Patent Depending, The “Nonsense” Inventions of Steven M. Johnson at Maker Faire

Art & Sculpture Craft & Design
Patent Depending, The “Nonsense” Inventions of Steven M. Johnson at Maker Faire

I have followed the career and work of “nonsense” inventor, Steven M. Johnson, for decades. I wrote about his work, back in the day, at both The Futurist magazine and early Wired. Steven has shown his invention illustrations at Maker Faire Bay Area in the past and he’s back this year with more brilliant and bizarre design ideas.

Anyone who has seen Steven’s work knows that it is funny, epically whimsical and silly, but it is ultimately far from useless. These wacky, cockeyed design ideas say a lot about the nature of the human character, our love/hate relationship with technology, and our modern notions of work, leisure, and our seemingly endless desire to use technology to give us more slack, regardless of how inappropriate that technology may end up being. Steven’s designs are so well conceived, and often so close to technologies that could actually exist that they do funny things to your head; they often end up inspiring real, more sober design ideas. And ultimately, it is this triggering of useful lateral thinking that makes these inventions so compelling.

Here is a TED Talk that Steven gave on his work:

YouTube player

As the comedian Steven Wright likes to say: “I’m a peripheral visionary. I can see into the future, but just off to the side.” I can think of no more clever and inspiring peripheral visionary than Steven M. Johnson.

If you are at Maker Faire Bay Area this weekend, come see Steven in Zone 2 of Expo: West.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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