October 2011
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Month October 2011

A Thoughtful Explorer : Interview with Victor Margolin

When I was in my early twenties, I set out to create a cosmology. My intent was to explain the relation between the different forces in the world, from the most noble to the most base. Overwhelmed by the hope and expectation that I, a young dropout with a good undergraduate education, might be the one to accomplish what no philosopher in the past had successfully done, I plunged into the vast sea of knowledge and grasped intuitively at straws that held the promise of unraveling the universe’s mysteries
Victor Margolin in the introduction to The Politics of the Artificial

We live in a cacophonous age of ideas, globalism and multi-channel discourse, yet how many enlightened individuals do we personally know? Victor Margolin, Professor Emeritus of Design History at the University of Illinois at Chicago is a prime example of someone who is questioning, exploring, and articulating theoretical and practical dimensions of design within larger social, political and economic frameworks.

I met Victor when I was an undergraduate student in his design history courses at the University of Illinois at Chicago. What made these courses valuable was his rigor, humor, and balancing the showcasing of designed objects and the larger discussions of intentional and unintentional effects these objects had from a social, political and economic perspective. Victor did not teach a streamlined view of design and designers, but the complexity of designing and delving into thoughtful questions and discourse that is rare in today’s design discourse.

His writing is cogent and compelling and he has written, edited, or co-edited written nine books. He was the founding editor and is now co-editor of the academic journal Design Issues, one of the few soundly curated publishing conduits for global perspectives on design since it’s inception in 1984. Victor takes the best of sincere humanism, an unwavering belief that design is important and merges it with a variety of topical areas such as sustainability, service design, and even larger areas of inquiry. One of my favorite books of his is The Politics of the Artificial: Essays on Design and Design Studies, which codified many things I was thinking about, but did not have specific models or concepts for. This book provided me clarity on many levels as both a practitioner and one who is interested in theoretical aspects of design.

While Victor has been retired from teaching for five years, he has not retired from lecturing, editing, traveling and writing. He is currently writing a three-volume World History of Design, which he plans to finish in more two years.
We have been meeting over the years to discuss design and I finally wanted to ask him specific questions and document his responses. Our conversations tend to be convivial, spirited, and focused meandering.

A Man for all Seasons : Interview with Robert Vogele

In a world where everyone is on the road to being their own employer, the art of mentoring by someone who cares about your professional development is quickly disappearing. Mentors shape the next generation’s knowledge and craft of any profession, and without this process, a large gap exists with talented people who were never shaped by experienced professionals.

I have had the fortunate experience over my professional career of being actively mentored by very talented practitioners who honed my skills and abilities to be a better designer and person. Robert Vogele is one such individual who has shaped my thinking about the practice and role of design, and in many ways was an early pioneer of integrating design as a creative endeavor to further overall business goals and objectives.

Bob Vogele has practiced all aspects of design for more than fifty years. His ability to constantly question, integrate and improve design’s role as a strategic activity is recognized by many of his former collaborators, clients, employees and students. He also committed doing this from Chicago, when it was still creatively on the fringe, lost in the middle of the United States. Bob started one of the first design firms to focus on marketing communication in the late l950s. He created Robert Vogele Inc. (RVI Corporation} and went on to be the founder of VSA Partners.

One of Bob’s consulting clients was Anderson Worldwide where Bob and I worked together when I was the Design Director. We would often meet at 6:oo am at his office on South Dearborn Street to review key issues facing the Anderson design group. Bob collects art, people and documentation. He saves everything he finds important in clear plastic envelopes and seems able to find and provide documents to help any design effort. His ability to make connections, understand the political meaning of action and to generate options to consider are valuable skills and these meetings with Bob have stayed with me.

He retired in 2002 from VSA Partners but has continued his journey of understanding and today is just as inquisitive and sharp as he has been since we first met. For this interview we sat in his living room surrounded by Harry Bertoia sculptures and other abstract art to explore things in his life that I was curious about.