Roy R. Behrens (born 1946) is a writer and designer who has taught graphic design, illustration and design history for more than 42 years, at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Art Academy of Cincinnati, and other schools. Since 1990, he has been on the faculty at the University of Northern Iowa, where he is a Professor of Art and Distinguished Scholar.
For many years he was associated with Ballast Quarterly Review (a "periodical commonplace book" which he founded in 1985); North American Review; Leonardo: International Journal of the Arts, Sciences and Technology; Gestalt Theory; Print Magazine, and other publications. He has written hundreds of essays and articles for these and other periodicals, including Lotus Internationale, Revista de Occidente, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, Tate Etc., and so on.
As a graphic designer, he has illustrated books, short stories and poetry by Jerzy Kosinski, Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, Joseph Langland, and other American writers. In recent years, he designed Dean and Geraldine Schwarz's massive book on Marguerite Wildenhain and the Bauhaus: An Eyewitness Anthology, chosen as a Recommended Book for 2008 by the blog Design Observer. Described by Communication Arts magazine as "one of the most original thinkers in design," he was a nominee for the National Design Awards in 2003.
Among his other recent books are FALSE COLORS: Art, Design and Modern Camouflage (2002), COOK BOOK: Gertrude Stein, William Cook, and Le Corbusier (2005), CAMOUPEDIA: A Compendium of Research on Art, Architecture and Camouflage (2009), and SHIP SHAPE: A Dazzle Camouflage Sourcebook: An Anthology of Writings about World War I Ship Camouflage (2012). He is married to artist Mary Snyder Behrens, with whom he is co-proprietor of Bobolink Books.
"Nearly everything I write about is more or less related to a concern that I had as an art student (in the 1960s) about what (if any) aspects of art, design, architecture and other so-called "visual arts" are objective, universal and enduring. This led to a study of vision, and, inevitably, to the question of how to subvert vision (becloud, prevent, mislead), which of course then led to camouflage.
At about the same time, I began to explore the idea of an analogical link between (perceptual) figure-ground diagrams and (conceptual) Venn diagrams. I enrolled in an architectural course in which I designed dwelling spaces that were essentially spatial puns, logical contradictions or category errors. In part, this came from reading books by Michel Foucault, Claude Levi-Strauss, Gregory Bateson, Christopher Alexander, Thomas Kuhn, Arthur Koestler, E.H. Gombrich, Edmund Leach, Morse Peckham, Colin Turbayne, Robert Venturi, Charles Jencks, H.G. Barnett and others who had written about what is sometimes known as translogical thinking or metaphorical thinking.
In time, I also came to see that camouflage is itself translogical and, at least to some extent, it is deliberate category violation or (in Turbayne's words) sort-crossing."