Best Product Design of the Century

Product designs through history have combined remarkable functionality with stylish features. Various designs in the 20th century opened up new consumer markets; remade products as exciting toys for consumers, and significantly streamlined office and home environments in a number of ways. At the same time, the design principles installed within consumer and electrical products helped to redefine what good design meant, and how it would be essential to the future success of companies. 

While it is difficult to pin down the best product designs of the century, there are a few items that should be highlighted:

1 - Hotpoint Electric Irons

Released in 1905, Hotpoint Electric Irons were valuable because they introduced greater accessibility and style to an ordinary household object. Designed by Earl H. Richardson, Hotpoint irons concentrated heat within an iron to make it easier to deal with buttonholes and more sensitive materials. The design and functionality of the iron helped to set the way for a number of Hotpoint products in the early part of the 20th century, which were supported by the company’s relationship with General Electric. Electric cook stoves and new irons emphasised simplicity in white ranges and nickel trims, and set the standard for everyday home electronics.

2 - Xerox 914 Copier

The 1959 Xerox 914 Copier built on the development of xerography from 1938, with parent agreements leading to a series of wet chemicals and plain paper outputs. The automatic copier revolutionised office work, either in floor mounted or desktop forms. Much of the design credit for the Copier came from Armstrong-Balmer and Associates, establishing a durable design that would become invaluable to the modern office during the 1960s.

3 - Kodak Instamatic 100

An essential product design that helped popularise easy to use, portable photographic devices, the Kodak Instamatic was designed by Frank A. Zagara and launched in 1963 as a continuation of the Kodak company’s cheap manufacturing of film rolls. Building on the development of commercially usable cameras from professional and military patents, Kodak’s accessibility was combined with a strong sense of style and emotional value for users. The same process was developed by early 196
0s Kodak Carousel slide projectors.

4 - Canon Pocketronic Calculator

Not perhaps the most exciting item on this list, the Canon Pocketronic Calculator was nonetheless invaluable to developing the idea of portable computing hardware. Designed by Pat Heggarty with development help from Jack Kibly and James Van Tassel, the Pocketronic’s success as the first handheld, battery powered calculator reflected computing trends for more integrated circuit design, rechargeable batteries and affordable costs.

5 - The Apple iPod

Difficult to get away from in terms of its significance for the contemporary music industry and its influence on the iPhone, the iPod still represents one of Apple’s best designs. Developed by Jonathon Ive, the 6.5 ounce player overcame industry resistance to its scroll wheel design to become one of the world’s most widely used products. It also marked a new era for success for Apple, as the company built on its design history to become the undisputed leader in stylish computer and electronics technology and design for the 2000s.

About the Author:
Working with one of the UK's leading product design agencies Christina Appleworth has a wealth of knowledge on the evolution of product designs throughout the past century. If you have a product design concept contact Applied Product Design today!

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