D.B. Dowd is a writer, illustrator, and scholar who studies the history of illustration, the practice of drawing, and the hybridity of reading and seeing. He is currently under contract with Princeton University Press and Quarto Books, London at work on Reading Pictures: A Cultural History of Illustration. The project tells the story of illustration as a dimension of and contributor to the rise and fall of reading in North America, Europe, and East Asia from the fifteenth century to the twenty-first.
He serves as Professor of Design & American Culture Studies at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University, where he teaches in the MFA in Illustration and Visual Culture program and the undergraduate communication design major. He also serves as the Faculty Director of the Dowd Illustration Research Archive (DIRA), named in his honor in 2016. DIRA collects materials associated with 19th and 20th century illustration and comics.
Dowd publishes books and zines under his imprint Spartan Holiday.
His book A is for Autocrat: A Trumpian Alphabet, Illustrated (Spartan Holiday Books, 2020) won a national gold Addy award from the American Advertising Federation in 2021.
Dowd’s book Stick Figures: Drawing as a Human Practice was published in 2018 by Spartan Holiday Books in association with the Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies. Recent essays include an assessment of Rockwell’s Four Freedoms for for Enduring Freedom, the Norman Rockwell Museum’s traveling exhibition (2018) and “Nostalgia Illustrated: N.C. Wyeth, Advertising, and American Cultural History” for the Brandywine Museum retrospective, N.C. Wyeth: New Perspectives (2019).
Illustrations from Spartan Holiday, Dowd’s illustrated travel journal, have been juried into American Illustration and Society of Illustrators annuals.
He earned a B.A. in history from Kenyon College in 1983, and an M.F.A. in
Printmaking from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1989.