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Do you remember the first time you saw an iPhone? How about the first time you drank from a bottle of Coca Cola? Like everything else in the technological wonderland that is the early 21st Century, we take product design for granted. We tend to forget that everything around us didn’t just spontaneously burst into existence. Below are 5 everyday design classics that could do with more appreciation.
Series 7 Chair
Arne Jacobson is one of those people you can’t help feeling a tiny bit jealous of. Designer, architect and all-round genius, he’s been responsible for some of the most recognisable designs in history. Cutlery, opera houses, sofas; you name it, Jacobson did it better than anyone else. But nothing comes close to the Series 7 Chair. You probably recognise it: from Lewis Morley’s super-sexy shots of Christine Keeler if nowhere else. It’s the most copied chair in design history; functional, elegant and breathtakingly simple. First manufactured in 1955, it’s been filling offices ever since.
Whatever your thoughts on Apple, you gotta admit Jonathan Ive is a genius. For all Jobs’ technological achievements, it was Ives who slapped his kit in a package so damn iconic it blew the competition clear out the water. A masterclass in THX1138-style minimalism, the iPod was sleek, light and positively sexy. In one swoop it hit the nail on the head. Unlike the ever-evolving iMac, subsequent models have deviated only in weight and size. Though he gets all the credit, without his BFF designer on board, Jobs would have been nothing more than an obscure turtle-necked geek with a crippling messiah complex.
FAB Smeg Fridge
Red Dwarf fans may now be in hysterics – both of them – but the Smeg FAB is to interior design what the Cadillac Coupe de Ville was to cars. Combining sleek modern edges with a retro look, it made Smeg the only household name in kitchen appliances. Coming in a variety of pastel shades, it took root in the public imagination; cluttering up kitchens from Doncaster to Delaware. Even Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park got in on the act, placing a ‘SMUG’ fridge in the duo’s kitchen. If there’s a better indication of brand fame than a nod from Britain’s most charming Claymation heroes, we have yet to hear it.
Yes, it gets a reboot every four years; but the template Olympic logo remains forever etched in our minds, as each successive local rebrand fades into welcome obscurity. So recognisable is the simple design, you’d be forgiven for thinking athletes competed under it in Ancient Greece. In reality, it’s only a hundred years old; designed by Baron Pierre de Coubrtin in 1912, first deployed in 1920, and subsequently popularised by, uh, Hitler at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. It takes a strong design to bounce back from that sort of endorsement (how often do you see anyone rockin’ a swastika these days?), the fact that the IOC have thus far avoided a rebranding speaks volumes for the Baron’s work.
The Soviet camera that started a craze, the Lomo was first introduced in 1984. Thanks to its funky visual style, combined with the post-millennial craze for nostalgia, it went supernova; becoming one of the most recognisable cameras on the planet. Picture quality aside, the sheer back-to-basics approach of the last popular analogue camera has sucked in thousands of punters who would otherwise have gone digital. Easy to use, lightweight, functional and perfectly sized to slip in the pocket of your skinny jeans, the Lomo is a triumph of form and simplicity.
Coca Cola Bottle
You don’t get much more iconic than the Coca Cola bottle. Designed by Alexander Samuelsson in 1915 to differentiate the brand from their competition, it’s since gone on to become an icon of capitalism, advertising, America and the 20th Century. A lynchpin of our times, it gets the sort of recognition usually reserved for Hollywood stars, without the attendant embarrassing behaviour.
Being made of glass, its manufacture has fallen into decline in the West, where we tend not to give our children things that aren’t wrapped in cotton wool. Not so the rest of the world, where Samuelsson’s design is going strong as ever.
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