January 2015

Date:15 December 2014 Tags:, , ,

The case of the artful American-African.

Preparing this month’s Popular Mechanics mix entailed some investigative work. That meant turning to Chief Inspector Woodman of The Yard, aka PM art director Thea Woodman. Her mission: find the artist responsible for the quirky graphics that accompany A User’s Guide To The Mind (page 64).

Our dogged sleuth ran her quarry to ground at www.nigelsussman.com. We got our man, we got our pictures, and there the story might have ended. Except for the Cape Town connection. Nigel, it transpires, is an American-African of sorts. Here’s an extract from my correspondence with him:

Thanks for reaching out to me! I am glad you like my work. I would be honoured to work with and have my illustrations featured in your publication. It is very fitting, as both Popular Mechanics and South Africa have significant places in my heart. Though I was born in the US, my mother’s side of the family is all from South Africa and, growing up, I used to visit Cape Town at least once a year. My grandparents have passed, and my aunts/uncles/cousins since moved to New Zealand, so it has been many years since I have last visited, but I associate fond memories with the country and the people.

We were so tickled by the way this turned out that we simply had to take up Nigel’s offer to do some custom artwork for us. I think he did a good job in capturing me at work, though some unkind colleagues have suggested that he must have been looking at somebody else’s (much tidier) desk.

Although it’s not obvious from the graphic, the computer on my desk is a Macbook, which provides a useful segue to the insights of Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak (Innovation Defined, Page 27). Technology is not much good unless it moves mankind forward, says Woz. Amen to that; but first, we need to find, encourage – and challenge – those who would be innovators.

That’s why we travelled to the University of KwaZulu-Natal to see first-hand if tomorrow’s engineers really can move mankind forward. Our conclusion? If their work involves flying cars (it does) and automated beer production (ditto), we think there’s hope.

Speaking of innovation, here’s something new: the PM Workshop Challenge picks up on what looks to be an uncommonly good idea from our US colleagues. The inaugural challenge involves just a sheet of plywood, tools and fasteners of your choice, and your imagination. The winner gets a nifty prize and, even better, the winning project will be featured in PM.

Gentlemen (and ladies, for that matter), start your power tools.