Thursday, May 29, 2008

Fulfillment of a promise - Filski

Today we received a very special package closing a loop on the first promise pledged by Local Motors ....

This package is, of course, the design file pacakge containing Filski's PanTerra fresh from "down under". Note the Koala's on the stamps.....awesome.

Well, the promise was that we would create a forum for competition and that designers would join the site and community, interact with each other, and vote up its favorites. At that time, Local Motors would award a prize to a winner in exchange for the right to use his design. Simple enough.

Over the last several weeks it has not been an infrequent occurrence for disbelievers to post on comments in various places in the blogosphere and web that we might somehow be engaging in stealing designs by creating a community like LM.

It is our hope that the orderly and respectful interplay within the first competition banishes this skepticism and locks it away safely. Welcome to the Web 2.0 revolution where true "community" ought to be reminiscent of what the word meant before the web even existed: trust, collegiality, respect, assistance, etc.

We are so proud of the community at LM. We would simply not be here without you. Great cars would not make it on the road without your contribution and vision. You deserve the respect, attribution, and payment for the use of your hard-earned design.

Filski has earned it and we cannot wait to see who is next.

See you in Miami!

Go Local!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Major Muscle Movements at Local Motors: Design Process and Prototype

Today muscles were flexing at the HQ as our team began to work in a well-coordinated process of research, application, and production to move 2 of our primary goals a major step forward.

1) The Web Community Update - We are now 2 days away from a pretty major update on the site where we will debut a number of new things in both form and function. I won't let all the secrets out, but I know Ari has already discussed a few of the changes in her blog. Perhaps most important is the introduction of the LM Design Process. This magical new area of collaboration has been previewed for at least a week on the home page with Me2's Ex-Ta-C and Filski's PanTerra "In Process", and soon it will take an all-too-real form with a studio Process area where the community can focus in on the certain designs that LM has decided to explore. This area is meant to push designers and their work to an even higher level of finish in a process similar to what one might find in the top studios. We see this as an extension of real design development. Castriota may have penned the Birdcage but he was guided by Okuyama and a team of many others at Maserati. This same dance goes for David Rojas who had Carl Zipfel and a whole team at Hummer not to mention Ed Welborn and the Ghost of Wayne Cherry looking over his HX and pushing it to be the best it could be. And so on and so on goes the story of furthering design in a great studio...For those lucky to be admitted into the LM Design Process, they will be treated to the full focus of LM Design and the Community. It will be an honored position. Look for it coming soon.



2) The Prototype - Today we made some fundamental timeline progress toward our body surfacing and production timeline. This is a very complex production to get one's arms around, but for the first time today, we saw all of the pieces laid in front of us in a language we could all understand.

1) design development,
2) engineering information,
3) orthographics,
4) further design development,
5) initial surface data,
6) clay,
7) refined surface data,
8) plug fabrication
9) mold fabrication

To some, these terms may seem like Greek (not to our Greek readers :)), and to others the terms may be familiar. But even to those familiar with the terms, our process is likely to be unique in the way we employ these steps toward our eventual end.

More to follow in the days to come!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Open Communication

As things get going and Local Motors begins to make faster and faster steps forward, it is my intention to remain as grounded in user feedback as possible. One of the tools that is at our disposal, which, so far, people in the community have not taken advantage of, is my AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) contact. With this anyone can have a direct line, and discussion can be more focused.

So here it is in big bold type: johnbrogersjr (and it is an AIM account)

If ever you have a need to ask a question, make a statement, or just chat about cars, I am often on line and would love to hear from you.

The lines are open.... Let's talk cars.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day at Local Motors

Today we observed a US National Holiday, Memorial Day, in honor of all fallen soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines. It was a welcome day to remember and reflect on that which we are about.

To all who have served, thank you for your selfless sacrifice. You have learned the meaning of fear and the meaning of courage. These are the indelible consequences of your action: Your life will never be the same and your country will be forever grateful.

We, who pursue the creation of a new automotive landscape, salute you.

This day is particularly meaningful to me because I started Local Motors in large part to build a company which could impact directly the seemingly inevitable need for a Foreign Policy and Economy so focused on the use and security of oil. Without making any political comment, I know from my 8 years of service in the US Marines that we as a country cannot help but be focused on the status of this precious natural resource. Schools, food, business, and, yes, transportation, in addition to so much more, all depend on oil and its moderate price and consistent availability.

Transportation claims 70% of US oil end-use and so a change there stands the chance of making a substantial difference in our nation's dependence.

Local Motors cannot do it alone, but we expect to be on the vanguard of this change. A revolution in transportation industry is coming. If you would like to learn more about our plan, visit our website and pay particular attention to our "why?" section.

In specific I would like to take the end of this post to dedicate all of our attention to one of several personal friends who never came home from war.

On July 21, 2006, Captain Christopher Pate died in an IED attack in Al Anbar province Iraq. Chris and I met first in Ground Intelligence Officer's Course in Dam Neck, Virginia. He was an intense Marine and fine young man. I am better off for having known him, and if this post is any indication, his sacrifice will never have been in vain.

Chris, I will miss you brother, and I promise we are doing everything we can every day not only to make a company would save others from having to make the same sacrifice as you but also to make a car that would put that sly smile on your face.....much like this one:


Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Banner Day for Crowdsourcing in the News - Threadless made Inc. cover

I feel like a member of our family just made the big time!

Threadless - a Chicago-based crowdsourcing Tee Shirt company, about which I have written often and to which we owe a great deal of inspiration - just made the cover of the June issue of Inc. Magazine. One of my top favorite rags, Inc., has done a fine job covering the ins and outs of the Threadless innovation.


Working between emotive quotes from academics like Eric von Hippel (May 4 and May 8 blogs) and Karim Lakhani, an esteemed Local Motors advisor, the article profiles Jake Nickell, the original Threadless founder, and gives wing to the essential crowdsourcing innovation of the business.

Though somewhat lengthy, I cannot recommend highly enough a read through this article. Anyone who considers themselves a student of the Web 2.0 movement, or even just a regular user of Wikipedia, will find this subject enlightening.

(Brief reading break -- Really, I mean it, you should read the article.)

Now moving beyond the article and applying its lessons to Local Motors and our community, there are interesting observations to be made:

1) Threadless has been successful in selling Tee shirts to the people who design them and vote on them on their site. For LM, it is too early to really know if the community of users is our same community of buyers. We feel confident in our community's feedback, but their buying impulse has yet to be tested. That will come in due time :)

2) Threadless (at least according to the article) did not originally rely on expert designers in their mix to get the community off of the ground. (Though I doubt the veracity of this claim) We will (and have) certainly relied on the input of "ringers" on our community to elevate the dialogue of car design. I think that talented designers are both necessary and emboldening, and they themselves get a lot out of the interaction. As discussed last night, it is a two-way street.

3) Threadless is making tees which are much simpler in every way than making cars. To this observation, I propose the following trade off. It might be 1000x's more difficult to design a car, but it also is a 1000x's more thrilling when it is done.

4) Threadless undoubtedly made an innovation in business, but I question the impact they have made beyond the improved quality of tee shirts and the implied return for the investors. I know that, to some, this comparison is heresy, but to me, I daresay, that LM is meaningful for not only the above reasons, but because it also impacts local jobs of a higher skill, a tightly integrated supply chain driven by the discipline of Just in Time, service with a direct feedback loop to manufacturing and design, parts with an ecosystem of education on how to install, range of fuel choices, and maximum flexibility to transportation ideas "at the pace of the customer demand shifts".

Though many of these observations generate additional questions, they by no means predict that Threadless is any less or more successful in its idea. They merely provide a departure point from which to compare different business models. Bravo Threadless, and welcome to a permanent increase in Web 2.0 enabled service and product companies. You have given all of us much up to which we must measure.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hierarchical communities vs. the open-source revolution.

I have sensed an undercurrent of hoarding in the field of automotive design, and I wanted to address what open-source might mean to such folks who feel the need NOT to share.


(N.B. All bets are off and this post does NOT apply if you live in a world that is a zero sum game (i.e. if I win, you lose, and only 1 person can be on top). Though transportation design is a competitive field, thankfully there is room for many greats. So to those in our community, this post applies…. i.e. please read on.)

At issue in this discussion is those people who possess great skills and who hold them up in their own private world to preserve their “authenticity”.

Such people have reached a level of hierarchy and competition, from where they might think that they have made it and are “moving on up”. In fact, they are firmly planted on a plateau. They constantly strive and yearn for a higher position of wealth, recognition, and expertise because their skills are “just that good”.

If this sounds like you, then read on, because there is a parable here that might be useful.

Of course, you probably find yourself fearing that if you share your best work, your ideas will be ripped off and sold to the lowest bidder in the global auction of hungry hobbyists who will never amount to much.

But there is a higher order.

If you have the fortitude to share your ideas you stand to become exalted among your crowd. This is no Jedi-mind-trick, and here is why. Though it is true that someone can steal what you share and look good momentarily, when they are tested to perform beyond that piece of work, they will fall flat and they will look worse than if they had never used your idea in the first place. On the other hand, if you share a good idea with them, you help them to learn and grow, and you look good in their eyes. Then if they, in turn, give you credit, they look better and more honest in the eyes of their judges, and you get credit which lifts you to an even higher platform –that of a guru or go-to expert. Ergo sharing is “good”.

Once you are the one sharing and helping others grow, you rise to a different and much higher status where you are running your own studio or atelier - be it virtual or physical. That is where the REAL competition begins. It is only from this elevated vantage point that you realize the plateau, where you were stuck before, is a life that ends in secrecy and constant ravaging and disappointment. Ergo sharing is “great”.

Of course, taking the sharing route will also expose your own weaknesses (something only the egotistical believe that they don’t have). But here is the beautiful thing. The quickest way to improve on your weaknesses is to access the members of your studio or atelier and to learn from them where they may be stronger than you.

If this is sounding like Greek to you, take the story of two brilliant coders who were working on operating systems in the 80’s and early 90’s.


On February 3, 1976 Bill Gates wrote a frustrated Open Letter to Hobbyist coders:

“Will quality software be written for the hobby market?.....

As the majority of hobbyists must be aware, most of you steal your software…..

One thing you do [by stealing software] is prevent good software from being written. Who can afford to do professional work for nothing? What hobbyist can put 3-man years into programming, finding all bugs, documenting his product and distribute for free? The fact is, no one besides [Paul Allen and myself] has invested a lot of money in hobby software….

I would appreciate letters from any one who wants to pay up [for the professional code we have written], or has a suggestion or comment. Just write to me at 1180 Alvarado SE, #114, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87108. Nothing would please me more than being able to hire ten programmers and deluge the hobby market with good software.”


Compare his vision of the world to the words of another brilliant coder.


On October 5, 1991, Linus Torvalds, the founder of Linux, wrote in an open post on comp.os.minix:

“Do you pine for the nice days of minix-1.1, when men were men and wrote their own device drivers? Are you without a nice project and just dying to cut your teeth on a OS you can try to modify for your needs? Are you finding it frustrating when everything works on minix? No more all- nighters to get a nifty program working? Then this post might be just for you :-)…….

…….I can (well, almost) hear you asking yourselves "why?". Hurd will be out in a year (or two, or next month, who knows), and I've already got minix. This is a program for hackers by a hacker. I've enjouyed [sic] doing it, and somebody might enjoy looking at it and even modifying it for their own needs. It is still small enough to understand, use and modify, and I'm looking forward to any comments you might have.

I'm also interested in hearing from anybody who has written any of the utilities/library functions for minix. If your efforts are freely
distributable (under copyright or even public domain), I'd like to hear from you, so I can add them to the system. I'm using Earl Chews estdio [sic] right now (thanks for a nice and working system Earl), and similar works will be very welcome [sic]. Your (C)'s will of course be left intact. Drop me a line if you are willing to let me use your code.”


Torvalds was a hacker who was ready to share his ideas and to give credit to those who help him along the way. Little did he know that he had just launched a revolution which would soon rival and challenge the dominance of Microsoft.

Of course, the post mortem is that Gates was colossally wrong and that open-source hobbyists have eventually outsmarted Microsoft and stolen huge market share. (think Firefox vs. Internet explorer) True, Gates made a boat load of money along the way, but his code (the thing you take most pride in as a coder) is seen as cumbersome and buggy, while the open-source code is seen as clean and self-correcting.

When you think of your position as a transportation designer, I would ask yourself, which side of the fence do you aspire to be on when you have lived your life: complicated, cumbersome, and buggy… or clean, fast, and self-correcting?

(Great credit is due to Eric von Hippel and Karim Lakhani for the kernel of ideas found in this post and the juxtaposition of Gates and Torvalds)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

More on the LM Psychographic - Build-a-Bear at Tracker school

Piling in on my post from yesterday, I want to explore the concept of the LM customer psychographic in further detail. To reiterate, the "psychographic" defines any attributes relating to personality, values, attitudes, interests, or lifestyles of your target customer. Yesterday we dealt with the American-ness of the profile and areas where that theme might resonate.

Today I want to discuss "education" a bit further. What is it today that defines our lust for do-it-yourself? In my own life, I can see the transition: My parents grew up in a time where gas was pumped for them - "Full-Serve" if you will. Today, we dispense our own gas, select automated car washes, and do it all in style. Some might say it is the economics of the fuel retail market that "force" us in to doing it ourselves, but if "force" were any part of the equation then we would not have seen the meteoric rise of Home Centers like Home Depot and Lowe's. Today, people have a morbid fascination with how things work. From potato-guns and mento's explosions to tile-saws and paint-it pottery, Americans today have a fascination with doing it themselves that would make Thurston Howell III opt to stay on Gilligan's island.

(Mr. and Mrs. Thurston Howell III, Gilligan's Island,

Two fine examples that drive the point home are found in unlikely places.

1) Build-a-Bear Workshop founder, Maxine Clark, discovered that if you allowed people to take part in putting a Bear together that they would pay more for the finished product. Really quite revolutionary. Imagine explaining to an early 20th century toy retailer that if he were to buy toy parts instead of finished bears, that he could make more money on the sale. It is akin to a crazy kind of dual competitive advantage (lower cost and higher price) least until others figure it out.



2) My personal favorite is Tom Brown Jr.'s world famous tracking school in the New Jersey Pine Barren's. Trained by a Shaman Scout known as Stalking Wolf, Tom, started this school to pass on the knowledge of how to assimilate and become one with nature. From Wilderness medicine and philosophy to scout and tracking skills, this school is a one-stop shop for the true do-it yourselfers. In fact, they are so into the do-it yourself ethos at the Tracker School that they even invite people who work there to donate their own time to learn the skills while working on staff. Amazing commitment to learning, AND........ they charge about $1,000 per person to learn to live in the earth and eat from its fruits.

So if "yearning to make your own bear" and "giving it all to live off the earth" are any indication, the type of education and do-it-yourself value we are targeting in our customer is a strong match to a solid group of Americans today.

Monday, May 19, 2008

American Car Enthusiast Psychographic

In the field of marketing, the "psychographic" defines any attributes relating to personality, values, attitudes, interests, or lifestyles of your target customer. Think "'flower power" and there you have a psychographic for the initial VW Beetle buyer.

So what is the psychographic of a Local Motors lead-user. We know that sustainability, design, uniqueness, simplicity, connection, education, desirability are all part of the mix and we work daily to integrate the values of our target customer into the first design that we build. But what about American. If building cars locally is something that we are pursuing, then it would make sense that they would appeal to Americans. However, according to research we've conducted, there is a prevalent negativity directed at current American automotive, and the trend seems only to be getting worse. Could it be true that exciting vehicles only come from abroad....To us the answer is not only "No" but "Nonsense!"...but somehow we need to turn the odds in our favor...pick categories which might play deep into an American ethic.

If you are thinking supercar, microcar, pickup truck, large sedan, crossover, etc., those can all be exciting categories, but save them for another forum about commonplace ideas. In focusing on the American psychographic value for this post, let's take a tour of some unique car concepts that we believe have deep American appeal. (NOTE: These images that appear are not all American in origin, but that does not mean that we don't think they have deep roots within the psyche of American enthusiasts.) So here goes:


(Hemisfear Coupe, Foose design,

(SJiaDesign - LM community)


(Beau Reid Concept - LM Community,

(AH-1J Super Cobra Attack Helicopter...because we all have dreams)


('75 Lancia Stratos,

("Zorro", 1967 Camaro Trophy Truck,


('08 GMC Denali XT Concept,

(PanTerra, Filip Tjezserski - LM Community,


(Lamborghini Gallardo Art Car,

(Lamborghini Gallardo Art Car,

(Fiat Scratch Concept, where the skin comes "pre-scratched",

(Frank Stella, BMW Art Car,

(Andy Warhol, BMW Art Car,

(Ken Done, BMW Art Car,

(Roy Lichtenstein, BMW Art Car,

Though this list is not exhaustive, even in categories, it is meant to get that red-blooded, American auto enthusiast blood pumping, hungry for something new and outright thrilling.

If you have a passion that is not well-represented by the current auto landscape, write us and tell us about it.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Quiet (R)evolution - A small step for skukuzi, one giant leap for LM-kind

Well, while ya'll were at your day jobs and running errands on Friday, a quiet (r)evolution was taking place in the LM Community.

Let's let the pictures speak. Focus on the A-Pillar.

Marek - from Slovakia Friday (mid-morning)

(Marek Rakucak - LM Community)

Skukuzi - trained in Sarajevo currently in Boston (noon)

(Marek Rakucak - LM Community, with Skukuzi)

Benzo Ferrari - from the LM Design Studio (early afternoon)

(Marek Rakucak - LM Community, with Skukuzi and Benzo Ferrari)

Though many words and great comments, criticisms, and suggestions, have been par-for-the-course for the LM Community as we all comment on other's designs, this is the VERY FIRST TIME, that one designer has spoken with his sketching hand. Hence an Evolution of a design, but a REvolution in the way we share ideas.

Let's review the tape :)

1) Marek created a bangin' Megane inspired sketch.
2) Skukuzi felt strongly about the visibility in the A-Pillar region, but instead of making a verbal comment and leaving it up to someone else to make the change, Skukuzi, took a small step... "a giant leap" to make the suggested change in the design and to re-post it for all to see.
3) Once the pillar was in play, Benzo then piled in and gave it yet another go 'round. Turbo-charge.

No doubt, Marek is the owner of the concept...the team captain if you will, and skukuzi and benzo had the guts - the fortitude - and the caring for Marek's design to take their own time to make the design process move forward. This is classic LM community stuff and it gives me the chills.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Filski it is

The first day that we launched the competition (hard to believe that was only a matter of weeks ago) we had immediate hits from 65 countries. Now, perhaps it is old hat, the whole power of the internet thing....but to me, it is still incredible. The fact that people are interested in car design uniformly across such a wide geography is cause for reflection.

Perhaps this proves my constant assertion that drawing cars is simply an innate ritual for a certain segment of the population. Who knows? But whatever the reason, while I am sleeping someone across the world is feverishly designing the next Local Motors car, and when he is sleeping, we are doing the same.

Well, if that immediate draw from across the world were not enough to shock the system, now we have chosen a winner who is a Polish born, Australian raised, 4WD fanatic, Filip Tejszerski (aka Filski). Eat your heart out global corporate design departments:) the Local Motors design studio is as global as you would ever want to be....and without the Office politics.

So we have a great friend "down under" and a new kingpin in our midst. With great friendship and kudos, the community rallied around Filski in a show of solidarity and allowed him to bask in the glory of the moment. There was admiration and forthright discussion whipping its way across the forums and into his life. I have rarely seen such well-behaved sportsmen, and am proud to be associated with all of you.

And now we can all view Filski's new green status in comment streams. Watch out for his heavy-weight comments :) ..Oh what a sublime day!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tomorrow marks a big day for our community

Tomorrow, May 15th, 2008, at 0800 (-4GMT) EDT, (HAE for those frenchmen among us), Local Motors will announce the winner of its first exterior design competition, The Southern California Off Road Machine. The announcement will take place on our site

To many people, a web community is a motley crue of disorganized, unaffiliated content providers, but to us a web community is as well organized and distinctive as a professional sports team. At first everyone on the team plays on a level field for the same goal.

The crowd cheers, the hecklers jeer, the tension rises and falls, weather plays its hand, injury strikes the unlucky few, the coaches incite, the captains prod, and the game rolls on. In the course of this age-old ritual, events happen which crown players as stars and teams as winners, and from that moment on, a team begins to define itself.

We are about to crown our first winner. Though the winner will receive several gifts for his hard-earned victory, perhaps the most profound of them is distinct status within our community. From now on, this designer's name will appear in highlighted color any time he makes a comment on our site. This is very special, and well deserved.



Join us in congratulating our first rainmaker tomorrow morning, and watch as our community takes its first step from infancy to adolescence. Great design is not accidental. It is hewn from obsidian by the hardest working craftsmen. Introducing.....

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Another welcome to a team member jumping in with both feet

As mentioned in Ari's blog last night, Priyanka Banerjee, has joined the LM team as a much needed and talented front-end web developer and intern for the summer.

Having graduated from Vidyalankar Institute of Technology (V.I.T.), University of Mumbai, Mumbai, India, and now about to finish her Master's Degree in Computer Science at Northeastern University, Priyanka is a talented developer with a hunger for pushing the limits of her technical skills.

(University of Mumbai)

That is not at all the full story, though, as she is an artist - and a talented one at that - who is equally interested in learning and experiencing as much as she can about American culture.

Today, on her second day at Local Motors, she pushed her first update live on our site and began to make recommendations on look and feel of certain discrete elements that we are about to push out. These accomplishments already make Priyanka a visible and necessary collaborator on the LM team.

We are pleased and lucky to have Priyanka on the team, and I hope you will all join me in welcoming her as the newest LM team member in our Community.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Design and the Elastic Mind

As advertised in yesterday’s blog, today Ben and I visited the Museum of Modern Art’s show, Design and the Elastic Mind. Any day away from Local Motors and the team is a calculated opportunity cost analysis and this one paid out even better than expected.

One of the underlying assumptions of the show is that designers are the connection – or rather that they provide the connection – between the people of the world and the technology that surrounds them. The show also states that some people are more elastic than others when it comes to interfacing with the pace of technology and that designers are the agents that ease this interface.

The senior curator, Paola Antonelli, specifically selected work for the show that was the design of tomorrow and NOT that of the distant future.

In all, the show was of a manageable size of 6 rooms but with an intense amount of projects stuffed in each. As I reflect on what I got out of the experience, here are the most obvious themes:

1) That biomimicry in design(i.e. the inspiration of nature as the model for the design of our built environment) is a foregone conclusion. Though I like this concept a great deal, and have worked hard in a prior job to invest in such concepts, I also recognize some of the limited applications that biomimicry can have. Style or fashion seems often to run counter to this notion, as they lead our taste on a fast-paced game of chase around the built environment. Often where we land is nothing like what nature intends… So the jury for me is still out on the depth of impact from biomimicry.

(Callalily and Lily Impeller,, Photo: Nucci Studio)

2) Heavy emphasis in rapid prototyping (RP). With a distinct nod to plastic and starch-based prototypes, the show celebrated the new-found ability to build whatever you can draw. In fact, it even highlighted a new drawing technique of free-hand design in 3D space from a Swedish team, Front…very cool. Though RP techniques are revolutionary, I was surprised that there was not more emphasis on Direct Digital Manufacturing (i.e. the use of RP technology to make production parts)…This to me is one of the most profound impacts of the technology. No longer “design to prototype” alone but rather “design to finished product” in a rapid process.

3) Very VERY cool usage of mobile (bicycle or truck-toted) metropolitan laser graffiti. Perhaps the biggest wildcard, and the most engaging display was the shocking use of laser light to project metropolitan-size graffiti on the sides of city-scapes. With the stroke of a laser pointer, a single bicycle riding deviant could paint the side of a 15 story building from blocks away with “personal expression”. Though I am sure this self-expression would usher in new laws regarding temporary laser defacement, the impact of such a cool design was unmistakeable.

4) And finally, the notion that celebrates “Design as the highest form of human expression”. Antonelli is outspoken and unapologetic about this notion. She clearly shows in her words and in this show that Design is a magical synthesis of often-competing disciplines. To her, Design is the highest form of human expression because it is a delicate negotiation of art, economics, science, engineering, and beauty all to create a design that people want and will use. I have to say that I agree. The exercise of building a car company and a prototype alone has convinced me of this sound wisdom.

So the show is a success and our travel through it brought much to consider. As a final note, what seemed to be missing was the collaborative element of design suffused with direct and immediate feedback from the users of the world. Such an exploration of community-informed design was another tenet of the show and yet it appeared to be largely missing...that is, it was “missing” until it hit me over the head. Antonelli’s intention must have been to use a directive and choosy hand to expose us – the viewers and future consumers of this design – to the design of tomorrow that she thinks merits attention. In so doing, she hopes that we will reflect on all that we have seen and then react to those designs to shape, improve, and eventually to use them as our own. We were suddenly part of the community, and we didn’t even know it ☺ Now it is up to us to put this inspiration to work.

Bravo Design.

New major exploration of design at NY's MOMA

Tomorrow we are leaving at an unholy hour to truck down to NYC to the
last day of Design and the Elastic Mind at the Museum of Modern Art.

This weekend a great advisor of ours tapped us on to the exploration
of modern Design by recording and displaying to us Paola Antonelli's
interview with Charlie Rose. As the senior curator for Design at the
Museum, she spoke the part of design maven and matriarch and delivered
a completely cogent and fabulously fiery defense of community design
and artistic expression.

Ben and I agreed that we had to see the show given that our Company is
on the cutting edge of this trend.

More to follow as we return.

Design and the Elastic Mind....

We hope for it to live up to Paola's explanations and provocations.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Meeting Eric von Hippel

What a day!

On my post of May 4, I talked about the inspiration we had received from MIT professor and author, Eric von Hippel. Well, today I met with him for the first time.

By chance, we were introduced by one of Local Motors' advisers, and Eric invited me to his home in Cambridge MA. What an experience! He is an incredibly good listener and deep thinker about entrepreneurship and user lead innovation. Furthermore, he also has a deep and abiding passion for user choice. Basically he hates being told what kind of group he belongs to.

The very idea that he is part of the Pepsi Generation is abhorrent to him. He demands.... choice and personal differentiation.

Is it any surprise that his couch is similar to the following:

(Roche Bobois, Mah-Jong Sectional)

As the founder of the MIT Innovation Lab, Eric has put this passion to work by inviting key leaders in innovation from some of the worlds most successful companies and also from some of the most exciting small companies in lead user innovation.

Bravo! Thank you for your work and all that you have done to inspire a generation of car builders. Keep it open!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Lighter > Stronger > Better : an ode to Amory Lovins

Though the Hypercar concept may have died 7 years ago. Its ideas and suggestions are powerful. Local Motors is founded on the idea of a making lightweight, exciting, safer vehicles, and this video is an homage to one such pioneering concept.

The fundamental truths of lightweighting was not part of the failure of Hypercar. Though it is hard to know in the post mortem what caused the company to cease operations. Fundraising, location, sponsors, partners, focus on hybrid, and styling, to name a few reasons, all seem to share a great share of the blame for the inability to make it to market.

After watching the video, I would ask you one question? Do you think it sounds like a great idea?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Where are the smart people? How do you find them?

“Wherever you work, most of the smart people are somewhere else." - Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems; Partner, Kleiner Perkins

As we hire people at Local Motors to build cars, build websites, forge community, design fantastic visions, and so much more, this phrase rings in my ears. What did Bill Joy really mean when he said this?

At first, I had thought it was more of a "cutsie" phrase that sounded better than being substantial. I have now changed my tune.

Certainly, Joy was discussing the power of Open Source innovation to share knowledge between people who would otherwise never work for you, and that is very applicable to our design efforts at Local Motors. But he also may have stumbled upon something else.

Maybe he was subconsciously referencing the age old issue of developing one's people well and fully. I have stopped believing that there is ONE right person for the job (any job), and that it is a good manager's job to find him. The world is just too big and people are just too similar in the human makeup for me to believe that statement. Instead, I believe that many people could be the right person for a job, but most need to be developed.

Then what is it that one ought to look for in a potential team member? Though it cannot be the solution for everything, I think that Passion for the business is clearly one of the senior ingredients. In short, without this, it is unlikely for a person to want to spend the extra time to learn the business and to become one of the "smart" ones.

Monday, May 5, 2008

In house Design just ticked up a notch

In my blog post of Valentine's Day, I mentioned a new team member who had come aboard to advise us on some early website critical design decisions. Ben Messmer, was at the time, engaged with school and internship in California. Apparently, he could not stand it to be so far away from the action...Therefore, as of today, he has completed a 3,000 mile drive (made with his Father as a driving companion) in order to take up residence in the LM hometown of Wareham, MA and to start honing our design focus and vision.

(Ben Messmer, Master Ratty, concept,

To recap, Ben hails from North Carolina, Florida, New York, and California. He is a graduate of the prestigious Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, a trans designer at Art Center College, and is our "design oracle" and guide to the new land of distributed community transportation design. He is sensitive to engineering, uniquely well-informed in the practical ways of the world, and one downright impressive trans designer.

His father is also a super guy having come with Ben such a long way! Please give our newest member a warm welcome, and look for his impact very soon on the site, in our design decisions, and in the way we express ourselves. We are so proud to call him a member of the team.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sticky Design a motivator for the LM community

At the end of last week, Crisp Angles, response to my blog post of May 1 "Listening to the Community" really provoked me to dig deeper and to explain the way we view our Community and Local Motors in general.

(LMone Concept by Crisp Angles,

Let's start with Eric von Hippel, a professor and economist at MIT and Harvard Law School and the father of the lead user concept and much groundbreaking work on user innovation. In 1994 von Hippel theorized that knowledge was not as free flowing as the netted world might suggest and that information remains "stuck" to certain areas of expertise and groups of people. When I first read about this "sticky information" theory, it made great sense but it did not dawn on me how it related to the LM Community.

Fast forward to a relatively innocuous post by one of our community members last week. Ugo, a 20 year old student from ISD in Valenciennes, posted a pic on his profile of the Auto-Moto concept from Lazareth. I have admired Ludovic Lazareth, a French mechanic and fabricator, for quite some time because of his willingness to use commonly available bikes and to turn them into the concepts that no company has had the guts to make. Ugo's post was the first Lazareth to show up on the LM community (at least as far as I can tell), but I am sure that it will not be the last. Anyway, Lazareth concepts, despite how fresh and provoking they are, are not well known in the United States, in fact they are basically inconnues. This is a classic example of how design can be sticky in the von Hippel sense of information - a style or creation that is conceived, funded, created, marketed, and sold in a Local ":)" area is often not able to transcend borders as quickly as you might think.

(Lazareth Quadrazuma -

Enter the Local Motors Community. In a phrase, we are not so much about democratizing design as we are about exposing great pockets of Local design expertise and pushing them to the forefront for a broad audience of builders, designers, and enthusiasts to see. It is our hope by sharing such inspiration in and of it native environment that Local Motors will truly advance the automotive designs and productions that are yet to come.

A strong thank you goes out to Crispy, Ugo, Eric von Hippel, and those community members brimming with ideas that are sticky and raging to break out.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Is "Listening to The Community" Stagnating Design?

A couple of days ago, an LM community member (and fantastic designer) posed the challenge:

"by aiming for design democracy, I feel [Local Motors is] not actually advancing design, but rather stagnating it a bit by giving power to the people"

Could it be?!?!

Are we killing the advancement of design?

I would pose another 2 questions.

1) What is the advancement of design?

A) Is it actually building cars that otherwise would never be built? or

B) Is it designing cars that are so far out that they will never be built?

2) Are we really democratizing design?

To answer question 1) I would point to a design like the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain. If that opus were never built, would it have done as much to advance design? I think the answer must be no. To me, this says that building a design is an incredibly important part of advancing it for all generations of artists and onlookers. It really does not matter whether you like this particular building or another, the question is what benefit does building a design in reality make?


To answer question 2) I would ask "if people cannot share their voice about design, then how can designers improve?" It is not true that Local Motors let's the raw democracy choose a winner. LM reserves the right to choose any winner(s) at any time, but we listen carefully to the comments and votes of the others who take their time to come to the site. We would be silly not to. They (and their comments) are also one of the most exciting forms of feedback for the designers in the community. Those designers can choose to ignore those comments, but they do so at their own peril. In the end, if a designer is lucky, real people will end up buying a design if it is built, and it is incredibly valuable to hear what those buyers/users might think early on in the design process. No one is saying the designer HAS to listen to them...but wouldn't you? After all, it was not a single person, but rather a group of people that chose Gehry to design the museum in Bilbao.

Only time, will really tell if we at LM have stagnated transportation design, but I think the early indications are exactly the opposite, we are allowing it to sprint forward at warp speed....Fun to think about, and thank you for the challenge.