Most inventors are deeply familiar with the potential profitability of playful thinking. The creative necessity requires them to open their minds, to toy with things and ideas, to suspend judgment and basically muck around. As necessity is the mother of invention, playfulness is its father. Every now and then, something gets invented that is so obviously a product of the playful mind that it becomes something close to an icon for the whole invention family. Today's embodiment: the Pringle Thingle."

Inventor and artist Bud Wall includes his Letter to the Pringles People with his gallery of Pringle Thingle images. Here's part:

"Years ago, when your company was first formed, I was inspired by the shape of the Pringle Potato Chip. I immediately saw the possibility for a worldwide promotional item. But, like a lot of my ideas, I just filed it away for another day. I've always envisioned this toy in the public domain. I can see the Thingle as an advertising prop on television, in the movies, on the internet, in offices, under the Christmas tree... everywhere. When I carry three or four Thingles through campus to a photo shoot, every student I pass smiles and has a comment. One said, "That reminds me, I need to pick up some more Pringles at the student store." I now carry them in black bags so as to minimize the attention. The production model would be molded from a much stronger, lighter and more permanent polyurethane foam or could even be an inflatable vinyl with internal perforated cells to hold the Pringle Thingle shape. A small plastic hand pump would be included."

This was three years ago. I'm thinking Mr. Wall has not yet achieved the commercial recognition his inventiveness so clearly deserves. Which explains why playfulness is so prized and difficult to maintain.

My message to Wall: Take your Thingles out of the bag. Share them relentlessly with the Pringle-appreciating world. And, above all, play on.

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