Dezeen Magazine

Movie: Design Museum Collection App

In this final instalment of clips that Dezeen filmed for the Design Museum Collection App, director of the Design Museum Deyan Sudjic discusses a wide variety of objects including the Singer sewing machine, Shepard Fairey‘s Obama Poster, the AK-47 rifle and the Mothercare nappy. 

Explaining why each object pushed the boundaries of design, Sudjic reflects on how the AK-47 drove Western countries to tackle malaria, Mothercare's response to society's concern over the ecological footprint of nappies, how a political poster went viral in a digital age, why The Face magazine represented the spirit of the 1980s and how the Design Museum came to be housed in a former banana-ripening facility. You can download the iPad app free from the app store here.

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Here are some excerpts from the app:

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Singer V. S 2 (above)

The Singer name has long been synonymous with sewing machines. Founded by Issac Singer in Boston, in 1851, the company manufactured a vast range of machines for both domestic and industrial purposes. The V.S 2 sewing machine, later known as the Model 27, was designed purely for home use. This was the first to make use of the ‘vibrating shuttle’ mechanism, which allowed sewing machines to work faster and quieter than ever before. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Singer V.S 2 sewing machine, designed in 1893, is its longevity and adaptability. They still give excellent service today, and many are in use all over the world.

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Nappy (above)

The invention of the nappy is usually credited to an American, Marion Donovan. Tired of washing her children’s clothing with disinfectant and then drying them, in 1946, she sewed a conventional cloth nappy into shower curtain plastic to make a reusable, leak-proof cover. Later, Donovan replaced the curtain material with nylon parachute cloth and substituted the safety pin with plastic clips. Donovan’s invention was launched in 1949 at Saks’ Fith Avenue department store in New York, and the disposable nappy market was born.

Modern disposable nappies continue to adopt new technologies. Cellulose fibres proved more effective at absorbing moisture, and were lighter and thinner. Elasticated waistbands and stretchy adhesive tabs replaced clips, and the surfaces of nappies were increasingly adorned with colourful patterns and cartoon characters. In recent years, designers have sought to address concerns about their ecological impact by developing innovative ecologically-friendly nappies which can be recycled into roof tiles and other products. This 1990 cloth nappy has been almost completely replaced by advances in both re-usable and disposable nappies.

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The Face (above)

The Face was a popular British visual art, music and youth culture magazine that launched in 1980 and closed in 2004. Graphic designer, Neville Brody, the magazine’s first Art Director, designed a distinctive visual style and typography that captured the prevailing feeling of readers in the early 1980s. The distinct graphic style was hugely influential and has inspired magazine producers and designers worldwide.

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Progress (above)

Moments in history are often associated with a strong image, or visual identity. These visual references can be so strong that they are inseparable from the actual events. In certain designs, for instance the Mary Quant mini dress, we can see the essence of a period or social movement distilled to a single object. Similarly, Shepard Fairey’s 2007 poster, created for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential election campaign, captured the prevailing feelings of hope and anticipation that swept America.

Shepard Fairey is a street artist renowned for his prolific fly-posting of propaganda style artwork and his ‘Andre The Giant’ motif. Fairey was commissioned by the initiative ‘Artists for Obama’ and the ‘Inaugural Committee’ to create limited edition work for sale in order to raise money and awareness for Barrack Obama’s 2008 Presidential Campaign. Based on the image taken by the Pulitzer Prize winning photographer David Turnley, the initial Obama posters created by Fairey were the PROGRESS and HOPE images. Then, working on his own initiative, Fairey used both these images as part of an unofficial viral poster campaign to help bring awareness to Obama’s Presidential Campaign. The artwork was then iterated to create more posters with the words CHANGE and VOTE to further spread the candidates message and meet the incredible demand for the artwork.

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Secticon (above)

Evoking the space age, the Secticon clock was originally designed for use on a boat. Designed in 1956 Angelo Mangiarotti, and inspired by maritime clocks, the dial of the Secticon Clock is positioned at a slight angle for easy viewing whether standing up or from a seated position. The organic and sturdy porcelain base ensures stability and the raised hour markers on the dial have progressively increasing widths which are at their widest at noon and midnight. During the 1960s, the Secticon clock was adapted to become a popular line in stand-alone table clocks and was available in range of different colours.

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Boby Trolley (above)

In a brief but brilliant career, Joe Colombo was one of Italy’s most influential product designers. Colombo believed that the designer was the ‘creator of the environment of the future’ and he was completely committed to building a new language of interior design by creating entire, seamless environments for living rather than individual pieces of furniture. He was anxious that all his designs should be dynamic and adaptable, a philosophy made concrete in the Boby Trolley of 1970. Made from injection-moulded ABS plastic, the trolley has rotating trays and pocket drawers connected to a vertical axis running the length of its side. The trolley was specifically intended for use alongside a drawing table, but could easily be used in the bedroom. Endlessly useful and versatile, the Boby Trolley encapsulates Colombo’s theory that ‘we will have to make the home live for us, for our needs, for a new way of living more consistent with the reality of today and tomorrow.’

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Kalashnikov AK-47 (above)

The AK-47 was one of the first true assault rifles to be manufactured. As a result of its durability, low production cost and ease of use it is still in production sixty years later. That the AK-47 is an archetype is undeniable – the World Bank estimates that a fifth of the 500 million firearms available worldwide are from the Kalashnikov family. But any praise of such a design must be measured against the damage it has caused. Illegally manufactured and smuggled throughout the world, the AK-47 has been used by terrorists and child armies alike. It has been a ubiquitous presence in every major war and minor conflict for over half a century. The terror inflicted by the object can be measured in more than just numbers and tellingly, depictions of the weapon can be found on the flags of Mozambique and Hezbollah, as well as numerous coats of arms, including those of Zimbabwe and East Timor.

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Architectural model for the Design Museum (above)

In Victorian times, the area east of Tower Bridge on the south side of the river Thames, known as Shad Thames included the largest warehouse complex in London. During the twentieth century the area went into decline as congestion forced shipping to unload goods further east and the last warehouses closed in 1972. However, Shad Thames was regenerated by Design Museum founder Terence Conran in the 1980s, when the disused, but picturesque, warehouses were converted into flats, restaurants, bars and shops. A former 1940s banana warehouse became the home of the Boilerhouse Project, originally based at the V&A and what was to became the Design Museum. The warehouse was rebuilt to resemble a Modernist building in the style of the 1930s, with white walls, generous balconies and stairwells illuminated by glass bricks.