Whether a gadget is pretty or not shouldn’t always be the deciding factor on whether its for you. but time has shown that those devices that encourage you to look at them, interact with them, feel them and just simply use them with the beauty of their design are often the ones that are the most successful in their mission. Attention to design and beauty speaks of the care of the creator, and who wouldn’t want a product that has clearly been created with passion and intensity?
There have been many products that exemplify the confluence of the form an object takes, its function and the care put into it by its creators. We’ll take a look at just seven of them here, with a few additional examples that could easily have made the list.
The first iPhone was a watershed moment in portable computing. You may get some naysayers who will say that the design of the iPhone was simply an amalgamation of what had come before, but the fact is that it was completely different than any other cell phones in 2007 or before. It brought together the design sensibilities of Jonathan Ive, influenced by Braun’s Deiter Rams, with a functionality so revolutionary, it has shaped nearly every smartphone that has come since. The iPhone is a supreme example of the function informing the form and it will be held as an example for years to come. See Also: Apple iPod 3rd Generation
The E-type Jag (or XK-E), although an automobile, still qualifies as a gadget in my book, as it was one of the first production cars designed almost completely usig the principles of aerodynamics. This car was meant to move quickly and smoothly through the air, keeping its tires in contact with the road. Wonderfully, those design principles also produced a supremely beautiful car that is still one of the best looking ever made. This kind of desing-by-experimentation was also exemplified recently by the Bughatti Veyron, which was essentially an exercise by VW in ‘lets see how fast we can make it go’, and also produced a thing of beauty. See also: Lamborghini Aventador
Braun T1000 Portable Radio
If you wanted to consider a gadget as the harbinger of all of the beautiful electronic devices that we get to use today, it would be the Braun T1000 radio. Designed by the renowned Deiter Rams, its simplicity and slavish coherence to the principles of the form serving the function has stood as a beacon of minimal design in gadgets. It would all go off the rails in the 80’s, when gadgets got complex, chunky and adorned with needless flash, but thankfully the example set by the T1000 has begun to come back around again in the last decade. See also: Braun BN0035 Watch
Fisher “bullet” Space Pen
The first Fisher AG7 Austronaut Pen was developed for use in zero gravity, underwater and at any angle. It was a gorgeous gadget that had a pressurized cartridge that allowed the ink to flow around the tungsten carbide ball point no matter what. But my money is on the “bullet pen” version of the original. With its smooth capsule shape and precisely fitted cap that can be reversed to transform it into a full-size pen, the bullet really looks like a pen from space, and feels like a bit of the future in your hand to this day. See also: Original Fisher AG7 Space Pen
Although it was not one of the best cameras in terms of image quality, the SX-70 from Polaroid was certainly a beautiful device. It had a lovely folding design that set the tone for the shape of Polaroid cameras for the next 30 years. It was also the philosophical precursor of the digital camera. An easy-to-shoot and nearly foolproof camera that allowed you to see your images within seconds. For what was an interestingly complex asembly of hinges and rollers, It was also remarkably durable. I’ve handled 35-year old SX-70 cameras that operated as if they were new. That’s something that you won’t be able to say about the smartphone that you’ve got in your pocket right now. See also: Leica M6
B + W Nautilus
Shaped like the shell of some huge prehistoric sea dweller, the Nautilus from Bowers and Wilkins is a loudspeaker that looks like no other. The conical chambers and swooping lines look like a visual representation of the sound that comes out of them, bold and crisp. Widely lauded, then derided, for their convention-breaking design, the Nautilus has come to be recognized as a turning point in the design of loudspeakers. The cone shapes aren’t just a design flourish. Instead, the clever design allows the enclosures to produce sound that is almost completely unaffected by the enclosure that it comes out of. Instead, it appears out of thin air, just as it was meant to sound. See also: MartinLogan Summit
To this day, the Sony PlayStation 2 is still the best selling console of all time, with 150+ million units sold. A good design doesn’t always guarantee success, but in this case it definitely didn’t hurt. The PS2 may look a bit hard-edged by current design conventions, but it was a true product of the millenium. Angular, incredibly thin for what was essentially a computer, the PS2 personified the burgeoning cyberspace culture. It could just as easily have been a ‘deck’ used to access a huge virtual world in a William Gibson novel and it had visual ties to vintage gadgets like the Bang & Olufsen Beolit 707. The revision of the PS2 to make it thinner and smaller later in its cycle produced a product that could easily stand alongside the Xbox 360 and PS3 and not look out of place. See also: Apple TV 2