Steven M. Johnson
M. Johnson is a cartoonist-inventor, former urban planner, newspaper
artist, and auto company future trends analyst.
Since the early 1970s, Steve has toiled away quietly in his free time creating a “line” of alternative products and systems that he hopes will benefit or at least amuse his fellow consumer-citizens. He has also ventured into an edgier area, making predictions about the future. His ideas, and his methods for arriving at ideas, are somewhat unique. He has perhaps benefitted from having had little formal instruction in art, nor training in engineering or industrial design. Curious images have filled his mind during weekends and odd free moments, while he was earning a living in careers as urban planner, newspaper artist and future trends analyst at California companies. Only after he turned 36 did he discover he had an inventor and designer inside himself, wanting to come out.
On long trips or during boring commutes, he has made use of time that is normally wasted watching scenery by sketching product ideas and cartoons on his home-made “automobile drafting board” (once featured on a TV station in Sacramento, California). The board sits at an angle against the dashboard and is fitted out in black naugahyde to match the car’s interior. He is unaware of any California law forbidding drawing while driving.
His drawings have been featured in newspapers and magazines both nationally and abroad. A short list of magazines includes Road & Track, Harper’s, Utne Reader, Whole Earth Review, Sierra, Esquire, The Futurist, Design Mind, Good, Fast Company, The New York Times, and Bloomberg Businessweek as well as Box and Brutus (Japanese magazines).
Three books of his work have been published: What the World Needs Now: A Resource Book for Daydreamers, Frustrated Inventors, Cranks, Efficiency Experts, Utopians, Gadgeteers, Tinkerers and Just about Everybody Else (Third Edition), Public Therapy Buses, Information Specialty Bums, Solar Cook-A-Mats and Other Visions of the 21st Century: Second Edition, and Have Fun Inventing: Learn to Think Up Products and Imagine Future Inventions.
Steve was born in 1938 and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. His undergraduate studies were at Yale University and U.C. Berkeley. He lives in Southern California with his wife and son.
Watch Inventing without a purpose: Steven M. Johnson at TEDxIndianapolis. Read The Accidental Futurist: Steven M. Johnson’s Alternate Realities. Read his LinkedIn profile. Follow his Twitter feed.