Model Builders Inc Blog

Industrial designers - 5th of 5 books on the greatest product designs

Posted by Hal Chaffee on Wed, Apr 10, 2013 @ 03:47 PM

"The Origin of Things Sketches, Models, Prototypes" is our fifth book review of the greatest product designs. It was published in 2003 in Rotterdam and accompanied an exhibition of the same name from May 10, 2003 to July 27, 2003 at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam.

This interesting book covers quite a wide range of products and how they were developed. Each product is explored on an average of eight pages and many interesting design questions are explored. For example the paper clip on the cover of this book looks like a perfect example of form follows function but in fact since the late 1800's there have been patent applications for over 30 paper clip designs that work quite well.

This book focuses on the processes through which new ideas are transformed into products. The industrial designer here is framed as a good leader of a team of several disciplines - design, marketing and technology. Thirty three products from 1862 to 2003 are reviewed to explore what processes (Sketches, Models, Prototypes) the industrial designer utilized to turn  a new idea into a product. The first fourteen pages discuss the product design process of the Netherlands first industrial designer Wim Gilles. Below we review 4 of the 33 products.

The Origin of Things

When the DRU company developed a new kettle in 1954 industrial designer Wim Gilles based his design on new insights and analysis. In fact the company's existing design they had discovered  performed very poorly. Giles changed the design. The position of the handle in relation to the center of gravity for filling or pouring was optimized, the angle of the spout improved, the bottom was flat to help heat up the sides for a more even heat, and space was added to the top so that there was space at the top for steam when the kettle was filled (this prevented water from coming out the spout). For its time this kettle was a prime example of the value of industrial design and in 1955 was included in a technical encyclopedia.

Wim Gilles Kettle

Wim Gilles Kettle 1954

Aart Roelandt studied industrial design at the Academy for Industrial Design in Eindhovven and later received the incentive prize from the City of Amsterdam for his recumbent bicycle design. First he built two recumbent bicycle designs in graduate school. Then working with an engineering firm they came up with four prototypes to figure out the correct ergonomic position. Two years and 500 test rides later they were ready for production. The recumbent bicycle was not a new idea but the Roulandt was the first to be mass produced. The design advantages include a sight line that is parallel with the horizon for better visibility and a much more comfortable ride since the back, stomach and wrists are not squeezed up.

Roelandt recumbent bicycle

 Roulandt recumbent bicycle 1981-83

The first suction based vacuum cleaner powered by electricity was developed in 1907. The basic technology was not changed until James Dyson turned the industry upside down by removing the bag since it clogs with dust and reduces the suction power. His first attempt was to build a working prototype from cardboard and tape attached to a current vacuum cleaner. Dyson made 5, 127 prototypes from cardboard, plastic, foam and metal to develop  his cyclone technology.

After a deal with Japanese company Apex, Inc. the G-Force Cyclonic Cleaner was launched. With that success he was able to set up his own research center and manufacture his products in England. In 1995 Dyson came out with the DC02 a compact, cylinder version that worked because he placed the bin at an angle with a hinge for opening. It also could sit on a staircase and "climb" stairs as it was pulled along. Dyson said "it looks and behaves like a domestic pet". One year later it was the best selling cylinder cleaner in the United Kingdom and a great example of the value of using multiple iterative prototypes to develop a new product.

Dyson DC02

 Dyson DC02 1994-1995

"For furniture designers and manufacturers....the quest for the perfect one-piece molded chair has been continuous for half century or more." The Air Chair 1997-1999 designed by Jasper Morrison and manufactured by the Italian firm Magis "is the closest we have come to achieving the modernest grail of the single molded chair."

Air Chair

Jasper Morrison Air Chair 1997-1999

This concludes our book reviews on the greatest product designs of the last 100 or so years. Industrial designers were key to the transition from craft to mass produced products by incorporating new materials and manufacturing methods, improving function and appearance, and creating efficient designs that reduced the cost of production. At Model Builders, Inc. we have worked with many noted industrial designers such as Raymond Loewy on moving from an idea to reality with a new product. We hope these five book reviews provide insight into that process of sketches, models, prototypes - with the industrial designer as the team leader.

Do you have a favorite book on industrial design prototypes, products or designers? Please let us know by posting a comment. If you have any questions or would like to discuss prototypes or other projects contact us at Model Builders, Inc. 773-586-6500 or .

Tags: product model, prototype, industrial designer, model builders, model maker, prototypes, model makers, prototype models, industrial design, product models, model builder, industrial designers, prototype model

Industrial designers - 4th of 5 books on the greatest product designs

Posted by Hal Chaffee on Tue, Apr 02, 2013 @ 11:01 PM

"Objects of Design from the Museum of Modern Art" by Paola Antonelli is the fourth  book review of great product designs. Industrial designers created many of the objects here. This book was published in 2003 with color photographs by The Museum of Modern Art, New York. It is quite different from the MOMA's 1970 book "The Design Collection - Selected Objects" which showed objects in black and white with a label but little text.  Their design collection was established in 1934 and at the time of this latest book's publication had over 3,708 mass produced or homemade objects (although most in the collection are mass produced).

The MOMA design collection now is "a critical and exclusive assembly rather than encyclopedic and comprehensive. One of the leading characteristic's of the Museum's design collection is the idea that its design objects are part of larger visions within which they are best seen." The center of gravity of the MOMA design collection has begun to shift from the machine age to the digital age. Their challenge is to find what "objects most clearly tell us about ourselves, the culture that produced them, and the world in which we aspire to live." 

Objects of Design book resized 600

 Unlike the last three books reviewed "Objects of Design" has far more pictures of objects - 341 total and all in color.  The objects are grouped into nine thematic sections and each section has a separate author.

1. Turning Points.  Basically this covers the change to the point of view that art should be available to all in mass produced objects, organic and simple geometric forms without ornamentation and aesthetic abstraction. Otto Wagner, Gustav Stickley and Frank Lloyd Wright designed chairs, tables, silverware, etc. in the beginning period of modernism.

2. Machine Art. The Museum's 1934 exhibit "Machine Art" focused on the unintential beauty of these highly functional machine parts. The Bell 47-D1 Helicopter 1945 is one example.

3. A Modern Ideal. Works of art and and objects of design from Bauhaus studios and workshops from the 1920's on fit this theme. Eileen Gray's Adjustable Table 1927 and Tube Lamp 1940's, Le Corbusier's Chaise Longue and his Armchair1928, Marcel Breuer's Tea cart Model B54 1928 and Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Chair 1929 and Tugendhat coffee Table are some of the examples.

1930 Table Clock

Marianne Brandt Table Clock 1930

 4. Useful Objects.  In 1938 the Museum worked with retailers to exhibit good designs that were affordable to the average consumer. The exhibit was called "Useful Household Objects under $5.00." This exhibit was shown in 7 cities in addition to New York City. Objects were chosen by their suitability of purpose, material and process of manufacture". The Useful Object exhibit was so successful that they repeated the tour for nine more years with new useful objects each year although the price gradually increased to $100.00 in 1947. In the objects "form and beauty follows function". Innovative functionality and integration of new materials like heat resistant Pyrex glass led to the glass frying pan and baking dish. Plastics revolutionized consumer products by the 1950's. Good useful design wasn't expensive and was available to everyone. Examples are the Electric Hairdryer 1928, Corning Glass Works Baking Dish 1949, LEGO Building Bricks 1954-1958, the Bic Cristal pen 1950 and Post-it Note 1977.


 Earl S. Tupper Pitcher and Creamer 1946

5. Modern Nature. Organic might be a way to describe this influence on designed objects. In part technology enabled a new relationship with materials and processes in creating objects. Thonet, Eames, Aalto, etc. explored new materials that led to new possiblities with designed objects, especially with curvy organic shapes

Alvar Aalto

Alvar Aalto Vase (no. 3031) 1936 and Paimio Chair 1931-32

6. Mind over Matter.  Many new materials, mostly synthetics, were created during WWII and designers explored their possibilities which led to "new functions and applications and astonishlingly innovative forms." Plexiglas (introduced in 1936), polycarbonate and other plastics enabled designs that could be shaped and hardened to create continuous surfaces and curved surfaces without joints. Developments in plywood technology meant it could be formed into compound curves.  Later carbon fiber permitted even "thinner and lighter continuous-form objects without joints."

In 1995 the museum exhibition "Mutant Materials in Contemporary Design" explored this mind over matter relationship. A particular material could be shaped and used differently in products by the designer. Vernor Panton's Stacking Side Chair 1959-60 was the first chair cast in one piece and from a synthetic material (polyurethane plastic).  No assembly or hand labor was required.

7. Good Design. This theme covers the MOMA's series of Good Design exhibitions between 1950 and 1955. The idea was to influence wholesalers and manufacturers of consumer goods into thinking that there was probably a large market for well designed products. Objects featured here include Alvar Aalto's Tea Trolley 1936-37, Charles and Ray Ames Low Side Chair model LCM 1945, Eerp Saarinen's Tulip Armchair and Richard Sapper's Tixio Table Lamp 1971.

8. Good Design for Industry. As noted here many great industrial designs resulted from a close collaboration between the industrial designer and the manufacturer. MOMA exhibits that explored this topic first started in 1952 with "Olivetti: Design in Industry". Objects pictured in this thematic topic include Electric Kettle 1909, Minox Riga Camera 1936, Chemex Coffee Maker 1941, Kodak Carousel-S Slide Projector 1963, Dieter Rams Loudspeaker model LEi 1960, Swatch Jellyfish Watch 1983., Macintosh SE Home computer 1984, Apple G4-Cube Speakers 2000 and the Smart Car 1998.

9. The Object Transformed. The MOMA's 1966 exhibit "The Object Transformed" was mostly art works inspired by design objects like the Display stand for Oranges, the Malitte Lounge Chair, 1966, the 85 Lamps Lighting Fixture 1992 and the Honey Pop Armchair. They transform materials into functional objects in creative ways.

"Objects of Design" is a large book at 286 pages but it is an interesting interweaving of 9 themes that cover a century of products with plenty of color pictures and enough interesting text on well designed products to provide a comprehensive perspective on industrial designers and their products during the 20th Century. 

Do you have a favorite book on industrial design prototypes, products or designers? Please let us know by posting a comment. If you have any questions or would like to discuss prototypes or other projects contact us at Model Builders, Inc. 773-586-6500 or .

Tags: prototype, industrial designer, model maker, prototypes, model makers, prototype models, industrial design, model builder, industrial designers, prototype model

Industrial designers - 3rd of 5 books on the greatest product designs

Posted by Hal Chaffee on Sat, Mar 23, 2013 @ 05:09 PM

"Icons of Design The 20th Century" is the third book review of great product designs.  Industrial designers created many of the product designs in this book. There are 83 products selected and presented by 23 authors - only 5 of the authors are American and most of the rest are European. In the book's FOREWORD industrial designer and art historian Reyer Kras makes interesting comparisons between the Christian icon and the industrial icon.

Industrial Designer Kras also compares the shift within the past 10 years from the mechanical revolution to a new peak in a electronics revolution in the past 10 years. The way mechanical appliances operate has disappeared for many functions - "Certain functions...have dematerialized, vanished into the caverns of the chip, the hard drive and the digital network". His conclusion "This shift in technology has also impacted how industrial designers envision and shape electronically controlled products."

If the need to design the product - the image- disappears, will that be the end of this profession? Or will the designer be able to create an intangible context? In the future this is destined to pose one of the greatest challenges to the designer." In some ways this parallel's Jay Doblin's concern 30 or more years prior about the impact "that the combination of intellectronics and automation" would have. Maybe it is no coincidence that the Internet was the product selected for 1990 and the last product selected (for the year 2000) in "Icons of Design The 20th Century" is Virtual Reality.

Icons of Design resized 600

The Savoy vase 1937 - Alvar Aalto - his most important contribution to 20th Century glass design and an early example of organic design.

First published in 2000 and again in 2004 this book has each object shown in color photographs with illustrations of its use. With most of the products there is a timeline description and small photograph of the designer along with a full page description of the history and significance of each product.

The format is quite similar to that of industrial designer Jay Doblin's 1970 book "One Hundred Great Product Designs". Both books are also in chronological order with the year they came out shown next to the product name. There are two pages on each product and one of the pages is a large picture (most are in color).

US Tunnel Mailbox 1915 resized 600

U.S. "Tunnel" Mailbox 1915

Designed by postal engineer Roy Joroleman to resolve a conflict between fiercely independent farmers and government regulators. This mandated galvanized sheet metal design is simple and functional.  The red flag lets the carrier know when to pick up mail. Formerly a variety of discarded containers served as mail boxes on rural routes. 

Motorola Microtac 1989

                                             Motorola MicroTAC 1989

The MicroTAC folding mechanism revolutionized the shape of cell phones

Some of the other great product icons in this book are:

Aircraft: Douglas DC-3 Dakota 1935 and Lockheed Super Constellation 1951.

Appliances: AEG Electric Kettle 1909 and Philips-Alessi Line (five kitchen appliances) 1996

Automobiles: Ford Model T 1908-1927, Bugatti 1926, Mercedes Silver Arrow 1934, Cord 810 1936, Fiat 500 Topolino 1936, Volkswagen Beetle 1938, Citroen 2CV, Chevrolet Corvette 1953 and Morris Mini 1959.

Cameras: Leica Camera 1913-1925, Kodak Baby Brownie 1934 and Minox Camera 1938.

China: Teaset 1934.

Home Entertainment: Braun Phonosuper SK4 1956, Sony Portable TV 80 301 in 1959, Brionvega Radio TS-502 in 1964, B&O Beogram 4000 in 1972, Sony Walkman 1979, Philips Compact Disc 1980, Tamagotchi (interactive computerized toy) 1996.

Typewriters: Underwood Typewriter No. 5 1900, IBM Selectric Typewriter 1961 and Olivetti Valentine Typewriter 1969.

Apple Macintosh 1984 resized 600

Apple Macintosh 1984

A variety of other great products also were developed in the 20th Century -  Raleigh Safety Bicycle 1905, Coca Cola Bottle 1915, Rolex Oyster Watch 1926, Zippo Lighter 1933, Parker 51 Fountain Pen 1941,Vespa Motor Scooter 1946, Tupperware 1946, Rolodex Rotary Card File 1952, Harley Davidson "Easy Rider" 1969, In-Line Skates 1980 and other interesting choices in this book.  Overall "Icons of Design The 20th Century" is a nice update - with color pictures, about 30 more years of great products to our two earlier book reviews and with more of a European point of view.

In-line Skates 1980

 In-Line Skates 1980

The 4th and 5th books we review on the greatest product designs have a very different format. The 4th book has nine categories of products. The fifth book goes more extensively (about 5 pages each) into the development of each of about 35 products.

Do you have a favorite book on industrial design prototypes, products or designers? Please let us know by posting a comment. If you have any questions or would like to discuss prototypes or other projects contact us at Model Builders, Inc. 773-586-6500 or .


Tags: product model, prototype, industrial designer, model builders, model maker, prototypes, model makers, prototype models, industrial design, product development, product models, model builder, industrial designers, prototype model