own educational experiences reflect most of the conditions
and practices of the period between the end of WWII and the
early sixties. Design education was quite different from what
it is today. I think it is important that students and young
teachers know the evolution of design education as a means
for better understanding present conditions in Graphic Design.
I consider myself extremely fortunate in my own educational
background. My schooling began at the University of Nebraska
under the GI Bill in 1946. At that time, the GI Bill paid
for your tuition, books and supplies, and provided $65 a month
for living expenses. The benefits applied to the school of
your choice, and if you transferred to another institution,
the benefits went with you. I chose that institution because
both of my parents had attended. My father had earned a degree
in Geology from the university.
At the University of Nebraska, I began with a double major,
one in Geology and the other in Advertising Design. My father
was a geologist and I had grown up reading his books. The
text on geology was not particularly interesting, but the
sections on paleontology were fascinating. I learned all the
major geological periods and read everything available on
prehistoric life, especially on dinosaurs. I was particularly
impressed by the illustrations, exhibit backdrops and dioramas
of Charles R. Knight at the American Museum of Natural History.
I wanted to do that type of art, but it would be necessary
to have a degree in geology before studying paleontology.
Fine Art and Advertising Design were available to me, and
even though I had no interest in advertising, it seemed more
related to my goals than Fine Art. However, my teachers in
Advertising Design were painters. At that time, I was allowed
to take only three credits of studio art each semester; all
the rest of my classes were academic. After two years at the
University of Nebraska, I felt frustrated because my interests
were in art. My problems were compounded because I was not
doing well in Geology classes, and I also held two outside
jobs. I worked at Dewey & Wilson Displays,a silk screen
shop. My job was artwork and cutting lacquer stencils. My
second job began as an elevator operator but soon broadened
to collecting rents and cleaning offices evenings and weekends.
My grades dropped. The Veterans Administration called me in
for an interview. I was told that decision time had arrived;
either it was school or job, not both. The best solution for
me was to transfer to a school where more art classes were
available, and to not take an outside job. I knew only two
art schools, one in Minneapolis and the other in Kansas City.
Two letters of application were addressed, one to Art
School, Minneapolis, Minnesota and the other to Art
School, Kansas City, Kansas.At the time, I did not realize
there were two Kansas Cities and one was in Missouri.) By
chance, both letters arrived at the proper destination. Both
schools sent letters of acceptance. I could not make up my
mind as to which letter should be accepted. A coin was tossed,
heads for Minneapolis and tails for Kansas City. Kansas City
won, but on reflection, it was decided that fishing was better
in Minnesota, so I went to The Minneapolis School of Art in
1948. So much for big decisions! Later, when I moved to the
Kansas City Art Institute as a teacher, I always believed
it was fate catching up with me for reneging on the coin toss.