To my dad design was not an art, but a trade, with simple, verifiable rules. Dad was fascinated by the transformation of logic into visual symbols and the use of those symbols to persuade. He taught me to look at the world as a puzzle that could be decoded, and delight in the dreams that lead people to attempt grand acts. The interviewer in me came from my dad, who took me everywhere with him and talked with everyone he met about what they knew and not what he knew. With Dad I visited gas stations, design labs, sale barns and photographers' houses. Dad collected ancient books for their typography and printing, and was forever fascinated with the kinship between social history and visual history.
My first view of history was formed as a child, as my dad and Neil Kleinman worked at our house on their book, A Search for Aesthetic Reality in Germany, 1890-1945; The dream that was no more a dream, (1969 Harper & Row). Immaculately illustrated with images from the late 1800s through the mid 20th century, their book analyzes Germany's enduring symbols and concludes that, "the way in which a society explains itself -- the style and purpose of its history--is...as important as the specific content of its history." It wasn't until I finished my book, 12 Japanese Masters in 2001 that I realized that I had approached the same questions in a different nation: how does our visual environment change the way we think and act? How powerful is the manipulation of symbols, conscious or not?
The Camera Lucida
UNCLE SAM-"Boys, this is the first year in my business career that I have sold more manufactured goods to you foreigners than I have bought from you. Now what do you think of a protective tariff?"