Last spring I read a cool and not so small book called Thinking Small by Andrea Hiott. It’s the history of the Volkswagen bug. Some of you may recall that I am the proud owner of a very rusty, then in the garage for a clutch problem, now waiting for its battery to be recharged, 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle. I love my car! It’s been the perfect small car for me, and the only one I’ve owned in the nearly 40 years I’ve lived in America.

What did I learn from reading this book? My car was designed by Ferdinand Porsche – I actually own a Porsche!

Many Americans immediately say ‘Hitler’s car’ when speaking about the history of the VW bug. However, much as Porsche seems to have been funded by Hitler he appears never to have succumbed to being a Nazi. Apparently as a designer of cars he was one of the few people that Hitler actually respected.

Several others influenced the post World War II success of the VW bug including a couple of Brits who were ‘in charge’ of that part of the divided Germany in the early post war period. A German, Hermann Munch, then took over and proved capable of rebuilding the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg. Later Carl Hahn was designated the person to carry the banner in America.

Thinking Small is such a fascinating book from an historical standpoint. It explains so much of what was happening both in Europe and America in the latter part of the 19th Century and in the 20th Century.

There are many overlapping interests included in this book – when I started the notes for this blog post I was just reaching the part about the era of innovative ad design. The first VW ad in America! My oldest son and I frequently discuss whether or not an ad functions, why road signage doesn’t always work (called ‘Wayfinding’ – particularly noticeable when you can’t find your way!), why menus in places like Starbucks or the fast food chains are so hard to read while you are in the queue, and many other related topics and projects our family has long been interested and involved in.

So think about what you know about Volkswagen and its history – then read the book Thinking Small and let your mind be opened to the world of the VW bug and some other great innovations of the 20th Century.