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.
The Ur-Father of Automotive Design: Andrew F. Johnson's Correspondence School For Automobile Body Makers, Designers and Draftsman – Now Online!
Just who invented automotive styling is open to debate, that is if you can even really narrow it down to one person. A number of people certainly deserve credit. In the United States, Harley Earl, Edsel Ford, and Alan Leamy, among others, come to mind. However, there is one person in the early days of the automobile age who probably had more to do with the way cars have been designed than any other single individual. I like to call him the “Ur-Father” of car design. His name was Andrew F. Johnson and if you’ve ever enjoyed the way a car was designed, you should know about him.
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