A Brooks Stevens concept.
Aaron Cole’s post about automotive patent art gladdened my heart. Years ago, I decided to check out some of Les Paul and Leo Fender’s original patents on their electric guitars and I discovered the artistry of patent drawings. These days the United States Patent and Trademark Office, as well as patent offices around the world, accept digitally produced artwork. However, before the digital age, an inventor had to hire someone skilled at technical drawing to produce the various exploded and see-through sketches needed to describe the “preferred embodiment” of a process patent.
Of course the “inventor” of a design patent — a slightly different form of intellectual property that protects the design and look of a product — is more often than not, the actual designer.
Following up on Aaron’s post, I decided to put the names of some notable automotive designers into a patent search engine to see what I could find. My hypothesis was that in the case of a design patent, particularly for a car, the artwork for the patent application was likely to have been drawn by the designer. A patent is a big deal to any engineer or designer and he’d likely want to be the one responsible for representing his own idea best.
Back in junior high in the late 1960s, we had an assignment to write about “the good life in the year 2000″. Since I regularly read magazines like Popular Science and Mechanics Illustrated, it wasn’t too hard to put something together about edible silverware (didn’t happen) and microwave ovens (did). Perhaps that’s why I like the site Retro Future so much. There’s something meta about looking back into the past at how people looked forward into the future. While researching the Brooks Stevens Studebaker concepts I came across this 1963 clipping from the Milwaukee Journal. Stevens was based in Milwaukee and his hometown paper reported on a panel at the SAE congress in Detroit which featured Stevens and Richard Teague, who was by then the head of styling for American Motors after stints at Chrysler, GM and Packard. Stevens worked as a contract designer for a variety of non-automotive companies in addition to his work for Studebaker. The topic of the SAE panel was the car of the future. Stevens had a grandiose plan for a rolling living room. Teague, no stranger to cutting edge designs himself (cf. Packard Predictor) suggested a more evolutionary process. The interesting thing is that they both sort of turned out to be right, if not on the exact time frame.
Desperate times call for desperate measures; and sometimes the result is nothing short of spectacular. The Studebaker Gran Turismo coupe is gorgeous, despite having been cobbled together on a shoestring in six months. It’s also compromised and imperfect, a car that The Big Three would never have built. It did little to change the inevitable outcome of the Studebaker Death Watch, but then it probably would never have been created under other circumstances. There’s nothing like staring death in the face to focus the last remaining creative forces and take exceptional risks. Along with the Avanti, the GT Hawk is Studebaker’s gran farewell gesture. Gone indeed, but hardly forgotten. (Read More…)