Heller, a Jew, has been both praised and pilloried for his willingness to publish such charged imagery, sometimes alongside short texts on the Internet. Still, he has made significant contributions to the design world—Scher credits Heller with moving American design writing away from what she calls the "starchy journals of the '50s and '60s" and into a narrative discussion of design and society. Last week, he received the Cooper-Hewitt's Design Mind Award, which recognizes a professional who has "effected a paradigm shift in design thinking or practice through writing, research, and scholarship."
"The worst design writer is one who doesn't tell a story," Heller tells his students. "Facts are nice, but it'd be better to have the facts telling you some tale of highs, lows, and woes."
Heller is not himself a designer, but he has designed the way that Americans think about the genre—through that mountain of books and articles he has produced and by shaping the aspirations and goals of younger writers, too. And he shows no sign of slowing down: He's got four books already slated for release in 2012.