What are the great masterpieces of industrial design?
December 5, 2011 8:34 PM   Subscribe

Looking for masterpieces of industrial design. What are the most well-designed products?

The Apple products are of course, very well known. There's also the Swiss Army Knife and the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman.

I am looking for other such examples, that marry usability and beauty in amazing products that have earned iconic status.
posted by rahulrg to Society & Culture (36 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
The Bic Cristal and Bic Lighter.
posted by griphus at 8:45 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

have a look at Dieter Rams' work, particularly if you consider Jonathan Ives' work for Apple to be iconic.
posted by One Thousand and One at 8:46 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

You'll find quite a few over at Cool Tools. The reviews are a mix of old and new items, classic and obscure, but I'm often surprised at how often a review will pop up for an item that is just so perfect and so iconic that it never even occurred to me that it was a masterpiece design because it never occurred that there could be a world without it.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:48 PM on December 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

Mason jars.
posted by cmoj at 8:52 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

actually, have you seen Objectified? lots of good examples (and discussion) of industrial design in that documentary, if that's what interests you.
posted by One Thousand and One at 8:53 PM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

The paper clip usually makes lists of this sort.
posted by Mchelly at 8:57 PM on December 5, 2011

Olivetti manual typewriters.

An ex-roommate of mine owned one of these in good working condition. They're amazingly easy to type on, nothing like computer keyboards or the electric typewriters I learned to type on when I was a kid. I can see why people loved them.
posted by nangar at 9:18 PM on December 5, 2011

The original Volkswagon Beetle.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:29 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Barcelona Chair by Mies van der Rohe is iconic modernism.
Also the Brno, also Mies.
posted by hot soup at 9:29 PM on December 5, 2011

as a spin off of nangar's response - the IBM Selectric is often cited as an excellent example of industrial design.

The Vespa

Kitchenaid Stand Mixer

Polaroid Land Camera

The VW Beetle and/or the Mini Cooper

The Spork

posted by FlamingBore at 9:30 PM on December 5, 2011

Swingline stapler.
Coca-cola bottle.
Anything by Norman bel Geddes.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:38 PM on December 5, 2011

#1 = the Lego brick.
posted by jade east at 9:40 PM on December 5, 2011

Airstream trailers
posted by FlamingBore at 9:41 PM on December 5, 2011

OXO's kitchen products have the dual purpose of being nice looking but also usable to a wide range of people including people who might otherwise be using adaptive technology [motor skills issues, not great finger strength, etc]. So they manage to be useful for people for longer.
posted by jessamyn at 9:59 PM on December 5, 2011

Glock 17
Fairchild A-10

Both are cheap, effective, reliable, and durable as hell. Beauty and iconic status are subjective, of course.
posted by clorox at 10:00 PM on December 5, 2011

Basically anything from Herman Miller

- Aeron Chair
- Eames Molded Chairs
- Nelson Coconut Chair

... and lots of other things from the Bauhaus era like the Barcelona Chair
posted by caliban at 10:05 PM on December 5, 2011

The Lamy 2000.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:29 PM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

The tripodesque pizza box support thingy. Awesome design.

The Mercedes-Benz power seat adjustment controls that mimic the seat.
posted by bz at 10:48 PM on December 5, 2011

This previously might be useful.
posted by holgate at 11:58 PM on December 5, 2011

The Juicy Salif, as shown on the cover of Don Norman's Emotional Design.

Talking of which, that book and Don Norman's The Design/Psychology of Everyday Things contain many examples of iconic industrial design.
posted by fakelvis at 12:01 AM on December 6, 2011

You should take a look at Masters of Modernism especially Marianne Brandt who with along many other great designers and artists trained at Bauhaus.
posted by adamvasco at 12:08 AM on December 6, 2011

The post-war Vespa scooters, designed by D'Ascanio and Innocenti, and turned out by the Piaggio and Lambretta companies. The idea of a pressed steel, step-through, two-wheeled vehicle with the engine, rear wheel and drivetrain as a single unit is amazingly obvious nowadays but it was an absolute breakthrough then.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 12:57 AM on December 6, 2011

The P-38 can opener, and its (IMO superior) Australian variant, the FRED (Fucking Ridiculous Eating Device).
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:06 AM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Juicy Salif...

I would argue that, cool-looking though it may be, Starck's design is a functional failure in that it doesn't actually work very well in its implied role as a juicer.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:10 AM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Arne Jacobsen designed many durable items of beauty, lost of which have been cloned and copied over the years.
posted by arcticseal at 4:17 AM on December 6, 2011

The Duralex Picardie glass. Inexpensive, almost unbreakable, stackable, can be used for hot or cold drinks, and has an attractive shape that feels good in the hand.
posted by iviken at 4:31 AM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are a few good examples from the world of cycling:

The tension-spoked wheel, which was invented by a 19th-century aeronautical experimenter, but popularized when James Starley adopted them for bicycles.

The safety bicycle with chain drive, especially the diamond frame version.

Tullio Campagnolo's original enclosed cam quick release.

SunTour's Gran-Prix slant parallelogram rear derailleur, invented by Nobuo Ozaki.
posted by brianogilvie at 4:45 AM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

The iconic industrial designer used to be Raymond Loewy. Since nobody here has mentioned him before now, I guess he's been supplanted. His stuff is still amazing.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:15 AM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Ironrite Health Chair (which may be on some of the linked lists, but I don't have time right this minute to click through) is pretty fantastic for such a simple little chair with humble, industrial beginnings - I picked up an old, plain white metal one from an Estate Sale for $10 (because I used to have a mangle too) and it's the most comfortable chair in the house, as far as working while seated goes.
posted by peagood at 7:30 AM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hidden Heroes is a fun site (flash) from Vitra that explores a bunch of these items, their history, and designers.
posted by Mchelly at 10:21 AM on December 6, 2011

The Kikkoman soy sauce bottle.
posted by Kyrieleis at 10:47 AM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anglepoise lamps
The Hasselblad 500 CM camera
The Chemex coffee maker
The Bodum Chambord coffee maker
The BMW horizontally-opposed twin-cylinder engine

Not so beautiful, but significant in the history of industrial design, the 9mm Browning High Power and the Kalashnikov AK-47.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:09 PM on December 6, 2011

The Zippo lighter
Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses
The Sony Walkman
Anything from Bang & Olufsen
The Rolodex card file
The Marcel Breuer bistro chair and tubular steel chair.
The Fauteuil Grand Confort chair.
A bunch of cars, like the Volkswagen Rabbit/Golf, the Willys Jeep, the Citroën 2CV, and the Citroën Traction-Avant
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:49 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just went to buy stamps and found these Pioneer of American Industrial Design stamps which, I must now buy.
posted by FlamingBore at 8:18 AM on December 7, 2011

Citroën DS
Douglas DC-3
posted by Tom-B at 9:11 PM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

You want to check out the Phaidon Design Classics 3 book set (or ~$20 iPad App). Mind you, they go for breadth (1000 items) rather than depth (usually a paragraph or two of history/explanation).
posted by kimota at 11:49 AM on December 12, 2011

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