Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish. Steve Jobs appropriated this phrase from the back cover of The Whole Earth Catalog for his memorable Stanford commencement address , 2005.
Stewart Brand launched this innovative publication in 1968. By focusing on tools, hands-on experiential learning, place, the catalog allowed a new generation to define itself. It was a sort of prototype, analog internet, rich in diversity and depth, irreverant and far-reaching in scope. It was groundbreaking, enlightening, and it spawned a whole group of later publications.
When I read The Whole Earth Catalog as a teenager, I suddenly found a community. There was a vibrant peer group out there that shared and expanded on my developing interests and curiosities. Would I have ever tried living in an authentic Tipi without the WEC? Would I have built a composting outhouse? Become a lifelong backpacker? Maybe. The Catalog simply picked up on the zeitgeist, it didn’t create it. But the style of communication was bold, experimental, inventive. It was exciting as hell.
And it sold. It sold so well that Stewart Brand wanted out, and the Catalog kept spawning new publications, new forms, grounded in the massive success of the original. By 2000, the catalog had mutated into an eclectic and ambitious, but financially struggling quarterly magazine. Editor Peter Warshall posted an ad on craigslist seeking a new Art Director, and I was hooked.
From 2000 through 2002, I art directed and designed seven issues. The process was grueling and chaotic, the funding always tenuous, the rewards difficult to discern. More people in the Bay Area knew Whole Earth from the Whole Earth Access stores than from the magazine, which had a dismal presence on the newstand and mattered to only a core group of aging subscribers. But I was a believer.
Finally, the entire output of Whole Earth is easily perusable online. It is a tremendous archive and valuable cultural resource. The XML data base allows for comfortable browsing and searching. I have posted a few memorable pages from the issues I designed, starting with Winter 2000 and ending with the Fall 2002 issue. The horizontal Antarctica photographs by Stuart Klipper, were run vertically, two on a page, to create a disorienting vision of a vast land of ice.