PeopleFaculty, In Memoriam

John Neuhart

John Neuhart passed away Monday, September 19, 2011 at noon. The department of Design Media Arts mourns the loss.
"My first recollection of John’s work was his collaboration with Charles and Ray Eames on the solar powered do nothing machine which was produced around 1957. I was still a student at UCLA studying Industrial Design and was greatly impressed and inspired by the work of the Eames office. When I taught classes in the design department at UCLA from 1977 to 1986, I was able to observe John at faculty meetings and was often intimidated by his breadth of knowledge about everything, he truly was a walking encyclopedia. John had a number of mannerisms and was quite animated in his conversations and discussions, the most distinguishing being his unfettered laughter which sounded like some kind of exotic bird call. I will miss the presence of John at our design luncheons as he always brought his insight and acute awareness to our discussions around the rotating tables of Chinese delicacies."
— Don Chadwick

"John Neuhart was a walking library and center of information. I learned much from him."
— Vasa Mihich

"I first met John when he served as a consultant to the Irvine Unified School District interactive television project in 1978. While we were trying to find ways to integrate 2-way television and data into an educational context, John and Mits Kataoka kept an eye to the future. John's delicate inferences seemed to tease ideas and potential "experiments" from our group of early adopters. I think that was his gift: the ability to coach and to prod, to ask intriguing questions and then to relate them to a larger context. I have such fond memories of those days. For many of us it served as the gestation for our own future work."
— Craig Ritter

"John Neuhart's real name was enthusiasm – as he was always able to meet a problem, share an idea, build a strategy, or open a door with enthusiasm!"
— Bernard Kester

"I never had John as an instructor while in graduate school in the UCLA Design Department (in the early 1970's), but I can count John Neuhart as a valuable mentor and influence on my life and career. Some of my fondish memories of my time at UCLA were our impromptu lunch gatherings in John's office. John would have so much to say about so many different and interesting topics that, in essence, I was a willing captive. John served as an inspirational member of both my MA and MFA committees. After graduation I stayed in touch with John and on occasion I would bring my wife, Michiko, to John's office in El Segundo. Michiko also took an instant liking to John. On our last visit a couple years ago, John took great pleasure in showing us his amazingly-detailed model he created of the Eames' Venice Office. John's model was terrific, but what really stole the show, was his joy in showing it to us."
— Art Durinski

"John Neuhart was my friend, associate and mentor. John taught me about myself by revealing himself to me. John was an educator and designer by simply living his life. John understood that play, curiosity and personal exploration are the underpinnings of intellectual, emotional and spiritual growth. John saw connections between things that were invisible to others. John also understood that visual communication is as important to being able to find your way in the world as any other part of the puzzle. I am indebted to both John and Marilyn for their gracious and tenacious ways and for their constant belief and trust in me."
— Fred Licht

"In the 1970’s, after seven years of teaching in a LAUSD middle school, I had a "crisis of confidence" and wanted "out." I presumed that a certain skill in bulletin board design opened the option of enrolling in UCLA’s design department. I know now that I was casting about for a new and satisfying presentation techniques, a new "vocabulary," a method of arranging material, of focusing content succinctly -but within the classroom I thought I wanted to leave behind me. John Neuhart, who became my advisor, led me, with the lightest of touches, to this understanding. He had spent his life mastering design, collaborating with fine creative minds, being part of projects that exercised his natural gifts- and yet he was never impatient with my inadequacies; he never ridiculed my "pipe dreams." What he did do -so gently, so subtly - was lead me to see the lesson plan as an exercise in design, in its best principles. The hour with my students became a rationally directed, satisfying, even memorable for them and an aesthetic pleasure in its creation for me. John helped me find a voice that elicited a human exchange, a conversation rather than one that dictated. He turned me confidently back to the classroom and a 40 year career - for which I shall always be grateful - and he was a lovely man."
— Phoebe Faulkner

John Neuhart: "I think of his quick sense of the beauty of good design where ever John found it, the warmth of his smile, his curiosity, and his strong advocacy of the importance of the artist within the academic world. John was generous with his time when I was a student new to design and will never be forgotten. His clarity and love of design is enduring and transformative."
— Scott Hutchinson

"When I first came to know John Neuhart in the early 1970s I had just entered the graduate program in design at UCLA where he was an advising professor. During our discussions mostly about design or art or just about anything, he always impressed me with his boundless enthusiasm and generosity in giving of his time and insights. I saw him as one of those dynamic teachers who motivates students while freely sharing ideas. In the ongoing years since UCLA, my wife, Nancy, and I have enjoyed the friendship of John and his wife, Marilyn.I think of John not only as a designer, educator and friend but mostly a kind, sincere and spirited human being."
— Morris Zaslavsky

"I met John Neuhart in the early 1970s when he was a faculty advisor to my husband, Morris, while working towards his MFA. A graduate of Parsons School of Design, I was picking up freelance graphic design work here and there. John generously recommended me for a job at the Eames Office-and my world changed. I often worked with him on exhibitions, films and accompanying graphic materials. During my years at the Eames Office and UCLA, where I later taught in the Extension Program, I met extraordinarily talented people I am proud to call my friends to this day-most, if not all of them-John Neuhart fans."
— Nancy Zaslavsky

"When I was a grad student at UCLA during the late 70s I had the good fortune of having John Neuhart as one of my advisors. He gently opened up a design world to me that was vast but humane. He brought this world into the classroom as well with sparkling intelligence and a great sense of fun that was apparent whether it was in his delight of the well-designed mundane object or his gleeful account of a design project gone haywire."
— Kathryn Kanehiro

"When, in 1972, I was recruited by UCLA to be a Visiting Lecturer in the Design Area of the Art Department, I was twenty four years of age, and fresh off the boat from the UK. John Neuhart immediately took me under his wing, guiding me through the ropes of professional life on campus. We visited the Eames Studio together, talked about typography, film, the use of audio-visual aids to learning and exhibition design. My own self-education developed through John's generosity of spirit. He became in many ways my mentor throughout the three years I taught at the University. Through each year, we occasionally "team-taught" a class, and served on graduate committees together; it was a lot of fun. A shy man who enjoyed people; John was always receptive to new ideas and, with his many exceptional gifts, able to expand one's thinking. In many ways I found the confidence to embark on the next phase of my life through John's example. We did not see much of each other after this time but when, on occasion, we did meet John would pickup from where we left off and the cycle of inspiration got underway all over again. I will always be grateful to John Neuhart, hold onto his memory and keep those 'lessons' close to my being. My thoughts are with Marilyn, Andrew and Ben at this time of their great loss. Much love John; until we meet again."
— Peter Goulds

“On a personal level that I found him to be a gentile, interesting and enthusiastic human being. He was special, and will be missed by all of us who knew him. I now feel for Marilyn. I can sense the loss of her best friend."
— Diane Mills

"John Neuhart - Quick steps, talks fast, special shoes, running, loves to giggle. never needed a degree, his hat, always focused - Used to say that he draws with an x-acto knife I remember a trip around the world every night different place, (Tokyo, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Paris, London, John, Marilyn, Susan)"
— Mits Kataoka

"John was effervescence. I can still hear his voice. I remember the raw throaty laugh punctuating all he sought to express as his ideas pushed words out in his singular style. I remember how he puttered: with a snow-globe, a book, a paperclip; each of these certain to become fodder in making a point. I admired his storytelling and came to expect it would ultimately raise a question, illustrate an irony, or expose something essential. It was the most engaging process, a wonderful way to learn. I remember a late afternoon, huddling on the floor of John’s narrow office with a few fellow graduate students from the Video Lab. As a T.A., I was exhilarated with the possibility of saving the Planet, using new technology, and yet, how could one find balance with all that such an ambition would require? And as I spoke, John looked at me. Cutting through everything, he said, “Your job is to find out who YOU are. Your job is to become yourself...In the still patriarchal, yet revolutionary atmosphere of the early ‘70s, I was stunned to hear that might be possible."
— Shelley Gazin

"I met John Neuhart on several occasions. He always struck me as someone that had arrived to earth in a time machine, like the character 'Doc' in Back to the Future. With his genuine curiosity, his bulging bug-eyes, and incredible thirst for knowledge, I always felt like I got smarter (and curiouser) by just standing near him. Last time I saw him, he came to a presentation I gave at SciArc many years ago — Mits Kataoka and Casey Reas were there too. John used to chuckle when he would say to me as a subtle and elegant form of praise, 'I like you John, because you strike me in a nice way ... just like when you find a shiny penny.' Personally, I always felt like knowing John Neuhart was like finding a shiny gold doubloon. You will be missed John."
— John Maeda

"John Neuhart had vast interests - always ready with some totally unexpected new information. He found humor in things and made life a delight. What I liked most about him was his giggle — I knew then something was up, a happy story would be told."
— Susan McCoin

"I first met John when I was a design student at UCLA. The precious time working or hanging out with John was such a joy. The free flow of ideas on an endless range of topics was enhanced by his open, generous nature. He had so much to teach, so much to give. There never seemed to be enough time. The advice, coaching, guidance-the stories-were all gifts. Typically, our discussions seldom took a straight path. They were provocative excursions full of humorous side trips, turns, curves, and on occasion even veered off topic. I learned not to worry about where we were headed; it was best to jump on and enjoy the ride. In the end I was always in a better place. When we landed my concerns were replaced with renewed energy and excitement. So good-bye John, and thank you for sharing your passion for typography and design. Thank you for the stories. Thank you for the time"
— Greg Lynch

"I met john neuhart when I taught typopgraphy at UCLA for the first time in 1976. He introduced me to David Kindersley at that time. Kindersley was visiting from England and giving some lectures on letter spacing at UCLA. John had brought him in to talk about the system he developed that helped determine the correct amount of letter spacing for type. I didn't know it at the time, but Kindersley was one of the foremost experts in this field — he apprenticed with Eric Gill. At the time I knew nothing of Kindersley and yet 35 years later I am still looking at his contributions. Eventually I learned this was typical of John's instructional technique. He knew I needed to know about this very specialized typographic endeavor and saw to it that i was made aware of the contribution. I am grateful to have known John."
— Joe Malloy

I first met John Neuhart at his studio when I was a student of design. I fondly remember my conversations with him in his studio about print, typography, furniture, craft, and fabrication as he shared glimpses of his process. He was an inspiration to me and was a kind, gentle soul that had an appreciation and taste for art and design that seemed emanate from his very being. He left a great impact, and will be missed."
— Gabriel L. Dunne

“Sir John Neuhart was my graphics professor at UCLA. John love to tell stories, but I was more concerned about getting a job. As an African American in a white dominated field, I told him of my concern. He agreed it was going to be ten times harder for me to be successful in this field and allowed me to take a special independent graphics class with him the next quarter. Kind, sensitive, genius of man was John... He will be missed."
— Dr. Dyke "DK" Redmond

I was still a novice graduate student in the winter quarter of 1970. Mits Kataoka suggested in that way he encourages, but tells, “Oh, you’ve got to take a class from John!” And so, without knowing, I dutifully signed up for an independent study.
I told John I signed up. He suggested I come the next week with some ideas. Next week came. I had no great ideas. I didn’t even have any just regular ideas. At best, I had about half of a not very good idea. I trudged to his office, this half a not very good idea cradled in my closed hands. I was scared to death. I certainly didn’t want to show it to anyone. John asked what I had, what I was thinking about?
“Oh, I don’t really have anything,” my shame filling the room, squeezing out all the oxygen.
“Nothing ..............?”his curious reply.
“Well ........................., I have this crummy half an idea.”
“Oh......, well, let me see it,” he said gently.
“Ahhhhhh, I don’t know,” but I opened my cupped hands just ever so slightly. John leaned over and looked. “That’s not so bad.”
I looked down and the idea seemed better than before. I opened my hands a little bit more.
He leaned over and looked again,“Actually, it’s pretty interesting!”
I looked again and sure enough the damn thing was better. It had started to glow.
“You could do all sorts of things with this” his eyes twinkling. “Do you know this person, they’re doing these things?”
His excitement banished my shame. He giggled enthusiastically with his hiccup like laugh while suggesting I find out about this or that. The oxygen rushed back into the room. I opened my hands wider and looked again. The idea was glowing intensely. It had begun to vibrate eagerly. I could hardly contain myself as it pulled me out the door into it’s exploration.
Six years later, I was preparing myself to teach a class in the Design Department at UCLA. The most important question seemed, what kind of a teacher did I want to be? I first thought about my history of being harmed in teacher/student relationships. I had many experiences. It is in the nature of humans to unconsciously do to others what was done to them. I did not wish to perpetuate those experiences on my students. And then, I asked whom do I want to be like? John was the top of the list. I could never be John. So, how could I find that part of me that was John-like? How could I pass that part on?
Following in your wake,
— Tom Leeson

"When I showed up at the Design department, a tech guy from Math-Sciences with no feeling for how things work at the north end of campus, it was John who sat me down and gave me the low-down info and gentle encouragement I needed to be comfortable in that environment. I still picture him making suggestions and asking me questions about what was right for me. To this day I appreciate his empathy and kindness."
— Jack Bowman

"I heard about Prof. John Neuhart months before meeting him. In my first few weeks of working at UCLA, his friend and colleague Prof. Mits Kataoka gave me a much-needed "schooling" on the history of the Department of Design and the significant impact that some of the faculty played in the course of the department, as well as in the larger field of Design. So I learned about John’s work well in advance of meeting him and his wife, Marilyn, at a UCLA alumni luncheon. Over the next year and a half, I had several opportunities to spend time with John and Marilyn to discuss their time as UCLA students, their post-college careers and their craft. I also spoke to them about their desire to give back to UCLA. Our conversations, which were delightful and spirited, revealed a man who seemed to greatly enjoy teaching. And both his and Marilyn’s desire to support the university revealed a great generosity and gratitude. Earlier this summer, John and Marilyn donated important papers from their work at the Eames studio to the UCLA Library Special Collections, which will provide students and scholars with a valuable resource and important look inside of the design process of that era. This is one way that John’s legacy will live on here at UCLA."
— Vincent M. Cummings


"In August 2010, the Neuharts drove out to Palm Springs to see us in our new home. Before lunch John, Andrew and Ben began to unload boxes, many boxes, containing hand tools that had been a part of John’s studio workshop. These were the hammers, drills, pliers and C- clamps, many C- clamps, that had assisted him in creating so many amazing projects: the fabulous Victorian doll house he made for his grand daughter Eve, as well as the exact scale model of the Eames office in Venice, California, that was featured in Marilyn Neuhart’s recent book, The Story of Eames Furniture . For absolute accuracy, he went to Venice to count the actual bricks on the original wall. In these boxes, there were packets of brads that were so miniscule that were not unlike dental implants. As the unloading of boxes continued to unfold, I asked John if it didn’t seem strange that an 82 year old man was handing down this treasure of tools to a 77 year old man. He replied that he didn’t know too many people who still had use for such things. John pointed out one antique tool he bought at a second hand store. He didn’t know its function but he loved the design. He was never able to put it to use, however, he thought I might. No more than three weeks before his passing, Veralee and I spent over an hour talking with John in his living room. Dressed, as always, in muted colors, with a vest, he told us about a book he’d just begun and reviewed one he’d just finished, that he then gave to Veralee. He spoke about his granddaughter recent graduation from high school and her entrance into college at Bennington, VT. With his generosity of spirit, he asked about the birth of our second grand child. He touched on the Eames office years and some UCLA recollections. As we prepared to leave, he insisted on following us out to our car to say goodbye to Willy, our dog. Out on the street he told Willy that he was a really good dog and he thanked us for being such good friends for so many years. It was only then that I realized that he was also saying goodbye to us. "
— Jim Bassler

"The interesting thing about John Neuhart, the teacher, was that he had this habit of commenting about students' works or ideas by prefacing his comments with the initial words, 'The interesting thing about...' What this represented for me was his openness to the student's creative process and his encouragement of that process. John got people to explore ideas and areas that would have been squelched by a more insistent kind of instructor. John also had a twinkle in his eye that will be missed by us who knew him well."
— Avi Engel

"Remembering John...
I'm trying to remember just what John taught me
in my days in his senior seminar classes..
and I can't remember anything specific.
no techniques, no theories, no tricks...
but rather or maybe it was a state of mind,
being in the 'design mind.'
yes, he was always enthusiastically interested,
creatively supportive and
had an unflagging curiosity of all things
and all ideas."
— George Kochi

"Ever since I entered graduate school at UCLA in June 1968, I felt that John has been watching over my work. He was also one of the three members in my Master’s committee. As a teacher, he tried to expand the possibilities by hinting on parallel ideas. Unfortunately, my limited knowledge in English was a great obstacle in fully understanding his teachings, and therefore it is difficult to say what I learned from him in concrete terms. However, I can truly say that his sincere attitude towards design was very provocative and stimulating. When I returned to UCLA to teach in 1975, it was John who introduced me to Charles and Ray Eames, with whom I was able to develop a long friendship. Around the time of my graduation, John was working on special effects for various successful films, and I remember him advising me to work in the field as well. Although I did not go into that field, it was a turning point in my life as a designer. He was no doubt an important mentor who I respect very much. May his soul rest in peace."
— Takenobu Igarashi

"When I hear the name John Neuhart, I first hear the sound of his irrepressible giggle. It preceded any of his statements about work, about design, or about life. Whether in a faculty meeting or a graduate review, it was as if he could not push out the words fast enough because his laughter would get in the way. There was a race between his rich insights and his contagious sense of humor. He seemed to enjoy everything , and to be especially proud of his dexterity and his mastery of the X-Acto knife. He was a legend in our department and will be deeply valued and sorely missed."
— Bill Brown

"He taught me that a designer can do anything, that typography is more than a series of letters, that there is a responsibility for being alive, that what you inspire in others is bigger than yourself and that there is humor in everything. He loved the possibilities, the connections, and the unseen conclusions that come from hard work and a shared experience. He loved structure, process and ideas. He loved my Mom. As well as, chimps dressed in suits."
— Ben Neuhart

"Though I didn't have the privilege to work closely with John at UCLA, I remember his positive presence and insightful wisdom and advice, always presented in such an enthusiastic, delightful way. His work, especially his link to the Eames studio, presented a great experience to pass onto so many students."
— Rebecca Allen