We live in a time when young people seem increasingly disinclined to explore possible careers in engineering. Even those who do choose to enter the field often do not realize its tremendous creative potential. Paley does a brilliant job of communicating both the process and the joy of invention in a way that reaches both professionals and newcomers equally well. While making it clear that the inventive process can not be reduced to a menu of tasks, he properly asserts that simplicity, elegance, and robustness are key components of the successful design process. By looking at items most of us take for granted (the paper clip, Velcro, etc.), we get to see the beauty in these designs – a simple beauty that can be found in numerous other artifacts in common use, as well as in those yet to be invented. This book goes far beyond cataloging the inventions of others, and explores the process by which you can unlock your own creativity for the solution of challenges facing us both as individuals, and in the broader context of the marketplace. Before long, you will have your own sketchpad out and be coming up with your own ideas!
The idea of the "mad inventor" is elegantly replaced with invention as a skill within the grasp of us all. If you are willing to give yourself the freedom to tinker, to observe, to mess around with ideas, some of which may not work the first time, this book should be in your hands – not resting on a shelf somewhere.
Steve has nailed it – Invention is an art we can all appreciate and experience for ourselves.
David Thornburg, PhD
Director, Thornburg Center for Space Exploration
Former adjunct faculty member in the Stanford University Design Division
Steven Paley’s Art of Invention tells it like it is. This is an excellent introduction to the psychology of the inventor and to the nature of the inventive process.
Henry Petroski, author of The Essential Engineer: Why Science Alone Will Not Solve Our Global Problems
"The goal of any design is to be simple, elegant and robust," Paley states early in his passionate first book, and this guiding principle runs throughout his examination of the process of invention. Paley knows his subject matter well. He includes anecdotes about his own inventions and those of his father, such as the MicroDuster, "a can of compressed gas used for cleaning in critical environments." The author also focuses on the work of others, exploring inventions from the paper clip to the personal computer in an attempt to demonstrate the creative mental processes that drive innovation. According to Paley, defining the need comes first: "The more specific and well-defined the problem; the clearer the solution," he writes. After the need is defined, a good invention requires a research phase, brainstorming, and a period of time where the subconscious mind works on the problem until it arrives at a clear solution. Then begin refining and testing. Clearly, Paley's system has application to any creative undertaking, and readers across a wide spectrum of occupations and interests will find inspiration.
Publishers Weekly, April 25, 2011
This wonderful book is about creativity, invention, and the process details for achieving the end goal. Simplicity, elegance, robustness, and iteration are some of the key ideas. The book is well organized into three parts: "The Process of Invention," "Design and Invention," and "Making It Happen." The numerous examples of real-world inventions bring life to the process in important ways that a purely academic approach would stifle. Paley mines his many years of experience as an inventor, design engineer, and entrepreneur to expose the whole art of invention. If one desires to turn that sense of wonder into a successful invention in today's highly competitive world, this "behind the scenes" approach provides both the inspiration and the practical guidance for all age groups. Photos, diagrams, and chapter notes supplement a thoroughly engaging presentation. Summing Up:Highly recommended. All levels of readership.*
Choice Reviews, American Library Association, June 2011
*Selected by Choice as an Outstanding Academic Title of 2011
Inventing as a process, and creativity in general, are not well understood. Classes offered on the subjects often skim over how creation happens and spend time on marketing the creation. This probably has something to do with the fact that creative people don’t know the how’s, where’s, or why’s of their ability to create. Steven J. Paley, an inventor and teacher, has tried in his book,The Art of Invention to explain the process of inventing and creativity so that one can attempt to recreate it for themselves.
The book is broken down into three sections: Process, Design, and Implement. In the first section, Paley takes everything he’s learned as an inventor and read about other inventors and tried to distill it down to simple, understandable pieces. One can’t invent unless one is immersed in a subject, or has defined a problem accurately. The Design section explores what makes a good invention from a design standpoint? Is it simple, elegant, robust? Finally, the book explores the act of creation from prototyping, testing, and documentation. Paley also includes a section on selling your invention once it’s manufactured.
I don’t know if lightning can be bottled, but Mr. Paley has come closer than most in The Art of Invention in laying out in simple, compelling language the inventive process and act.
San Francisco Book Review, June 2011
What is the basis of creating something truly brilliant? "The Art of Invention: The Creative Process of Discovery and Design" is a discussion of the basics of invention, about finding something that hasn't been done before and that can improve the quality of life in the world. Author Steven J. Paley answers these questions by exploring the labs and the people who make the world move on, and reminds people of the elements of successful and useful invention. Recognizing invention as just as much as art as it is science, "The Art of Invention" is a useful and powerful read for anyone who has an inventive streak of their own.
Entrepreneur.com, July 2011
Paley breaks it all down into bite-size pieces for any wannabe or aspiring inventor using three-part sections: The Process of Invention; Design and Invention; and Making it Happen. It’s not sugar-coated by any means. Inventing is not easy and there are many barriers to overcome, but with Paley’s book serving as inspiration and guidance, you can be well on your way. Start with the problem, the need, and begin to look for a solution. Filled with facts, statistics and historical data this work by an inventor, CEO, teacher and multiple patent-holder will have your imagination spinning!
Portland Book Review, September 2011
Author Steven J. Paley has done the near-impossible – written a worthwhile book on inventing. Well-researched, accessible and crisply written, Paley celebrates daydreaming, exploring, observing, talking, serendipity and kinetic interaction as building blocks for creativity…For Paley, the world is non-linear, where learning to be an inventor is un-learning the rote stuff that society has drilled into us. Although chromatic, colorful and multi-dimensional, Paley’s world is not chaotic…Readers will delight in Paley’s cogent discussion of disciplined creativity and how he supports his points by drawing examples from the iPhone and Roomba to teepees and road reflectors…Paley wrote his book for aspiring inventors, “the high school or college student with a technical bent who is interested in creating the future.”
Inventors Digest, October 2011
This book provides unique value in its clear language explanations of real-world invention using great examples. Both an inventor and a businessman himself, Steven Paley is familiar with not only the need to develop an exciting new product but also with how to get it to market and capitalize on its value. He cogently describes what goes into creating an invention and makes the essential leap in product development about how to create a product that will be salable in the market… what is most useful for anyone involved in invention is his description of the invention process itself, from the conception of an idea to a completed product in clear, definitive, and easy-to-apply methods for any product design innovation.
The Journal of Product Innovation Management, January 2012
(see http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-5885.2011.00885.x/full for complete two page review)