Growing up in Toronto and moving to England with his family for a short time, Ken was the kid who always had his eye on the great world and its adventures. He spent a few years in a farmhouse commune, designed poetry books and exhibited photo-derived large-scale portraits in a series of one-man gallery shows.
San Francisco in the magical Seventies, he became what he called "a recovering visual artist and graphic designer." He
moved through a series of illustration and design jobs while producing
and directing animated
One of the works he was proudest of was his film treatment of two Frank O'Hara plays that combined animation and storyboarding with an irony and sophistication that presaged today's graphic novels. He never fully recovered from art, popping up with quirky collages and snarky illustrations for all occasions.
Turning to journalism, he edited the city's pioneering gay newspaper, the San Francisco Sentinel. Eventually, he turned his keen eye and authoritative voice to writing about all aspects of architecture and design. He was among the first to seriously critique and explicate the emerging discipline of web and interactive design. He also created hybrid pieces for early experimental web sites such as Vaitarni River, a graphic novella based on Hindu themes of retribution, and Mystery Guy, a dyspeptic multimedia novella illustrated with his photographs.
He wrote for an international roster of publications and was a contributing editor or regular contributor to Graphis, Metropolis, Critique, Eye, HOW and STEP magazines; he helped define the style of the San Francisco Examiner's new Home section. He was the author of five books, most recently Search: The Graphics Web Guide (Laurence King). He curated several exhibitions devoted to digital art and design. For Openers, the video program on the art of film titles that he co-produced with David Peters, debuted as a two-day program at The Film Society of Lincoln Center and continues to be presented at museums and film festivals in the US, Europe, and Asia.
Ken worked and talked and laughed and opined to his last hour. He died on January 21, 2005, at home in Oakland California, surrounded by close friends.
He is survived by his father: Kenneth Lloyd Coupland of Islington, Ontario; his brother, Peter Coupland of Vancouver Island; his sister, Carolyn Coupland and her partner, Tony Ambrose, of Bath, England; and his niece and nephew, Holly and Rowan, of Bath, England.
There will be no service; donations in his memory can be made to Coming Home Hospice, 115 Diamond Street, San Francisco, CA 94114.