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Five examples of iconic Industrial Design that use Form as a Function

Standing out

The Dutch word for Design - ‘vormgeving’ - neatly translates into English as ‘giving form’ which is one of the principal activities that Industrial Designers are known for.

It is certainly not the only thing they do but it is definitely core to making a client brand’s product cut through and stand out from the visual soup of competitor offerings. Form is, therefore, a function: how a product actually functions, surprises and delights are other matters that designers must attend to as they craft the overall user experience.

Creating relevant and differentiated products has never been easy but certain products do it so well and become iconic, standing the test of time to become ‘classics’ of their genre.

In this article, we explore some of the world’s most infamous and inspiring Industrial Design and share some interesting history you may not be aware of.

O1_The Piaggio ‘Vespa’ Scooter

The Vespa (Italian for ‘Wasp’) is notorious for its vintage industrial design and is a symbol of design that dates back to the 1950’s. Although the Vespa defines and maintains strong Italian design connotations, the scooter was interestingly influenced by Cushman Scooters pre-WWII, in the United States. It wasn't until Corradino D'Ascanio, an aeronautical engineer, joined Piaggio that the Vespa emerged, as the piece of iconic industrial design that many of us know and love today.

O2_The Coca-Cola ‘Contour’ Bottle

An excellent example of iconic industrial design is the Coca-Cola ‘Contour’ bottle which is recognised by millions across the globe and is used on a daily basis by many people every day.

The design is immediately recognisable and this has been the case for over 100 years. The first design originated in the 1900’s when it was first introduced to the public. This industrial design was initially created by Coca-Cola with the help of ‘The Root Glass Company’ of Terre Haute, Indiana and received an enthusiastic reception from Coca-Cola being released to the thirsty public in 1916.

O3_The Volkswagen ‘Beetle’

The VW Beetle is infamous as an icon of automotive industrial design. The initial design of the Beetle from 1925 was created by 18-year old Hungarian student, Bela Barenyi (a full five years before Ferdinand Porsche claimed to have made his initial version!).

When production finally began in 1938, it was referred to as ‘The People's Car’ (‘Volkswagen’ in German) and was developed as an inexpensive, simple to make & maintain, mass-produced car for use on Germany’s new motorway network (the 'Autobahn').

Known by Italians as ‘Maggiolino’ (‘Turtle’)’ and ‘Bug’ in the US, the Beetle is referred to by the French as ‘La Coccinelle’ meaning ‘Ladybird’. In Indonesia, it is called 'Kodak' which means ‘Frog’.

Whatever you call it, the original and best people’s car has entered people’s hearts.

O4_The Apple iMac

The original iMac G3 sparked serious interest using the power of iconic ID to save Apple from further decline. Apple’s ex-Chief Design Officer, Jony Ive, and his team brought forth the fruity-flavoured iMac in translucent colours such as ‘Bondi Blue’, ‘Lime’ and ‘Strawberry’. 

Its curvaceous form captured the public’s attention and focussed its mind on a world beyond grey boxes. It was the first all-in-one, mass market PC success for the late Steve Jobs as returning CEO and it signalled an ambition to lead by design.

It was ahead of its time in many ways and sparked many a ‘me too’ product but original proved best, providing its adoring public with easy accessibility to the birth of the internet.

O5_ The Dyson Dual Cyclone Vacuum Cleaner

This overnight sensation was the fruit of James Dyson’s considerable labour. It’s almost safe to say that every household owns or aspires to own this revolutionary piece of design. The bagless ‘dual cyclone’ idea entered the market at almost three times the price of its competitors but the buying public were nonetheless quickly persuaded and were not disappointed. 

Due to the superior suction and bag-free convenience this iconic example of industrial design continues to stand in evolving versions as a market leader and has done so for almost twenty years.



 

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