More about Lee Spalt
Lee Spalt was a design student in the late 50s and early
60s and remembers attending classes in the basement and
under the north stairwell in the Allyn Building before the
Design Department moved to the second floor of the
newly built Morris Library. The department was divided
into 2-D and 3-D (Product-Shelter Design) divisions.
Check out Lee’s website at:
Twenty questions: I was grilled by Harold Cohen
September 2021. I've been enjoying reading about the history of the SIUC Design
Department and have learned a great deal that was not previously known to me. My
memory was jogged.
My favorite instructors in the late 1950s were Herb Roan, Davis Pratt, Harold Cohen
and Elsa Kula. After leaving the department I taught print making as a grad
assistant in the Art Department. When I returned to work at SIUC in the early
1970s, Elsa and I visited at noon in my office at the Health Service while we ate our
sack lunches. As I recall, Elsa offered an unsolicited critique of my unhealthy white
bread sandwich. I switched to whole grain bread thereafter.
In the early years Davis Pratt taught an introductory course devoted to thought
processes for designers in the basement of the Allyn Building. The focus of the
course was on identifying the "real" design problem underlying any supposed design
problem that was proposed initially. We were schooled on asking the "right"
questions concerning a design problem and spent the quarter playing the twenty
questions game. Our choices of questions and method of thinking was evaluated
The course's final exam was conducted in individual interviews with Harold Cohen,
the department's chair. My final exam interview was scheduled for one of the large,
empty classrooms on the third floor of the Old Main building. I arrived for our
meeting and nervously awaited the chairman. Harold Cohen, a few minutes after
the appointed time, hurried into the room. As he entered, I noticed that his gaze
briefly darted upward at a large, ornate cast iron return air duct grill located high
on the tall room's wall.
After a few words of greeting, we began the exam interview. Harold indicated that
he was thinking of some object and awaited my first question. After pondering my
options, I elected to take a chance and asked, "Is it that grill?" and pointed at the
air duct covering. Harold was incredulous, but acknowledged my correct
identification of his selected item. I don't recall my grade in the twenty questions
Click the picture to open a new window where
you can view a half hour interview with Lee Spalt.
Lee is interviewed by Najjar Abdul-Musawwir, the
host of the WSIU TV Expressions show.
Design at Southern Illinois University