Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Midget Autopia Inspirations

Midget Autopia Drivers

The early 1950's were an inspirational time in the automotive industry. GI's returning to America from duty in England and Europe had been exposed to sports cars; two seat roadsters which were built for speed and fun rather than practicality. Auto makers in Detroit would begin to jump on the bandwagon with the Corvette, but would not successfully enter the market on a large scale until the early 60's.

Custom car builders in Southern California began to respond to the new found sports car lust with sleek, feline, fiberglas bodies which could be built onto existing chassis and motors. Two of these independent designers would introduce cars in the mid 1950's; Victress and Glaspar. Kaiser Motors also introduced their short lived Kaiser-Darrin 161.

In the midst of this styling frenzy, another creative genius, Walt Disney, wanted an automotive themed attraction for Disneyland that would be fun for little kids. It was called the Midget Autopia. To help build it, he turned to Arrow Development, who had created the vehicles and track for Snow White's Scary Adventures and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

Arrow had been making kiddie car rides since the early 50's.  Their flagship model was a sporty two seat roadster called the Arrow-Flite Super.  It was introduced at the National Orange Show in 1953.



In addition to the Arrow-Flite, Arrow had been selected by Kaiser Motors to build a few dozen small scale replica push cars of the Kaiser Darrin 161, for advertising purposes.

Arrow Darrin Jr. Production line in 1954

With their experience in fiberglass, kiddie car design and manufacturing, Arrow was a shoe-in for Disney, but a close look at the body style of the Midget Autopia cars reveals that the Midget Autopia car wasn't an Arrow-Flite Super or a Darrin 161 knock off.  There were similarities, but the Midget Autopia's swooping lines and feline fenders were much closer to the style of cars from another company that also did work for Disney; MAMECO, who did the original Autopia cars.

MAMECO Autopia Cars

MAMECO had collaborated with Glaspar in the creation of the 1953 MAMECO Ardun-Glaspar G2. It was born in 1949 when Bill Tritt helped Ken Brooks design a body for a car that Ken was building. At the time, Tritt was making small fiberglass boat hulls in Costa Mesa.  Bill convinced Ken that fiberglass was the ideal material for his new hot rod's body shell.

1953 MAMECO Ardun G2

The G2 was a beauty and won a lot of races. The fender line was sinuous. Some of the features on the Midget Autopia cars also bear a striking resemblance to yet another 50's kit car; the 1954 Victress S-1A;


Victress S-1A Line Drawing
The Victress Manufacturing Company introduced the S1 sports car body in 1952. William Boyce-Smith was in his final year at UCLA when he started working with his good friend and fraternity brother Hugh Jorgensen to design a car that "Doc" Boyce-Smith wanted to be more stunning than all the sports cars of its era. Hugh began on a design that would, in Doc's words, “out Jag the Jag," referring to the XK-120. The result was a stunning, two seat roadster with elegant, yet racy lines;

1950 Jaguar XK-120


Victress S-1A

Lining up the four bodies side by side highlights the shared features. The swooping fenders, wasp waist and provocative headlamps of the Victress are readily apparent, but the tail light treatment is clearly Darrin.

All of which were born, along with Disneyland, in Sunny Southern California.





Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Experiences with Robert McKim


The design of products from the 1950s through 70s were illuminated by designers like Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, and Eliot Noyes. Their iconic works, such as the IBM Selectric Typewriter and the distinctive Westinghouse Electric Manufacturing Company logo, stand as testimony to why corporations in the post war period needed the skills of graphic, industrial and architectural designers as well as mechanical and electrical engineers.

In 1957, recognizing the need for design education in Stanford’s curriculum, provost Frederick Terman hired John Arnold from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to lead the effort. Arnold became founding director of the Design Division and began executing on his vision of human centeredness and creative engineering. Arnold next hired two PhD students; Robert McKim (Pratt) and James Adams (Cal Tech & UCLA), and together they laid the foundation for what became Stanford's “Joint Program in Design” (JPD) a multidisciplinary program combining engineering, art, and creative problem solving.

When Sindey Parnes, Ruth Noller and Angelo Biondi compiled their encyclopedic, 400 page, Guide to Creative Action in 1977, they cataloged the work of dozens of academics and researchers studying creativity.  Parnes also contributed writings on problem solving methods and idea generation techniques which discussed the Osborn-Parnes Creative Solving Process.

Guide to Creative Action refers to McKim's Experiences in Visual Thinking as a "classic" and included a full chapter on Relaxed Attention because it "stressed the nature and importance of of relaxation and attention in the creative process" and as an introduction to "valuable exercises in visual thinking." We may never know exactly why Parnes, Noller and Biondi selected only those six pages of Experiences in Visual Thinking for inclusion and ignored McKim's other 21 chapters. Fortunately, we have access to all of Experiences in Visual Thinking.

In the Introduction, McKim immediately turns to thinking; asking what is is, how to observe it in ourselves and the importance of flexibility in thinking. From there he develops and explores some background and preparation for the process of thinking visually and then dives into the process of using visualization, imagining and idea-sketching in problem solving.

The last few pages are a "strategy index" which diagrams his idea of a problem solving process flow, including methods and techniques;



These images lack the raw simplicity of McKim's Express-Test-Cycle view of problem solving, but provide significant insight into his ideas of a comprehensive problem solving process utilizing imagining, drawing and seeing.

Still in its second printing, and available on Amazon, Experiences in Visual Thinking is a still a valuable reference after over three decades.






Monday, August 28, 2017

The Road from Hypothetical Situations to Design Thinking

Publish or Perish
(Cartoon by Nick Kim, Massey University, Wellington)

Chapter Two of Part Three of Guide to Creative Action (1976) is an article by J. H. McPherson entitled; The People, The Problems and the Problem Solving Methods, which was reprinted from the Journal of Creative Behavior in 1968. The majority of the article is a spreadsheet of 18 problem solving methods varying in length from two to eight steps, including methods proposed by individuals including Dewey, Guilford, Osborn and Parnes, organizations including General Electric and the US Military and areas of study including Synectics and Operations Research.

Of particular interest is the entry for "Hypothetical Situation" by John Arnold with the following two-step description, three years after Arnold's untimely death.
  • Develop a hypothetical situation with many unusual conditions.
  • Using this situation as a stimulus, design practical answers to fit the situation.
Today, this approach is called Project Based Learning, a teaching method where students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge. John Dewey promoted the idea of "learning by doing" as early as 1897,  in his book My Pedagogical Creed.

Arnold's classroom notes and material cover a much wider range of approaches and activities than are described by McPherson, with the creative process being a kind of problem-solving, distinguished from analytical decision-making. Arnold believed a handful of results made an outcome "creative":

  • A better combination, not just something different.
  • Tangible results; something you can see, or feel or react to in some fashion, not just an idea.
  • Forward-looking in time, relating to society’s needs, not merely “recreative.”
  • A “synergetic” quality—the value achieved in the combination is much greater than the sum of the parts (a multiplicative effect).
Arnold also believed that creativity can be enhanced by scientifically understanding the inventive process and improving it, so that it becomes more organized and deliberate with a step-by-step approach. Arnold defined a framework for the creative process involving a combination of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation in three phases:
  • Question and Observation (Preparation / analysis)
  • Associate (Production / synthesis)
  • Predict (Decision / evaluation)

The value of a creative result was judged by its increased function, improved performance, and lowered cost. The most important aspect of the creative process was in figuring out what people need and thus would want to buy, in other words; technology applied to human-centered business.

Arnold sought to balance analytical approaches to technology by combining different perspectives for understanding and solving a problem, advocating a broad perspective. He stated that challenges of “the modern age” called for engineers to be bold, devising entirely new kinds of solutions.


Saturday, August 26, 2017

J. P. Guilford Discovers Empathy in the Creative Process

J. P. Guilford

Donald W. MacKinnon credited J. P. Guilford with stirring the scientific study of creativity with a presidential address to the American Psychological Association in 1950. Guilford is best remembered for his psychometric study of human intelligence, including the distinction between convergent and divergent production. He proposed that three dimensions were necessary for an accurate description: operations, content, and products.

In November 1964, The UCLA Brain Research Institute, in conjunction with the United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research, sponsored a conference on Brain Function and Learning, the proceedings of which were published in 1967.   In one session titled Creativity and Learning, Guilford characterized creativity as a learning process.

In addition to expanding the definition of creativity Guilford brought in another element which would not gain traction for another half century; empathy. What follows is an edited extract from Guilford's presentation;

"It is quite appropriate that there should be a session devoted to creativity in a conference on learning. A broad, non-popular view of creativity recognizes an act as creative when there is something novel about it; novel, that is, for the person performing the act. The act must also be relevant, a qualification added to distinguish the creative output from the productions of the schizophrenic or manic.

Novel behavior means a change in behavior, and change means learning when “learning” is defined as a relatively enduring change in behavior as a consequence of behavior...

The conclusion that learning and creativity are much the same phenomenon can be reached by another route. From my fifteen years of study of the intellectual aspects of creative production, it seems apparent to me that creative thinking can be equated essentially with problem solving.

Identifying these two phenomena with each other does seem to deglamorize the topic of creativity, and perhaps takes away some of its mystery. On the other hand, it gives some added significance to problem solving, which has been quite commonly recognized as an important instance of learning. 

By its nature, a genuine problem is a cognized situation for which the organism appreciates that it has no ready coping response; something new or novel must be done - in other words, a creative act. I use the term “appreciates” here deliberately, within implications of either conscious or human qualities."


Guilford's Model of Brian Function

In the area of behavioral information - my students found evidence for, and I added a category with, six new factors… the kind we get from cues other people give us (through what we see or hear) about our own states of mind, feelings, intentions, perceptions and so on. This represents what some people call the area of “social intelligence”, or the area including “empathy”, which may be equated with behavioral cognition."

nGram of Creativity and Empathy.

Creativity and Empathy doesn't begin to appear the in literature much until after 1960, with local peaks in 1970 and 1990. One paper; Promoting Creativity in Young Children, (2000) associated creativity and empathy in childhood education. n it, Alice Sterling Honig specifically addressed the relationship between creativity and empathy for others. Another reference is found in Martha Raile Alligood (1986); The relationship of creativity, actualization, and empathy in unitary human development.




Friday, August 25, 2017

Who Inspired Alex Osborn?

History may  have been kinder to me, if I'd written it.

Based on numbers of book editions, copies printed and sold, Alex Osborn inspired millions of people to become more creative. But who, or what, inspired Alex Osborn? His books are filled with ideas and opinions, supported by stories and quotes, so perhaps we can discover who he admired and learned from.

In the introduction to Your Creative Power; Osborn gives thanks and credit to nearly two dozen people and specifically mentions the books they wrote;
  • Julius Boraas (Teaching to Think)
  • Alexis Carrel (Man the Unknown)
  • James B. Conant (On Understanding Science)
  • Robert P. Crawford (Think for Yourself)
  • Paul de Kruif (The Microbe Hunters)
  • John Dewey (How We Think)
  • Ernest Dimnet (The Art of Thinking)
  • William H. Easton (Creative Thinking)
  • Joseph Jastrow (Effective Thinking)
  • T. Sharper Knowlson (Originality)
  • Matthew Thompson McClure (How to Think in Business)
  • Johnson O’Connor (Ideaphoria)
  • Harry Allen Overstreet (Let Me Think)
  • James Harvey Robinson (Mind in the Making)
  • C. Spearman (Creative Mind)
  • Graham Wallas (The Art of Thought)
  • J. F. Dashiell
  • Floyd C. Dockeray
  • Fryer and Henry 
  • A. T. Poffenberger 
  • F. Wayland Vaughan
  • W. B. Wiegand


Which of these authors did Osborn rely on most heavily? Consulting the Index and searching the text reveals his favorites;
  • Thomas Edison - 23 mentions
  • James B Conant, - 16 mentions
  • Alexander Graham Bell -10 mentions
  • Dr. Alexis Carrel - 7 mentions
  • Paul de Kruif, Paul - 7 mentions
  • Dr. R. W. Gerard - 6 mentions
  • Walt Disney - 6 mentions
  • Henry Ford - 6 mentions
  • Ray Giles - 6 mentions
Thomas Edison's contributions relate to the value of first hand experience, persistence, cautions about perfectionism and stubbornness, the value of optimism, self-confidence and courage, not fearing failure, dealing with discouragement, the value of curiosity, quizzes and puzzles, the principe of substitution, multi-tasking, luck, building on the work of others, and being open to all possibilities.

Osborn used Conant to illustrate the value of creative imagination, lots of wild ideas, withholding judgement, role reversals and time travel in ideation, following thru on accidental discoveries, the tradeoffs of working singly or in groups, the power of science in creative activity, the value of precision in experimentation, iteration, and the power of mixing science and liberal arts.

From Bell, Osborn learned that age need not be a damper to creativity, The Rule of 3 in self-education (Observe, Remember, Compare), the need for new facts, being cross-disciplinary and cross cultural, and the importance of finding out things for one's self.

Dr. Carrel emphasized the value of awareness, curiosity; pursuing the "impossible and unknowable," and persistence.

Osborn seems to have used de Kruif as a philosophical counterweight, as his quotes are typically about some great inventors being arrogant and overly confident.

Gerard emphasized the value of analysis in the creative process.

Disney was used to illustrate the power of what Osborn termed vicarious imagination, the importance of exercising your imagination like a muscle, exaggeration and transposition in ideation.

Henry Ford was used to illustrate that there is value in imagination other than money, that lateral thinking can lead to success, the importance of persistence and creative leadership.

Ray Giles also advised to be persistent in the face of discouragement, asking "Why not...?", recording everything and going for quantity in ideation and asking various forms of "What if..."; "What new use...", "What other use..." and "How might we..." questions.

This list of ideas and suggestions which inspired Osborn and which he used to illustrate the chapters of his book provide a useful reference to anyone interested in expanding and enhancing their creative problem solving skills.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

20 Questions on Design Thinking


The popular question and answer game "20 Questions" often opens with; "Animal, Vegetable or Mineral?" If we were trying to get at the root identity of Design Thinking, we might start with; "Does in involve Feeling, Thinking or Doing?" The correct answer would be "Yes!"

Whether you prefer to think of it in the context of Root Cause Analysis, Effective Problem Solving, or just Learning, there seems to be broad agreement that several steps are involved. Here is one expression of a seven step process;

Step 1: Identify the Problem
Ask what the problem is. There may be multiple issues within the problem.

Step 2: Define Goals
Try to define your goals specifically, while making them as realistic and attainable as possible.
Step 3: Generate Ideas
Write down all ideas, even the ones that seem absurd or bizarre. Try to find 6-8 varying alternatives when resolving a particular problem.
Step 4: Assess Alternatives
For every alternative you formed in the previous step, weigh the positive effects and negative consequences that each solution would bring. For every and any option, determine its advantages and its risks.
Step 5: Choose a Solution
Carefully weigh all solutions. Think about which solution can highlight the positive effects that matter the most and which solution produces the mildest consequences.

Step 6: Prototype Solutions
Don't worry about "failures" - they are steps on the pathway to success.
Step 7: Evaluate the Results and Iterate
 Take and newfound knowledge, rturn to the beginning, and try again.

This looks a lot like the Science Technology Engineering and Math cycle;


And the Engineering is Elementary (EIE) Design Process being taught in Elementary Education today;



So, with these clear similarities in all these processes, is there anything about the Stanford/IDEO model of Design Thinking which sets it apart from the others? The answer is an unequivocal Yes! but we have to drill down a bit to find it because none of these models specifically highlight it in their images.

Let's look at two representations from IDEO Published materials;

Hexagonal DT Phases
Loopy DT Process

Let's take a closer look at the front end or Inspiration Stage of the "Loopy DT Process";

This phase is where a deep understanding of the user is developed thru observation, which leads to the creation of a persona and Point of View statements.  This section corresponds with EMPATHIZE in the Stanford/IDEO Hexagon model published by Kelley and Brown.

It is the inclusion of this element; which requires "emotional" intelligence, that is the single biggest differentiator between the Nigel Cross' (Cognitive) version of Design Thinking and the John Arnold / Stanford / IDEO (Comprehensive Design) model.

It is also 1/3 of the ways that Design Thinking can deeply fail. Can you guess what the other two are?



Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Design Thinking as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy


If you've been following this blog for more than a few months you may recall some of my earlier postings where I compared Design Thinking to core concepts in other areas like Bloom's Taxonomy in teaching and Adizes' model of management theory. Today we're going out on the limb again, but this time in the realm of psychology, to compare DT with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This was prompted by my recent discovery of a graphic used to describe CBT, The Thinking - Feeling - Behavior triangle;



In layman's terms, cognitive behavioral therapy helps you learn to change your thoughts, feelings and behaviors so you feel better. By targeting your responses to situations, CBT can help you react more effectively in challenging situations, and even learn to feel better when you are unable to change situations happening around you.

Three areas of interest

Comparing these two; business is behavior, technology is the thinking and people are the feelings.

Although I had seen both of these before, I hadn't noticed the parallels between the three part (Feelings, Thoughts and Actions) brain model and the Feel - Think - Do/Build and Empathy - Technology - Busi-ness triads of Design Thinking or the meta-level Design is a process of Learning framework. Of course, now that I see it, it seems obvious. 

Another obvious parallel is that in CBT human needs are the focus of the process.