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Great Design by Philip Wilkinson
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Great Design

by Philip Wilkinson

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“It’s very easy to be different, but very difficult to be better.” -- Jonathan Ive (Sr. VP of Design at Apple)

In this beautiful and informative volume, writer Philip Wilkinson works with the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum to highlight ~100 outstandingly designed products that are “both completely fit for purpose and unrivaled in appearance.” From designers around the world, they’re presented chronologically from the bentwood chair in 1860 (when the Industrial Revolution’s mass-production began to require designers to draft models for manufacturers to follow) to the iPad in 2010.

There’s furniture; home accessories and decoration; cookware/tableware; graphics (wallpaper, fabric, posters, maps, books, fonts); transportation; electronics; and more, presented as lushly as you expect from Dorling Kindersley -- pleasingly laid out and printed in full color on smooth, heavy paper. It's definitely "survey" in depth, but each design is featured as a two-page spread that includes background on the product, its designer and the time period, plus numerous photographic perspectives that describe key features. A tally of my prioritized favorites comes to 27! The following group of four, surprisingly (to me) all in transportation, stays especially in mind:

• the 1938 Volkswagen Beetle (which I was shocked to learn was created pursuant to “Adolf Hitler’s demand for a cheap ‘People’s car’ that would carry two adults and three children in comfort, at a speed of 62 mph (100 kph), and at a retail cost of 1,000 Reichsmark (the price of a small motorcycle”);
• the 1946 Vespa (the Italian word for “wasp,” which it delightfully resembles); and
• the Austin Seven Mini and the Cadillac series 62, both of which are from 1959 but couldn’t be more visually different -- the former a 10-foot-long “bubble” economy car that is all passenger area, and the latter a 20-foot-long luxury model that’s everything but passenger area.

This is one of very few coffee-table books I’ve read from cover to cover (The Elements, The Oxford Project, and Off the Tourist Trail are three others that come to mind). I was so enamored with some of the designs that I shopped online for the products ... and was greeted with such sticker-shock each time that I’m grateful to at least have the representations of them in this beautiful book :)

(Review based on a copy of the book provided by the publisher.) ( )
3 vote DetailMuse | Nov 5, 2013 |
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"The ultimate illustrated guide to more than 100 icons of international design from the everyday to the avant-garde, from the Barcelona chair and the Ekco radio to the Citro?en DS and the iPad."--P. [4] of cover.

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