York. At Columbia in
the early 1960s, I was a literature and film
major. After graduation, I had a variety of jobs, none of which appeared
to be leading to a scholarly career. It was in the late
1970s, when I was well into
my thirties that I embarked on an academic path that led me to become the
first person in the United States with a PhD in design
As soon as
I began teaching at the University of Illinois at Chicago in
the fall of 1982, I was invited to join a
small group of colleagues who were
to found an academic design journal. Together we created Design Issues,
which first appeared in 1984 and is now celebrating its
20th anniversary year.
I was the journal's editor for the first three years and have been a
then. Before entering academia I published several popular books on posters
and propaganda and wrote a number of book reviews for Chicago newspapers.
As a scholar,
I learned to argue with more depth and subtlety although I remained
dedicated to a clear accessible writing style.
I had, however,
voice. It was a number of years after I began to write and edit scholarly
books and publish academic papers that I returned to my interest in
humor. In the tradition
of Kurt Vonnegut's sardonic black wit, I wrote several pieces that
lampooned academic subjects and the academic life. It felt good
to write humor
again and I was now comfortable with it as an alternative to my more
As a student
I had written some humorous ditties but had never taken poetry
seriously. I was disturbed when the Bush administration
to bomb Afghanistan
some poems to protest the action. The poems came to me spontaneously.
I published several of them in an anthology but the others on this
website appear for
the first time.
am presenting here a range of my personal
a good deal of which has been published
of which has had no
other outlet. When I walked the length of Sunset Boulevard a few
years ago, I wrote an essay about the experience but it never appeared
print. I am
to include it here, as it chronicles a unique experience. Other
pieces besides the poems, humorous essays, and personal writing
some of my book
and articles on design. I am not posting anything on the site that
has been published in one of my own books, as there is no need
for duplication. I would simply refer you to the books themselves,
are listed in
I am not sure what I will add to this site in the future, but for
I offer a range of my writings in various genres.
I also invite
you to read the description of the Museum
of Corntemporary Art,
a small private art museum that I direct. Located in my office
at the University
of Illinois, Chicago, it includes more than 400 items drawn from
the heights and dregs of popular culture. All qualify as "corntemporary
they reveal something significant about the human experience.