The following is from an on-going project begun in 2006, called "Culture by Design." It centers around the history about how art and design have driven our culture and transformed technology.

The following is from an on-going project begun in 2006, called "Culture by Design." It centers around the history about how art and design have driven our culture and transformed technology.

This project provides the basis for Media/Culture Magazine.



The Ardeche River valley in the Pyrenees Mountains southeastern France, near Vallon-Pont-díArc, is rich with caves and is a spelunker’s paradise. The more scientific of these cave explorers, called speleologists, are geologist-archaeologists, and in December of 1994 a trio of them, led by Jean-Marie Chauvet, made a discovery in one of the larger of the caves which would set art history back over 5000 years.

   Along with some fossilized bones of extinct animals and more recent evidence of cave bears, there were remains of hundreds of paintings on the cave walls. Protected by the chill and darkness of the cave along with just the right amount of humidity, these spectacular paintings have been dated back roughly 30,000 BCE, 5,000 years before the more sophisticated Magdalenian art unearthed in the 1870s at the Lascaux (Fr) and Altamira caves.​

 The red-orange-yellow pigments were intentionally mixed from earth, iron oxide, juniper berry juice and human spittle, and perhaps animal blood. The animals’ forms are stunningly accurate and are depicted purposely in a flattened perspective, which suggests a deliberate attempt of design. That some of the later ones are painted to the outline of crags of the rock walls, and they are depicted in an amazing relief.

 This must have been humbling to the artist/viewer in flame-light. Though there are hand-prints, there are no paintings of people on the walls, itís generally understood that these prehistoric Rembrandts were of the Aurignacian Culture who existed in the Upper Paleolithic era between 34,000 and 23,000 BCE. They were also a tool-making culture, which explains the deliberate gouging around the shape of some the animal forms. So here is the first recorded instance where art coexists with technology. It is the oldest marriage in history and its stepchild is culture.

 During the same time that Chauvet was deciphering the prehistoric art on the walls of the cave that would bear his name, 23-year old Marc Andreessen, sat in his Mountain View, California office a half a world and 30,000 years away. Marc was at the horns of a dilemma. Following the lead of MITís Tim Bernhers-Leeís experiments in the development and use of hypertext some 12 years earlier, he and his classmate Jim Clark had developed Mosiac, a software mechanism to tie in hypertext to a searching venue: a browser.

  All the elements were in place to make this happen, but the problem was how to market its potential to a general public who had no idea of what the Internet was. The public was indoctrinated to something called the “Information Super Highway,” but they believed that it was some sort of process used in the high and secret levels of government, the military and big-budget productions like NASA. There was no way that a family merely keeping up with car payments could afford something that elaborate. And besides—what would the public do with it once they had it? To Andreessen, it must have been something like trying to pitch motorized flight to a horse-and-buggy consumer base.

    Though many of potential users may have had computers in their office, few had them in their homes, not to mention modems, to run the browser. And though there were commercially released browsers such as Prodigy (which started out as a Sears product packaged with their home computers) and Compuserve (which was regarded as strictly business, and not very user-friendly), they were limited and regarded as unnecessary for general use. Andreessen was undaunted by this and continued refining Mosaic to make it more intuitive.​

    Meantime, his alma mater, the University of Illinois, was not willing to allow him to use the name “Mosaic” as a commercial browser in that he began his work on it there. He changed the name of his browser to Netscape Navigator, and released it to the public in October 1994. Soon he met Ken McCarthy, an Internet marketer who saw the potential of Netscape. Within a few months, inexpensive household computer modems became available, and more and more people began to link to the Internet via Netscape. Andreessen received more than he had bargained for, as his timing was so correct that Netscape and the Internet gave rise to a whole new cultural shift.

    These two simultaneous events, one about as prehistoric as can be imagined, and another, so futuristic in thought, yet so right as to cause an overnight surge in cultural development have one crucial link which puts them right together: Culture thrives on information and communication in order to flourish and grow. Paradoxically it also shows that this growth has become fickle, whether it has lain dormant for 30,000 years, or is an overnight sensation. The Cave paintings are timeless. Andreessen, the wunderkind of 1995, and an example of the strength of the dot-boom era, began to quickly loose ground with Netscape which was overtaken by Microsoft's Internet Explorer in 1997, once the Internet was firmly in place as an intuitive (soon to be dominant) means of interaction.​

   Through the Internet, information grows on top of itself into communication, and communication is how we have come to define ourselves. Andy Warhol stated in 1969 that: “In the future everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.” Now that it is the future and that 15 minutes of fame has been reduced to a sound byte and a My Space snapshot in light of our shortening attention spans, as the “Me Decade” of the disco seventies has become the “I-AM” generation of today.

 It’s all based on the formula:




and Culture by Design is all about that. F.H. Gombrich states in The Story of Art that there really is no “Art with a capital “A.” but there are artists. Can the same be said for design? Art is free flowing, where design is governed by the canons of commercialism and as such is more    deliberately “structured.” Whereas art comes from the artist’s imagination, does design come from a sense of purpose, driven by focus groups and consumer appeal? This book and DVD will attempt to measure the influence of art on design and by extension upon culture. 

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A new calling for a new generation—

JFK welcomes new volunteers for the Peace Corps, a youth initiative he established soon after he became President.

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

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I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

It wasn't until roughly 10,000 years later that humans were depicted in the cave art among the animals, suggesting that perhaps animals were considered more sacred than humans.


The crags in the rock walls and the hanging stalactites provided a fertile surface on which the artists could add dimension to further enhance the rendering. The art became interactive with the stone forms.

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PROMOTING culture's love affair with THE AUTOMOBILE

Part 1 1900-1950s


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1903 Studebaker Electric

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1910 Detroit Electric

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1910 Detroit Electric-- Interior

From the horseless carriage and the motor-car up to the SUV and AMX; from top speeds 20 miles per hour to 160, cars have defined our status and our personalities. During their first 50 years, the automobile had evolved from curiosity through toy, necessity, status symbol, then to muscle-car. They have sped up the culture making it easier and faster to get from point A to point Z, and all points in between.​

     In the 19-teens, electric cars were popular and relatively easy to drive, as long as you went short distances before the four-six batteries died out. One of the more well-known production models was the Detroit Electric. Some of the models were designed with a roomy carriage designed and were like traveling parlors with many of the appointments of home. The fast Stanley Steemer could reach a speed of almost 130 mph and won many road races. But because it had a steam-powered engine, it was a traveling pressure cooker, which could explode with dire consequences. More practical and serviceable autos were being developed to run on petroleum, an industry also evolved during the time, rivaling, then surpassing, the railroad industry. A growing number of automobiles impacted short-distance train travel, and then longer distances as cars could go greater ranges.

     By extension, petroleum and the need for it to fuel autos enhanced the Gilded Age, making the Rockefellers very rich, and as well commoners who invested too freely in Standard Oil. That is, until the 1929 crash. Arguably, the need and the promise for gasoline to power the growing popularity and necessity for an automobile lay at the base the economy. The car also became a vital key in evolving the innovative new technologies that would power The American Century.​

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1926 Buick Coupe

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1911 Ford Model T

Since the beginning of the 20th century, cars have been a symbol of our culture...

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1935 LaSalle

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1926 Hupmobile Eight

     Naturally, their design had changed as well, from boxy into sleek to collaborate with the laws of aerodynamics—to speed us up even more. The media has influenced the symbol of the car more often than not. Advertising, also born with the century, pushed the desire for status, and men imagined themselves as regular Rudolf Valentino’s driving their $8-$10,000 Packard Phaetons. It was a dream that could reach deep down into the household savings, but the car was something every man simply had to have, and the classier the better. With the suffragette movement, the focus of cigarette and car advertising became women. The car was a symbol of independence, and the suffragette dream.

The two-seater roadster replaced the road yachts of Hollywood and they appealed more to the general population.​
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1939 Lincoln Zephyr

     The Great War had little impact on American automobile production, but ads pitched the bicycle as an economically popular substitute. Into the Roaring 20’s, advertisements for cars again depicted them as sportier and fun, and a little less expensive. The two-seater roadster replaced the road yachts of Hollywood and they appealed more to the general population.​

  The depression impacted steel and iron manufacturing early on, and by extension the production of cars. In the Dust Bowl, the rusty, ten-year old family Ford Model-A served as a Prairie Schooner to migrate the destitute to the West, much like the Conestoga’s of the 1840’s Westward migration. Some dust-bowlers tacked magazine ads of cars on their raggedy cabin walls as incentive, to remind them of what once was, or could be again. Though the Ad Agencies may have thrived during the Depression, Car ads became subtler. Advertisements pitched more practical things, like soap and beans.

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1940 Hudson 6

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1944 Ford Bomber Parts

1947 Dodge

     During the mid-late thirties and into World War II, car design went from boxy to round, taking on more of a teardrop, aerodynamic look. Two-seater Roadsters became more powerful Coupes with very small back seats. Ads began showing more prices of cars (as long as they were reasonable) as a ploy for more buyers. Sexy convertible coupes were pitched as economical and distinctive. They could be had for as little as $1,800-$4,000, as the car once again became popularized.

     Once the war began, iron and steel production shifted to the war effort, and the production of tanks and Aircraft. Kaiser developed the Jeep, a rugged four-passenger vehicle, produced in the tens of thousands. Kaiser also developed a new, light and pliable metal, Aluminum, for the production of aircraft. It took manpower to produce these things, and much of the manpower was fighting abroad. Women replaced the male workforce the factories, and through that became a powerful symbol of production. “Rosie the Riveter” was a real person, but also a Madison Avenue symbol for war-power at home.  It also empowered women, at least until the men came home to their jobs and they resumed their status as home-makers, mothers and wives.

     During the War, advertising played into the drive for patriotism. The focus shifted from popular consumerism to industry and military machinery. There would be fewer ads for vehicles (except Jeeps), but more for tires, nuts and bolts and the parts and optimism needed for the war effort. Petroleum for the family car was diverted overseas for the scores of planes, Jeeps and tanks. Driving and fuel became rationed as night-time driving curfews were imposed.

During World War 2...There would be fewer ads for vehicles (except Jeeps), but more for tires, nuts and bolts and the parts and optimism needed for the war effort.

     When the boys did come home to reclaim their civilian jobs, business was booming. Jeep frames still sitting in factories by the thousands, became the chassis for new cars, such as the Kaiser Henry-J. It was a serviceable vehicle often used as a second family car, because families could now afford two cars. And houses became more economical as the construction boom provided more housing tracts, such as Levittown in Long Island. This was commutable to New York, where the emerging middle class worked, and they could drive their second car into the city. And once the city train lines branched into these suburban communities, men used their second car to drive the short distance to the town railroad station. Wives used the main, often new car for shopping and to drive the kids to school.

     Aluminum once used for fighter planes and bombers allowed for freer shapes of automobiles to make them sleeker, and a basis for more advertising of cars. Now the buyer, home from the war and with more spending power, controlled what the advertiser pitched, and we became a consumer culture. But even all this couldn’t foresee the seismic shift to come in the near 1950s that would change the nature of  Advertising to saturate a vital consumer culture. That would be television, and the subject of part two of this series to come in a later  issue.

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1947 Chevy

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1947 Studebaker 

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1948 Studebaker Pick-up Truck

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1948 Nash

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1949 Lincoln

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1949 Cadillac

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1949 DeSoto

Ad reproductions courtesy of Vintage Ad Browser 

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