Industrial design combines applied art and applied science in order to improve a product from various points of view: functionality, aesthetics, usability, and ergonomics. All these things help a product be both pleasing to the eye and easy to use, and they may also help with marketability or production. Although we rarely hear about them, industrial designers make our lives easier and better, and their role is more important than we know, because they create design solutions that help solve a number of issues with the production and marketing of a product, and even with its promotion.
In what follows we are going to look at some examples of industrial design that shaped history and the world; some of these designs are still standing, and others are still revered as breakthroughs of their generations. It is precisely when a design seems overly simple and uncomplicated that the designer’s work has to have been the hardest, or the most ingenious; thus, one must learn how to appreciate industrial design.
- The Pocket Instamatic – It was designed by British designer Kenneth Grange, who graduated from the Willesden School of Arts and Crafts in the 1950s. After working several years as an assistant for architect Jack Howe, Grange was approached by Kodak to create for them a smaller version of the Instamatic. The design Grange came up with was extremely popular, because people loved the Instamatic’s sleek design and small size. On another note, Granger also went on to design the taxicabs and rail-cars in London.
- The TR82 Transistor Radio – This product was designed by another British subject, former law student and pilot turned to industrial design, David Ogle. Ogle said that it were his experiences with planes that made him interested in industrial design, which he graduated in at the School of Art and Design in London. Soon afterwards he started designing radios for Bush Radio, and in 1948 he created the TR82. After this, Ogle designed some cars as well, but his career ended abruptly when he died in an accident, behind the wheel of a car he himself has designed.
- The SX-70 Polaroid – This great invention, which was extremely useful in so many other industries at the time, was invented by a Harvard dropout by the name of Edwin H. Land. Dropout or not, Land was a man with interests, as he used to sneak into the laboratories at Columbia University in order to use the equipments; that is how he invented the first inexpensive filters that could polarize light. He named this the Polaroid film, and soon founded a company whose products helped not only photography, but the movie industry and the army as well. Nevertheless, the crowning glory seems to be the SR-70, because it produced photographs faster than other models, and it was used by artists like Andy Warhol and Ansel Adams.
- The Braun calculator – Calculators may not seem spectacular, but does anyone know what they used to look like in the beginnings? We look at these devices today and find them to be perfectly normal and as they should be, not imagining they are all inspired by one design, over fifty years ago: that of the Braun calculator, created by German designer Dieter Rams. Rams, who is still revered for his style, was co-opted by Braun almost from the benches of school, and he remained there, soon as chief of design, for most of his life. And if you want to know a little secret, the iPhone calculator is inspired by the Braun calculator.
These are just some of the examples of great industrial design that shaped our world, and that made it better. There are other examples as well, such as the Apple products designed by Jonathan Ive; the Volkswagen Beetle – today a hippie symbol – created by Ferdinand Porsche for the Nazi Party at Hitler’s personal request; the Walkman, the first easily-portable music device, invented by Nobutoshi Kihara, and many others more. From kettles to chairs, to sporks and glasses, industrial design gives contour to the world we live in.