6 Designs Ideas That Have Shaped the (Modern) World

Marcel Breuer 1936

You've read the book, now see the movie. Or should that be, you've seen the designs, now let's learn about their background and impact on the modern world. A new show at London's Design Museum examines the history of design through 6 iconic (!) design items.

Called "Extraordinary Stor!es about Ord!nary Th!ngs", it delves into everything you ever wanted to know about some very familiar items.

1. Modernism

This section examines the modernist furniture that was made in Britain, such as the moulded wood bench by Marcel Breuer in 1936. It was cut and shaped from a single piece of birch plywood. Other designers from this period included Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Erno Goldfinger, whose name Ian Fleming spitefully immortalised as a Bond villain because of a personal dispute.

2. Archetypes

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Designed by an automotive engineer, George Carwardine, in 1934, the Anglepoise lamp can move in every conceivable direction because of his invention of a new type of spring. It is still in production.

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It was updated in 2004 by British designer Kenneth Grange, who was at the opening and is looking hale and hearty.

3. Plastics

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The long life of plastic and how it has changed over the last 75 years is a fascinating part of the show. Recent uses include high profile designers such as Issey Miyake using recycled PET from plastic bottles to create fabrics used in his designs and this wonderful cube light that looks like it could float away.

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These adorable children's chairs, made from hollow formed moulded plastic and are from the Netherlands.


These stacking chairs were made by Anna Castelli-Ferrierie, one of the first women designers to graduate as an architect in Milan. The inventive stacking takes place because the rear leg of the chair is fed through an opening in the seat of the chair.

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This television set, designed by Philippe Starck, was made out of high-density chipboard casing as an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic. And that was in 1994.

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It's weird, it's made of an industrial material used for packaging, but formed into more rigid and long lasting form. And it looks birch bark logs.

4. National Identity

This section includes familiar objects that define Britain such as the red telephone booth, the mail box and the Olympic logo (widely acknowledged as one of the worst example of public design to hit the UK).

5. Collecting


The Handlebar Table is a recent acquisition to the museum's collection. Designed by Jasper Morrison, a younger industrial designer, it was made from 2 racing bicycle handlebars found in the street way back in 1983. The cost was £20 for the beechwood and glass and it sold for £100. It shows his interest in modesty and simplicity within the manufacturing process.

6. Fashion

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A display of 6 couturier outfits fashion from the 1970s to the 1990s is just a snippet of the personal wardrobe donated by a Design Museum Board member. They show how the other half lived and dressed during those times.

6 Designs Ideas That Have Shaped the (Modern) World
You will probably recognize most of these design items, now their story and impact is being examined in a new show.

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