The Supermarine Spitfire was designed in the thirties as a seaplane and retained some of this art deco style and elegance despite it turning into one of the msot effective killing machines in the second world war.
This paradox is intriguing to me and shows a complete mix of form and function. The stylish eliptical wings and bubble 'Malcolm' style canopy were introduced for functional reasons but boy, this plane looks sweet and, by all accounts, handled like a dream.
So much so that German pilots who were shot down by other Allied aircraft swore blind that it was a Spitfire that shot them down.
Spitfire snobbery, and rightly so.
2. Marcel Breuer's B32 Chair
Embracing modern production techniques without foregoing style, the B32 chair cleverly strips down the infrastructure of the chair to its most basic construction but looks great. In addition it is, unlike Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona chair, comfortable to sit in!
3. Cat's eyes (road safety reflective devices)
The cat's eyes follow you everywhere, never ceasing to cast their gaze over your travels. And it's a caring gaze as these cat's eyes, embedded into the roads all over the UK help driver's perceive the route ahead by clever use of reflective lenses. But that's not the only clever part: housed in rubber domes they are wiped clean whenever a car goes over them and pushes down the dome.
Ingenious, simple, low-cost and, in today's *environment*, very friendly.
4. Tube map (Harry Beck)
I appreciate that I'm stretching the bounds of 'object' here, but let's just say the tube map, as a poster, is not only essential for travelling in London it's also an inspired and (to me) beautiful piece of sculpted infographics. Up to the point Beck introduced his version in 1931 the map had been based on geographic lines but with the increasing complexity of the Underground system something had to be done. Beck's saw the solution as helping people get around more effectively.
Although the map has undergone many revisions since the thirties it still retains Beck's distinctive style and effectiveness.
Simple, effective and borne out of a search for a gap in the market for *slightly* sticky glue. This product shows how with good research and a red hot research department victory can be snatched from the jaws of adversity (initially it was a consumer flop). And what a victory!
Post-its! not only help us bookmark, send notes and make shopping lists they also help us brainstorm new products. The ideal product designer's choice.