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The price of everything. The value of nothing.

Posted by: Ben Fox on 4 November 2013

I was at a school reunion thing a couple of weekends ago. And, talking to one of my old teachers, I discovered that her maiden name was Tatt.

Which brings me (not very neatly) to the ‘top 10 icons of product design’, as recently featured in the Sunday Times ‘Style’ magazine.

The list was curated by Jonathan Ive and an Australian industrial designer, Marc Newson. So, obviously, it should have been good. But, to my simple mind, and with one or two exceptions, it turned out to be more of a top 10 of bling, than brilliance.

I’m guessing that’s because, as part of a charity auction in aid of Bono’s ‘Red’ charity, places on the ‘iconic’ list were awarded to the highest bidder, rather than on design merit.

The line up includes a Range Rover, of the conspicuously vulgar variety, rather than the game-changing original from 1970, and a frilly dress. Then there’s a red and white piano that Liberace would surely query, and some extraneous branded baggage.

Feel free to disagree, but none of this stuff seems particularly consistent with Ive’s abhorrence of the ‘arbitrary’. Yes, there’s a very pretty Leica camera, which Ive and the Aussie designed between them (but which is in truth rather more retrospective than visionary). But really, the only remotely Ivish piece on show is a 1990 Russian Cosmonaut’s suit. And it’s surely no coincidence that this is the only item genuinely designed to solve a problem, rather than simply to sell itself.

Anyway, if there is any point to this ramble, is to say that design of true value generally comes from a singularity of vision, and a dogged (and maybe plain annoying) resistance to compromise at any price.

Meanwhile, for what it’s worth, here’s my totally arbitrary top 9 of something:

1. Beogram – Apple for vinyl times.

2. Mars – Simple. Consistent. Check out how it still works on shelf.

3. Citroen SM – Wow. Is that actually allowed?

4. Football ‘crests’ – Once upon a time, long before the Premier League, football badges were actually designed.

5. Le Creuset pans – I like the colours and everything.

6. Forth Rail Bridge – difficult to put in an actual exhibition, I accept.

7. Adidas Beckenbauers – back in the day, too cool for school.

8. Anglepoise – One can’t work without one.

9. The Penguin Donkey – my favourite.

Categories: Fox musings

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