There aren't many companies that can count Intel, Lockheed Martin, the U.S. Air Force Research Lab, the Library of Congress, and Herman Miller as clients. But for former Disney Imagineer Bran Ferren, being an inventor means creating just about anything that makes the world a better place. Uniting technology, science, art, and the human experience—"what we desire rather than what we need"—is essential, Ferren says, whether he's working on transportation, energy, entertainment, or the military. Or on his latest personal project, the MaxiMog II, "a big truck designed to drive around a world."
I've always known that I wanted to make things. New things that people haven't done before, and in fact this is what people expect of you.
What does your typical day look like?
6:00 to 7:00 a.m.: Stagger to consciousness, and catch up on overnight email.
8:30 to 9:00 a.m.: Drive to work
9:00 to 10:00 a.m.: Senior staff meeting
10:15 to 11:00 a.m.: Meeting with Library of Congress staff about next weeks brainstorming session. 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.: Project review on new Intel device and demo plan for Barcelona.
12:30 to 1:30 p.m.: Lunch to discuss lighting design plan for Smithsonian SAM exterior.
1:45 to 2:00 p.m.: Call with Wes Bush about mobile humanitarian aid support system.
2:00 to 2:15 p.m.: Inspect flight test hardware for Air Force helicopter camera system.
2:30 to 3:00 p.m.: Review with creative team on GM interface demo for Larry Burns visit.
3:00 to 3:30 p.m.: Talk with Clifford Ross about what's needed for Panorama art project proposal.
3:30 to 4:00 p.m.: Talk with Andy at MIT Media Lab about visit.
4:00 to 4:15 p.m.: Call with Nathan Myhrvold about trip.
4:15 to 5:00 p.m.: Call with AIAA folks about space keynote speech.
5:15 to 5:30 p.m.: Return call to Arthur Levitt.
5:30 to 7:15 p.m.: Creative session on expedition vehicle design, and review of engineering analysis.
7:30 to 8:00 p.m.: Travel home.
8:30 to 10:30 p.m.: Dinner with Brian Napack to discuss book project.
Is there a totemic object in your life that helps connect you with being creative?
Clearly, the Pantheon. Granted not the most portable totem one could pick, but I've found it epiphanal and inspirational since I first visited it as a child with my parents. It's why I got interested in lighting and visual design, perspective, engineering, architecture, thermodynamics, and history. Unlike the Great Pyramids at Giza—which given time and a lot of help, anyone reasonably bright should be able to build—the Pantheon is completely amazing and without precedent. It's like it came from another planet.