After his discharge from the Marines, Caplan re-entered Earlham College, graduated, and went for his Masters Degree at Indiana University.
In 1941, Caplan entered Earlham College for a semester, then enlisted in the Marine Corps. He was 17 years of age at the time. He later taught at Wabash College, then moved to New York City, where he became editor of Industrial Design.
He left Idaho to write his first book, a novel, Say Yes, which was loosely inspired by his experience at Earlham and Wabash.
Author of By Design: Why There Are Number Locks on the Bathroom Doors in the Hotel Louis XIV and Other Object Lessons, Caplan also writes about design for major design magazines and is a Director Emeritus of the International Design Conference in Aspen, Colorado. He is the author of The Design of Herman Miller, and was a consultant to that Michigan furniture manufacturer for more than 20 years.
His book, Cracking the Whip, published in 2006, is a selection of his essays on design and its side effects. Caplan teaches design criticism at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and writes for various print and online journals.
(Design is a necessity, not something merely desirable if ...)
Member of advisory board Childesign, New York City, since 1987. Advisor Innovative Design Fund, New York City, 1986-1990, Pratt Institute Graduate Program. Corporal United States Marine Corps Reserve, 1943-1944.
Member Industrial Designers Society American (honorary), Society of Typographic Arts (honorary), Society of Environmental Designers (honorary), American Institute Graphic Arts (board directors 1985-1990).
Married Deborah Frank, September 9, 1956 (divorced 1978). Children: Aaron, Leah. Married Judith Ramquist, August 20, 1982.
Stepchildren: Stacy Ramquist, Michael Ramquist, Stephen Ramquist.