Imagineering is a portmanteau combining "imagination" and "engineering, as in Richard F Sailer's article written for the National Carbon Company Management Magazine, and reprinted by the Union Carbide Company. The article "BRAINSTORMING IS IMAGINation enginEERING" was published and copyrighted in 1957. WED Enterprises applied for a trademark for the term in 1967, claiming first use in 1962. Contrary to the word planning, imagineering refers to the process of inventing together and over time. It is a future-oriented approach that allows a collective to act anew and to stay adaptive at the same time. It is a design approach to effectuate emerging processes, processes by which global-level structures arise from local-level interactions.
The word is well known for its use within the name of Walt Disney Imagineering; however, contrary to popular belief, the term was neither coined by Disney, nor did it originate there. The word was "invented" by Alcoa around 1940, and appeared widely in numerous publications of several disciplines such as urban design, geography and politics, evolutionary economics, corporate culture and futures studies.
Following World War II, Alcoa created an internal "Imagineering" program to encourage innovative usage of aluminum in order to keep up demand.
A Time magazine ad from February 16, 1942, titled "The Place They Do Imagineering" relates the origin,
For a long time we've sought a word to describe what we all work at hard here at Alcoa... IMAGINEERING is the word... Imagineering is letting your imagination soar, and then engineering it down to earth.
Other notable pre-Disney usages include an October 24, 1942 mention in the New York Times in an article titled "Christian Imagineering," a 1944 Oxford English Dictionary entry which cites an advertisement from the Wall Street Journal, and the use by artist Arthur C Radebaugh to describe his work, which was mentioned in the article "Black Light Magic" in the Portsmouth Times, Portsmouth, Ohio, 1947.
"Imagineering" has also been used by:
- Imagineering Foundation, a charity organisation that encourages school children aged from 8-16 to engage with engineering.
- Imagineering, a defunct New Jersey video game developer.
- Imagineering Australia, a microcomputer software and hardware distributor founded by Australian businessman Jodee Rich.
- Larsen & Toubro (L&T), an Indian engineering and construction giant, in its advertising. It has been used in its ad campaign, released in mainline publications and on outdoor media nationwide describing the new tagline of the company - "It's all about Imagineering".