Richard Sapper Espresso Maker

I must admit to a little personal involvement here; I own one of these. I bought it because it worked, and it looked good. Since then I have come to appreciate how the parts lock together with a satisfying ‘clunk’, how it is easy to load with coffee and water, and how easy it is to wash the thing after the coffee.

Oh, it makes great coffee too.

This coffee maker was designed by Richard Sapper for Alessi, and is on display in the Permanent Design Collection at the MOMA in New York.

Swiss Railway Clock

It is sometimes hard to believe that elegant and restrained designs have been around for so long. The clock designed for the Swiss Federal Railways came about in 1944, the same year I did. I wish I looked as modern as the clock.

It was designed by a Swiss engineer, Hans Hilfiker and clock manufacturer Mobatime for use as a station clock throughout the network.

Later Hilfiker added a red second hand in the shape of a railway guard’s signalling disc. The second hand is powered by an independent electric motor, and completes a circuit of the clock face in a little under a minute. It then waits at the 12 o’clock position until the clock receives a signal from the central master clock. The minute hand, which until now has been stationary pointing to a full minute, jumps ahead one minute, and the second hand begins a new revolution of the face. Swiss trains leave the station right on the full minute.

Almost as a tribute, the clock face design has recently been licensed by Apple for use in some of their devices.

Olympic Tattoos

This is a blog about good design; which normally would exclude tattoos. However, when an Olympic athlete shows his or her achievement by having the Olympic rings tattooed on themselves, somehow it seems like iconic deign.

But to be attractive, the rings have to be in black only. The colored version does not work very well with skin tones.

This is the only reason that I can think of for having a tattoo.

Coca-Cola Bottle

Perhaps this is nostalgia, but the Coca-Cola bottle represents very good industrial design. It is almost surprising to learn that it dates back to 1915 — the design is timeless. Not to mention iconic; Coca-Cola is one of the most recognised brands in the world, and a lot of that is down to the distinctive, and highly recognisable bottle that held sway until recent times.
Ergonomically, it works very well. It is easy to hold when wet or cold (probably both) and the smooth section that separates the hand grips allows the brand to be prominently displayed.
Sadly, the bottle is almost extinct; modern economics prevent the use of refillable bottles, and these ones cost too much for one-time use.
As to its iconic value, famed designer Raymond Loewy called the bottle “the most perfectly designed package in the world.” Recently an Andy Warhol painting of a Coke bottle sold at auction for $35m.

Riedel wine glasses

Riedel wine glasses have a deserved reputation for making the best of the wine you put into them. The Riedel range is expansive, being made up of different glasses for different wines. The original Herr Riedel (this is an Austrian company) developed his glasses by making lots of prototypes, and asking the key producers of each wine type to taste their own wine from each, and say which they thought presented the wine to its best advantage.
While it might seem extravagant to have a different glass for each variety of wine you drink, the whole point of drinking is to enjoy the wine. Why not enjoy it to the full?
Riedel’s Sommelier glasses are hand blown, the glass is very fine but surprisingly robust. The designs, while elegant and beautiful, are remarkably functional — a design exemplar.

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River Cat

Sydney Harbour ferries are justifiably popular; travel by ferry on the best harbour in the world is special. The ferry fleet is composed of various craft, each one tailored to its route and expected water conditions. All the ferries are utilitarian, but there is one standout that manages to merge sleek design with its utilitarian needs—the River Cat.

These catamarans have been designed to generate almost no wash, and are thus suitable for use on reaches of the harbour where bank erosion is a problem. The River Cats are used mainly on the Parramatta River, a tidal and sometimes shallow river running to the west of Sydney.

River Cats are 35 metres long, and carry 230 passengers. There is a wide, spacious seating area inside, and outdoor standing room at the front if you like to see the sights properly and have your hair blown back when the cat is doing 22 knots—a speed that is hardly noticeable given the smoothness of the River Cat’s ride.

Each River Cat is named after a famous Australian sportswoman.

Pedestrian Button

The button at the pedestrian crossing found in Australia and some other countries might seem a little, er pedestrian, to write about in a blog on design exemplars, but consider this button.
Firstly, it is easy to find and to press; it’s big and the slightly concave form is inviting to the hand. Or paw. Guide dogs are trained to reach up and press the button.
When you press the button, a tone sounds to tell you that the crossing light system knows you’re there. When the light turns green in your favour, the tone changes and unmistakably signals that it is time to cross. For blind people, the arrow points at the way to cross and when it is time, a portion of the arrow vibrates. As long as you have a hand, you need no other sense—sight, hearing—to use this design. And if you don’t have a hand, see above about the guide dogs. It is vandal proof and reliable—it is extremely rare to find a broken one.
The button was deigned in the 1980’s by Sydney consultants Nielsen Design Associates.