These are a few of the print articles I've written on design, media, and popular culture. As I’ve gotten more into writing books the past few years, I’ve cut back on the number of articles I write, but I still consider myself a print journalist first and foremost.
This article, which was the cover story of Southwest Airlines magazine’s April 2014 issue, was a joy to write and had quite an impact (stories in airline magazines, which serve a captive readership, really get read and digested, I discovered). The story of the determined and courageous inventor Van Phillips, and how he used questioning to find his way to a groundbreaking new prosthetic foot, was one of my inspirations for the book A MORE BEAUTIFUL QUESTION. Here, I got to explore the story in detail, as well as update people as to what Van is up to these days.
I’ve written for lots of magazines, but I think some of my best work has been done for Wired. I’m not a techie, but I love the Wired view of the world: It’s all about how things work, and how they might work differently in days ahead. Most of my stories for Wired have tended to deal with design in one form or another.
The article “Lost in Space” examined the ambitious attempt by Jay Chiat to design the world’s first truly virtual office—and how it all went haywire, with sometimes-hilarious results (not that Jay thought any of it was funny at the time). Wired submitted this for a National Magazine Award.
In “Adventures in the Toy Trade,” I traveled inside the mind of a quirky toy designer named Ralph Osterhout, a guy with a mysterious CIA-type background who went from making night-vision goggles for the military to making cute little “bots for tots.”
In “Schwag Bag,” Wired asked me to trace the origins and the design of “schwag”—all those little freebie items that get handed out at public events, conventions, banks, etc. I learned of a multi-billion business that all started with an ex-con who figured out how to make piles of money by stamping corporate logos on little pens and ashtrays. And I looked at how modern-day swag designers around the world come up with ideas for an endless variety of tchotchkes known as “promotional products.” This article led to an NPR “Studio 360” (scroll down to 4/27/02) radio segment where I talked about the design of swag.
In “Life Sucks and Then You Fly,”I examined a new species known as “hyperfliers”—business travelers who spend more time in the air than they do on the ground. The piece also looked at attempts to reinvent the future of air travel by redesigning planes, airports, etc. This article was selected for the anthology book “Best Business Stories of the Year,” published in 2001 by Random House.
I’ve written lots of articles for the Times through the years. Started out writing a Sunday Business column for them, called “What’s New.” (Here’s an example that looked at new trends in corporate logos and trademarks.)
Eventually I became a regular writer for both the Sunday Arts & Leisure section and the Times' weekly television magazine, doing stories on people in the independent film world, such as this.
And here’s a story I wrote about one of my favorite TV channels, Animal Planet.
Occasionally I did some design features for the Times, such as this front-page Styles piece profiling the graphic designer David Carson.
I used to write for the LA Times Sunday Magazine, including the cover stories shown here; most of the stories were about advertising or television.
Some people might think Reader’s Digest is kind of un-hip, but reporters know that RD researches and reports its stories more painstakingly than just about any magazine out there. And it’s also read by more people than any other magazine in the world. Click on the above image to read the Tiki Barber profile I wrote. Also check out this RD story, “Me Me Media,” about the trend of people creating their own personalized media—and the pros and cons of that, from a societal standpoint.