Five minutes on the seesaw with… Jude Pullen

This series interviews some of the inventors whose inventions feature in our Spirit of Invention exhibition.

Jude Pullen is the inventor of the ‘super cool, social networking top hat and prototype’, a top hat that cools you down when hot and flustered and acts as an ice breaker to spark friendly discussion in social situations. Discover your own inner inventor at Spirit of Invention – free to visit and open to all.

What is your name?

Jude Pullen.

Describe yourself in three words?

Curious and curiouser.

What would people find surprising about you?

The eclectic mix of my background, from Chemistry, Dyson through to LEGO and BBC. And being 1/4 Nigerian – hence the curly hair!

How did you become an inventor?

I almost became a Chemist, being unaware in my youth of careers in design, future tech or disciplines that lead to being an inventor!

Fundamentally, I’ve been an inventor since I was a kid. Arguably, everyone has an inventive side to themselves and if we retain this trait throughout our lifetime, everyone can be an inventor, or be inventive in their own pursuits.

Who inspired you most?

There are many; one is a tutor at the Glasgow School of Art, who at the end of a project asked me “what grade would I like (and why)?” – implying whatever I nominated, I’d get, which impressed deeply upon me about the integrity of design, and the ability to articulate the merit of my work.

I was also inspired by Seymour & Powell’s Better by Design TV show as a young person, at a pre-digital era when access to design was very limited in Cumbria (where I grew up). It was the catalyst that made me quit my job and retrain to become a designer. Another huge inspiration was working on BBC’s Big Life Fix, both the individuals we designed with and my amazing inventor teammates in the show.

What is the one thing an inventor needs most?

Curiosity seems to underpin pretty much any inventor you claim to cite. Earlier I sort-of-quoted “curiouser and curiouser” from Alice in Wonderland, and there is an undertone to this, that I think speaks to the slightly precipitous nature of going down a rabbit-hole of investigation.

What are you looking forward to in the future?

Without wishing to seem too contrary, when answering this, I’m trying to be more ‘in the present’. Growing up, I think I’ve often worried a lot about the future – be it financial worries, or just things one can’t control or predict. Being a Futurist is increasingly less about trying to be clairvoyant, and more about either a. being prepared to capitalise on one of multiple anticipated future scenarios, or b. trying to create something which is adopted and so becomes the future reality. The ‘antifragile’ mindset (Nassim Nicholas Taleb) is something that inspires a lot of my futures work with clients.

Is there one invention you wish you had created?

I wish I had invented the Biro, or Ballpoint Pen. I think this is one of the most poetic feats of engineering – if you consider the concept is ingenious, but the manufacturing tolerances are extraordinary. Furthermore, the story of its invention is honestly something that could have come out of Hollywood, and is a lesson in the politics and humanity of what inventing is truly like. For a few cents or pennies, a Biro can change someone’s life. Invention combined with Humanity is what makes it impactful.

Favourite thing to do when you are not ‘inventing’?

Sleeping. I’m not saying I never ‘switch off’, but I’m usually mulling over something I saw, heard, etc., if not working on it – and even use sleep to explore subconscious ideas as well. If you’re curious about something, the journey of discovery is still valuable, regardless of the destination. Often the learnings translate to future projects, which is always fun to see them come full circle – time spent thinking, doing, playing, is almost never wasted if you see it holistically.

Favourite place in the world?

Perhaps being in ‘intense’ wilderness, such as the fjords in Norway or caves in Romania, as it is so awe-inspiring and humbling. It is also a clear reminder of why we need to take care of our planet and each other.

I met my wife-to-be whilst in Hong Kong, and yet my emotional association with this place continued to change over the years… What I retain is almost a sensorial memory in amber.

Come and see Jude’s invention on display at Spirit of Invention, until 29 October 2023.