Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Eric Wrobbel Slaps The Face Of Modernity

I remember a time when you'd swear everyone was a design genius. Every TV, appliance, Fridge, Toaster and even transistor radio was beautiful to look at- and there was an endless variety of designs for each humdrum everyday household item. We took all this wealth of eye candy for granted.

Now everything looks like this:

These are actually 2 different TVs and 2 different brands!

and check out this retarded ad:
90% blank space and a tiny black sliver of the featureless product. This is supposed to induce us to buy it? Yet everyone thinks this way today - except Eric Wrobbel, thank God!

Look what Sony used to be capable of:

Eric collects old cool looking radios and makes his own books about them-and he lays them out to give us collectors exactly what we want!

In Eric's Own Words:

This great new book shows all SEVENTY of the fabulous, highly-collectible Crown radios. 64 transistor radios, plus three pocket tube radios and three crystal radios! All beautifully photographed in FULL COLOR. Over 100 full color images in all!

Most are shown nowhere else. This is your only source for a complete listing of all collectible models. And every single model is pictured! All of them.

See rarities galore! Many of these great radios–especially the early ones–were made only in small quantities and few have survived. Many have never been seen outside of Japan. They’ve never been on eBay and probably never will!

See early Crowns that are hand-wired and made with American-made transistors. See early, early Crown kit radios!

Plus: Learn lots of interesting info about this elusive radio maker and about their connection to Linmark, Harpers, Midge, and Olympic.

Get all the model numbers, measurements, battery sizes, and lots more info and detail. Plus see original boxes, advertisements, and even an original Crown store display case loaded with fabulous Crowns!

This book is nothing like those other collector books that are sooooo boring with page after page of dry descriptions. This book is a visual feast! It doesn’t just describe the radios, it shows you the radios! Every item is pictured, and in full color!

Your satisfaction is guaranteed or your money back, including the shipping charge. You’ve got nothing to lose!

Buy It Now!

Goddamn-bring back fun and imaginative design to the poor world!
Buy some of Eric's books and see what is possible with a little creativity.


Paul Penna said...

Not sure if you know of this site devoted to classic illustration and design:

C said...

I want a pink TV and a tiny radio on a string.

Ryan Cole said...

It's like children everywhere will just get things that look suspiciously like big lumps of coal this Christmas. If it's any consolation, they were all probably jerks.

Isaac said...

It's definitely a matter of taste. Those radios look like eyesores to me, especially the mustard-and-ketchup colored ones. Standardizing on black is a smart design choice for electronics, I think. On the other hand, the shape of the stand for the two similar televisions, as well as some of the more subtle details, make the one of the bottom much more attractive than the one on top, even if they are very similar on the whole. To me the difference is very noticeable, I'd even call the top one "ugly" in comparison to the bottom one.

RooniMan said...

I miss them days of small TVs.

Raymond said...

I love that old style they had with appliances. Each manufacturer put their own spin on the object being made, and for the most part, it looked fast! I mean, do you find any tasters at the department store that looks like it could break the sound barrier? Hell no!

And if you do want a telly with some style, you could always save up for a Predicta.

SandraRivas said...

The old-fashioned electronic devices like radios and even telephones are so interesting to me!

They're all stylish and very classy. I wish I had one of those phones.

I'll admit the modern technology has a lot benefits for us but they're all so bland to look at. I miss the funny-looking TVs with the antennas.

Luis María Benítez said...

I grew up watching a huge black and white wooden TV. No remote control at all, nothing for the lazy ones. The design was really nice. It looked solid, strong and despite we changed it, it works quite well after more than 40 years. Today you buy one of these flat craps and for sure you'll have to buy a new one in 5 years or even less. Why? Capitalism on one side and simplistic minds on the other hand. But this is applied to everything in modern life. Example: houses and buildings.

Check this image:

Do you feel cozy? I would feel like a mouse in a refrigerator.

So, forniture, electronic stuff, houses, cities, designs in general and even websites now tend to be minimalistic too. I wish I was born several decades ago...

HemlockMan said...

Yeah, those were the days. Today the electronic stuff is geared strictly for functionality--the manufacturers want you to know that there's no monkey business going on in Research and Development. In the name of Jesus, just the basics!

Jeff Overturf said...

A feast for the eyes. We just don't know what we all beauty.

kurtwil said...

Nice trip down memory lane - jogs memory of owning a Crown as a kid - was quite a thrill listening to radio outside the house or car for several hours.
By comparison, portable tube radios of the day rarely lasted 1-2 hours.

Peggy said...

Well, yeah. It's all about minimizing the physical presence of the device and maximizing the virtual presence. All these old devices were huge and had a lot of physical space they had to take up. A giant TV would dominate your room with the depth of the tube. Modern devices are reacting against that: "Look how compact I am," they say. "Look how little there is to me that is not focused on my primary function."

A modern smartphone? Cut off the screen and the battery, and you've got something smaller than a pack of gum. A sound-only MP3 player? You could build it into a pair of headphones. A modern TV? It's a slightly thick picture frame you hang on your wall.

If you want it to look cool and Jetsons-future, break out the glue and the soldering iron and whatever and start customizing. These simple boxes are blank canvases - type "casemod" into Google and see what kinds of crazy things people have built for their computers, for instance. Or wait a few years for 3D printers to make it out of the domain of hobbyists, buy a boring-looking device, and print an awesome new case for it. By 2050 maybe the pendulum will have swung back to ornate devices, in a much wider selection - because anyone who wants to can sketch it up in the computer, and have it manifested into physicality!

Niki said...

I've been wanting a radio like one of these! But I don't know if they ever sell imitations anymore!

Hey John, I've got an idea, if you could design your own flat screen what would it look like if you could describe it for us?

Mattieshoe said...

It looks like inoffensiveness is the goal of most modern design.

This just happens to be an age where people are offended by well-designed, appealing things.

Mattieshoe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
seckscab said...

The idea behind the simplified "black box" designs of modern technology was that customization would be an inevitability, and that there is money to be made in designing interesting slipcases and what-nots.

Design some retro-tastic slipcovers for the iPhone and you've got yourself an easy billion.

JohnK said...

"All these old devices were huge and had a lot of physical space they had to take up."

No they weren't. Transistor radios were tiny. We carried them in our pockets.

""Look how little there is to me that is not focused on my primary function.""

Modern devices are also anything but functional. They do a million things you don't need and don't do what the device is made for very well.

Willem Wynand said...

no but these adds make me giggle and there's a bigger chance i'll purchase their products. The modern style is pretty much dead, its time to move on, this doesn't mean things will be worse just different. And i enjoy my flatscreen tv thankyou

Mitch K said...

These are absolutely beautiful!

Oliver_A said...

Modern devices are also anything but functional. They do a million things you don't need and don't do what the device is made for very well.

The aspect I would agree with you is that the physical built quality was way better in the old days. The drive from the first CD player for instance was made of heavy aluminium, while today, everything is made of cheap plastic.

But I simply don't agree with your statement that modern devices are anything but functional. How is a transistor radio supposed to be more functional than a modern MP3 player with radio function? How can an iPhone be remotely compared to anything which was build 40-50 years ago?

Or do you just miss the days when everything was accomplished by turning a knob?

J. said...

John, this one is for you.


Chris Chapman said...

I can agree however all those designs in the past did not have full color displays with amazing design in them. As great designers of the iphone, ipad and flat screen TVs, the teams did what great designers do by solving the design solution. The solution was that the device was a frame for gorgeous graphic heavy content. It was made to not distract from the content.

Brad said...


Kawks! said...

larger bodies made for more design. But I have seen tv's and monitors that are very well designed and colorful. Course I don't use macs :)

Pablo said...

Wow, really beautifull designs, Im 100% agree with you on that.

Anonymous said...

"Modern devices are also anything but functional. They do a million things you don't need and don't do what the device is made for very well."

depends on the device. Apple products tend to be well designed. The ipod nano that I own is small, cute and easy to use. And the they came in different colors not just black.

John Paul Cassidy said...

My current Blackberry cell phone is a streamlined white & red color, like a 50s/60s car! The color/design was appealing, so that's why I selected it at Best Buy.

JohnK said...

I miss the days when a phone worked-when you could call someone and actually hear them on the other line.

I miss the days when you didn't have some slow moving complicated awkward menu to operate what should be a simple device.

You used to be able to put a laser disc in a machine, press a number on your remote and go directly to the chapter you wanted without having to click through pages and pages of stupid animated menus.

I'm all for technology if it improves function and makes things better, not when it just complicates the use of something and fills it up with time-wasting menus and extra functions you don't need.

And I miss things looking good, and not all the same.

Anonymous said...

rich range of colours! No designers can seem to agree on what the modern style is... so we just choose ugly, colourless minimalism or cadmium-bright Ikea stuff.

Anonymous said...

The examples you showed of the old radios were influenced by the art deco movement and architecture of that time period. I think a lot of appliances and household products were still being made using real metal components like steel for the knobs and dials. The mass production of cheap plastic products lessened the importance of those design elements. You can see the same thing in almost anything that is designed... I look at newer houses being built in new neighborhoods and every house looks the same. Even cars. Back in those days there were so many different styles, and today a lot of cars look the same except for the makers badge that distinguishes them apart from the rest.. so sad really. We need a design revolution to happen, but the world has dug this hole and it's almost impossible to get out of redundancy.

zmerrill said...

Mr. John Kricfalusi:

Although I normally agree with your views on the cartoon, animation, and artistic side, I strongly disagree with you on the technology side.

Many devices were very bulky (there were small transistor radios that you have mentioned), and are nowhere as near as good as of today. Why? Technology continually advances and there's always going to be something better whether it is a TV or a computing algorithm.

Some things I will agree upon that some older technology is more reliable for certain uses than some newer technology. I still have a 16 year old Pentium machine, but I only use it for really old games my newer cannot play (compatibility issues, newer operating system). But I'm not going to use my old computer for work because it is plain uncomfortable to use compared to using a newer machine because it is no longer fast enough to use certain newer programs I want to use. The exceptions to my list are newer Microsoft products because they are less functional than their predecessors were.

Those old time TV's may look nice, but in reality they are bulky and not as practical as using , and the bunny ears (or whichever antennae you used) were not reliable. That's why they invented cable television because it was more reliable than the antennae, and cable also brings more channels (if anyone cares for the extra channels). I like the extra channels (ESPN, CNN, Discovery, and anything else that comes to mind), some others may not but that's their choice. I prefer the flat screens because they take up less space, and they are easier to move around.

And the images from the first cell phone to the DVD player looks like you took those straight from a product page, and those aren't ads. You could do better than that.

Those images are not really for artistic purposes, they are meant to only show the consumer what it looks like on the product page. The product specs are on the page, not on the image. Different design approach, and makes for a better web page design. The majority of pages from the 90's and early 2000's were repulsive. The newer web page designs are more appealing, but slower to load.

I still appreciate that you have made this blog to share your advice on cartoons and animation, and to share your opinions. Please don't take my opinion personal as I wanted to share my opinion to you.



georgeliquor said...

Can you give us an eBay link to some off-model toys next? I still can't find any.

talkingtj said...

i agree-things are too complicated and useless and asthetically generic. i would advise any fan of current tech to go to the nearest landfill and see the millions of gadgets piled high, all worthless,they make billions of this stuff and it hasnt improved the lives of anyone, they should be handing them out on street corners for free.the old days were about choice, choice of color,design, function and price.everything today is standard, no real choice, this t.v is essentially the same as that t.v, and soon as something new is on the market, out with the old. my mom needed a new t.v went with her to get one and all they had were flat screen h.d t.v's-not want she wanted.the salesman openly mocked us and insisted we get onboard with the new, we didnt, got her an older model from the back-a few months later the digital switch happened and i had to get her a convertor box-she got the h.d anyway-no choice! this is progress!?

Tim said...

I agree with Isaac, those modern designs are eyesores, a room full of those would feel like a nursery of vain screaming babies, begging for my attention. But, I'm coming from the perspective that I want my tools (tvs, radios, dvd players) to just do their function and be as inconspicuous as possible.

Oliver_A said...

I'm all for technology if it improves function and makes things better, not when it just complicates the use of something and fills it up with time-wasting menus and extra functions you don't need.

I agree that a lot of modern devices are unnecessarily complex. But I think that Apple products don't belong here. I mean, what's more intuitive than abandon all buttons and knobs, providing a seamless visual interface? We may not have flying cars, but using an iPhone for me is exactly the kind of science fiction I thought of as a kid.

I remember quite vividly when the only way to use a computer was typing commands on the keyboard using a beautiful text-only interface. Lots of innovations nowadays are simply taken for granted.

Rafael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kurtwil said...

Much electronic product design today imitates Apple Computer "I___ (you name it)" feturing clean lines and ease of use. However, latter's part of a complex software package that is a real bear to deal with if "ease of use" fails.

Early computer automotive electronics were so "gee-whiz" (early I-Drive, etc) they were usage nightmares and broke down often. Enough consumers complained that there's been some recent improvement.

Wrt animated DVD menus, in the mid 2000's went for complex and detailed menus (Cinderella Platinum had one of the longest running main menus ever!). Production costs and understandable consumer indifference / frustration ("Just give me the __movie__, you @#$%&^!!") have cut those down since.
Experience suggests it's easy to develop DVDs doing immediate jumps to chapters. Trick's avoiding unwanted consequences, (high end $15 - 20K packages help). :-)

Mars Cabrera said...

I think, some of those oldie-but-goodie stuffs still exist -- check the pawnshops, flea markets, garage sales, the internet; ebay, CL, Uncle Al's basement, Joe's Disposal!

Nope, none of those for me--- cuz I'm DONE WITH THEM. It's Ipad time now... sorry, Bud-- I just gotta move on..

Raff said...

Oh man...this old gear used to be so much fun. My parents' friends had basements full of all this stuff.

Not only did those radios each have their own look, they had their own unique features, their own layout and their own sound too!

>> If you want it to look cool and Jetsons-future, break out the glue and the soldering iron and whatever and start customizing. <<

The fact that so few people do this speaks volumes.

Of course the reason they don't is that they want the thing to keep its return/resale value (as if it will anyway).

Anonymous said...

Great topic! I also don't know why todays tech toys are so black and sleek-looking.

You see this in all forms of design: cars, sneakers and sports jerseys, to name a few. Everything must be dark and sleek. I don't know what's wrong with a little variety and colour now and then.

Thanks for the topic.

drawingtherightway said...

Personally I don't care what the product looks like just so it functions the way its supposed to. The newer products seem to have no clutter and lots of negative space so wouldn't that be a good thing? For instance the back of that iphone only has the company's logo and the product name along with lots of negative space.

J. said...

"You used to be able to put a laser disc in a machine, press a number on your remote and go directly to the chapter you wanted without having to click through pages and pages of stupid animated menus."

I bet you also miss having to get up everytime you had to switch the bloody disc. Seriously john, get with the times and wipe your nostalgia tears. The DVD menus are pretty pratical and definitively better than cassette rewinding or laser disc switching. Some technology can be annoying and loaded with useless applications, but hey, if you don't want an ipod, buy a simple mp3 player. If you don't want an iphone, buy a simple green screen nokia. Both are cheap, easy to use, and customizeable.

C said...

I'm sure Apple is very advanced, but the stores are so sleek and impersonal, it's almost creepy. It's like being in a doctor's office.

Phones are so crazy these days. And yet the masses NEED a new one as soon as it comes with more bells and whistles. I might be in the minority, but I don't need the internet in my pocket. I also can't justify blowing money on these things the second they come out. It's not like the company is going to stop making them after a day. You might not be the first to get it, but they will wait for you. Besides, it's probably better to see what others are saying first and say "Well, do I really need this? Just because it's new, it doesn't mean it's the best thing ever. Besides, how long will it last?" No, they must have it NOW!

I don't know if I'm too cynical, or just being logical at this point!

Scrawnypumpkinseed said...

Funny. I was just listening to my uncle talk about the wonder of new technology.

Seems tat everyone wants things to wafer-thin, sleek, shiny. And the "in" colors seem to be white, grey or black. Yawn.

Why does a phone need to play music and games in lieu of being able to actually call someone?

Obscure Reference said...

I always liked the Art Deco designs, too. If I could only find a modern CD/tape player that has the presence of the old Hi-Fi sets, with actual metal knobs and buttons. (I did get one of the retro-style Crosley CD/LP radios back when you could send in the cigarette coupons for nearly free stuff, but it looked way better in the catalog. The reality was cheap plastic crap, and the belt-driven CD tray broke and has to be forced with a bent screwdriver to retrieve the disc.) Glad to see it's not just me that thinks that everything usedta be made better and look better. Those Telstar Predicta TVs (linked in Raymond's comment)look awesome, but holy crap are they expensive! I'd pay more for something with character, but not *that* much more... and I still want my flying car, dammit!

Thanks, John K., for all these blog posts - even though I'm not an aspiring animator I really enjoy reading your opinions on cartoons and comics. The old toys and product designs are like icing on the cake - very little made today really stands out like that, and it's always good to be reminded of how things were. I gotta ask how much of these are from your own personal collection and how much are just found images online? Love to see a future post of some of your most prized 'toon and comic memorabilia - give us pack rats/collector scum something to aspire to!

mike f. said...

There's no excuse for black buttons on a black keyboard on a black panel on a black console, etc...

Try Google Image searching Bakelite radios, Philco, Admiral radios, Catalin radios, Art Deco, etc. Next, open your eyes and take a good look at what comes up.

Then, shut up and stop arguing when someone who knows more about design than you do points out the sorry, artistically bankrupt state of the era we live in.

ther1 said...

Minimalism on the outside and chaotic clutter on the inside seems to be the M.O. these days.

My own cell phone looks like a chunk of navy blue plastic, and about 80% of its features are things I will never need to use. A built-in camera? 400 ringtones to choose from? "Airplane Mode?"

Christ in a pizza box, why do the other kids think they need this stuff? I just want to call my ride!

Ukulele Moon said...

I agree with you, John!

There's an awful lot of "sleek" - but not a lot of fun.

LG is trying to bring back some of that joy with this retro tv.

And this PC would be cool ... if they actually decide to make it!

This "Eames Lounge TV" is pretty nice alternative to the boring lcds out there.

Tony DiStefano said...

Everything seems to have a lack of character John.Car design was like that for a long time but over the last 7 years or so character seems to be comming back(PT Cruiser)into the design.I grew up in the sixties
where there was a sence of warm in the desighn of most things especially the ads.Now it seems very cold.

Oliver_A said...

The problem I see is: when looking at the 50's, 60's and 70's designs, you can easily tell what decade they were made in, because even back then, manufacturers used to copy trends.

Regency transistor radio

AWA transistor radio

Sony transistor radio

They all have basically the same design. For me, this is no different than comparing the Panasonic with the Sony flat screen TV from this decade.

Also, would you rather have this:

Sony Home Video 1979

Or this:

Sony Home Video 2009

C. A. M. Thompson said...

I love old TVs and electronics. They're definitely designed to look like things that do something. I wish they could make a modern LCD TV that had some personality like the old ones do.

I thought about your blog a while back when I was watching this documentary called Helvetica. They had a designer who loved severe modern stuff praising 80's magazine ads which often were just a picture of something with a short phrase written in Helvetica and trashing ads from the 50's because, in his opinion it lacked punch and readability.

JohnK said...

"Minimalism on the outside and chaotic clutter on the inside seems to be the M.O. these days."

That's how I see it too.

Oliver_A said...

Christ in a pizza box, why do the other kids think they need this stuff? I just want to call my ride!

There are minimal cell phones available for a cheap price:

Motorola Motofone

I just does what it is supposed to do: make and recieve phone calls.

Btw, why isn't my last post showing up?

Anonymous said...

It's a good thing cartoonists don't do product design! Kitsch and nostalgia only go so far. The last thing I want is to notice my TV's wacky design or loud color while I'm trying to watching a BluRay movie. It's okay not to understand the appeal of devices like the iPhone. I'm sure some prehistoric humans didn't see the appeal of fire or tools either.

JohnK said...

I don't think any cartoonists designed those radios, or old cars or TVs or vaccuum cleaners.

They were industrial designers and I think far more modern and advanced than the amateurs who call themselves designers today.

Everything looks the same now, like it was designed in a computer program. There used to be variety and clear statements in design.

Robert said...

John, great post today! I miss the unique styling of the fifties and sixties. My dad owned a 1950 Nash Ambassador that looked like nothing else on the road.

Philco, who made the Predicta TV, was an industry leader at that time and many of their tv's from the 50's and 60's were innovatively styled.

For the most part, appliances of the 50's and 60's were built to be repairable and give a reasonably long life.

TV sets in the 50's and 60's were designed and built to last ten years. There are still many of them working today.

As some have stated here, a five year lifespan from today's flat panel TV sets is going to be considered average, according to many in the electronics service industry.

Guy said...

J.: Perhaps someone should make a new one: "People lose the ability to make valid judgments if they were adults when you, the reader of this piece, were twelve."

Ebbe said...

That books looks like an interesting read, but the layout is terrible. Baby's first text wrap.

ca60gregory said...

I agree entirely, and although I do really love this mid century style stuff, my personal preferences for design tend to go a little further back, more towards Edwardian or Victorian, all those wonderful swooshy bold shapes its great!

This phenomenon seems to affect everything. Just today, I decided to browse a fancy upscale furniture store. Everything was VERY expensive, $10,000 or more for a couch, $500 for a lamp made of paper. Everything was very dull, nothing but Beige, white or grey, all 90 degree angles, boxy and very cheap in appearance.
This furniture would make any home feel like a hospital.

I will celebrate the day this minimalism fad dies!

Oliver_A said...

What about these:

Tangent Internet Radio

Asus Internet Radio

Oxx Internet Radio


J. said...

The chief difference between old and new designs, I think, is that old electronics we're designed to look like they did more than actually do, hence the colours, the big buttons and the whismical designs, while in reality, they all did pretty much the same thing. It was marketing at it's purest form. The prettier attracted more attention and sold more. Now the trend is exactly the reverse. To present something that looks simple, yet detainer of unlimited potential, i.e, "it only looks like this, but it can do all that". Classic reverse psychology.


With 59 comments already, I don't know why I feel I should add my drivel, but your post is so true and 'right on', I am compelled to say I agree with you 100%!!

I really loved how you contrasted the wonderful older designs that featured so much personality and creativity, as opposed to the sleek cold 'futuristic' black boxes of today.

I hate how the new technology continues to "improve" things that don't need improving, and products that used to work just fine are no longer available, while the "improved" ones are less and less user friendly! Ooops, gotta seems my computer is logging me off so it can download some 'new and improved' updated cr@p that I don't even use or want...

flashcartoons said...

I think it's because people of this day in age, are simple minded, so they need simple product design. Otherwise they get confused and scared.

Roberto González said...

I don't necesarily disagree about those devices having a more interesting design but I tend to agree with Brian Romero. When you are watching a movie in your tv you want to concentrate in the movie. I'm not going to look at the device. The only thing I want is a big screen and not vivid colors, strange shapes or big buttons occupying space that can be used for a bigger screen.

All the reasonings I have read so far (gadgets not working so well or having features that you won't use) have nothing to do with the fact that a simpler design seems just more functional to simply watch the movie.

Not to mention that a flat screen fills less space in your closet than a wider box.

I'm not expert in design or anything, but it seems to me that people look for functionality when they buy these things. And even though these things may look "boring" or the same, black and simple designs are not ugly either.

yawn said...

The modern products, look to cold and sterile.

Calvin said...

Looks like inbreeding is not just limited to cartoons.

FriedMilk said...

I would much rather look at something "kitschy" and visually interesting than something sleek and minimalist to the point of invisibility. TVs going the picture frame route is somewhat sensible, but computers, printers, scanners, and home audio remain big hunks of mechanical furniture out of a certain necessity, and yet they also attempt to become invisible via beige or black camouflage, minimizing buttons, etc. There is no joy in their design, so they just perch on your desk like lumps and look ugly when not in use.

Another problem in modern design is an over-reliance on point-and-click interfaces. Sometimes knobs or switches are more appropriate: volume controls are obnoxious if you have to search through a menu and click click click, and switches easily indicate if something is on or off without needing a LED or anything else. Navigate through software or pressing a specific button for EVERY sort of input is not always the best design solution.

Minimalism and plastic also not always the best design solutions, but I suppose it cuts costs and makes for lighter transport of large amounts of product.

Anonymous said...

Hey John, just a heads up for something that I think is up your alley. I found a book collecting wrapping paper designs from the 1960s: 'All Wrapped Up!: Groovy Gift Wrap of the 1960s,' by Kevin Akers. It sounds a lot more psychedelic than it is; most of the designs are the in the same vein as the charming, cute, good designs you've been showing us here at your blog.

Rainer said...

If you ever went to an antique shop and looked at any device from the late 19th century, you'd find that there would be an almost countless amount of thrills and gilded artefacts placed upon them. During the rise of the 1920s, people who grew up with these designs detested the new modernist designs that resemble yours as "lacking variety" and being "cold and minimalist".

It seems that you're levelling the same criticism to today's designs. How come you don't take the inductive step and praise 19th-century gilded technology and decry the cold modernism of the early 20th century?

JohnK said...

I would probably agree, except that I personally like when design became fun.
In the same way that I like animated cartoons and old comics and movies.

Rajesh said...

Sure, DVD has its advantages, but does that mean we should ignore its disadvantages when older technology found ways around them?

I like that I have a visual menu to choose from, especially when I don't know what chapter a particular scene I'm looking for is at. But if I've seen the DVD a million times, the last thing I want to do is wait for the trailers, and FBI warnings, and all that other crap. I want to push a single button and get where I'm going.

As far as old vs new technology is concerned, you have to separate the design from the function to some degree. Any car can get you from point A to point B. But some cars look better than others. And some drive better than others. With the exception of 4 wheels, a steering wheel, and other technical stuff, the look of the car is not all that tied to its function. Otherwise all cars would look like Lamborghinis and there would be no Priuses (not a bad thing in my opinion, but variety is nice).

There's no reason for new appliances to look like it was made by the same person. Minimalism has it's place. But for everything to look the same is ridiculous.

A minimalist

Chris said...

I'm going to throw in my two cents since I don't think this point's been touched on yet. I think the main problem with design today is that, as a culture, we've lost our sense of the future. The appliances of yesteryear were designed to fit into society's vision of "the future." All of those retro designs utilizing that whole Googie/Streamline Moderne/Raygun Gothic style were trying to fit into a future that only ever existed, in a sense, in society's mind. The space age was just around the corner with super sonic flight and moon walking on the horizon, the country was united against those evil commies the Ruskies, and with this solidarity there was a sort of shared collective image of the future (the retro-future responsible for all of these wonderful designs).

I'd argue that in today's modern world, there is no shared image of the future. Our country is divided on a myriad of issues, there are no more bold plans for future developments that could provide any sort of unifying effect (as it is we just found out we're losing our space shuttle program at the end of year, another blow against any hope of recovering our sense of future coolness).

To see evidence of this just look at modern cinema. In film you only really see two future looks being explored today, either some sort of post-apocalyptic wasteland or a progression of our minimalist design to the super-ultra-minimalistic designs.

There's almost nothing left to inspire a new design movement to get us out of this rut. Society isn't providing any road-maps of the future that designers can follow, nor is entertainment. Not to mention that we're living in a society where mediocrity has become prized over the novel (but that's a whole other post). The only ripples that have been made have basically been reworking some retro design elements into the modern minimalistic school of design (someone mentioned the PT Cruiser which is just that). I would argue that's not so much a step forward as it is more like having withdrawal symptoms from drugs (this case the drug is good design). No one to my knowledge has created a new inspired design and has said, "this is the future" and meant it. The real sad thing is, even if a designer managed to pull that off, as a society whatever was created would be rejected right now. This problem can't be fixed by a single designer stepping up to the challenge. Something drastic is going to have to happen before we can get out of this horrific design rut, and that's kind of depressing really.

Pete "Music" Sayek said...

The Sony ad is And not just the radios!

KirkT said...

Quite a bit of that design and design philosophy was brought to us by Raymond Loewy. Just about everything from the bullet train look to the USPS icon was his work. His place did pens, radios, cameras...cripes, you name it. Look him up, you enjoy the read.

Meera said...

john k, i couldn't agree w you more

u r my hero! ever since age 4 and im 23 now

Meera said...

john k, i couldn't agree w you more

u r my hero! ever since age 4 and im 23 now

Meera said...

and on another've not only influenced me, ren and stimpy has always been the number one show in my life. NUMBER ONE! every aspect....i could go on literally forever. if i met you, i would kiss your feet while wearing unwashed lederhosen. without ren and stimpy i wouldn't be as awesome as i am today. i know every line of every episode, every production song, and i draw cartoons of my own. i am currently in art school and hope to develope as an artist. me and my friend annie have been making comics for about seven years now called goosh goosh and fango. it's funny how i subconsiously made them A LOT like ren and stimpy. goosh goosh is a skinny alien who is a young adult who has serious anger problems. where as fango is a short fat oval creature with one eye sticking out of his head with no arms. he's happy go lucky and a little spacey. i can't help but see your influence in me and annies work. i love you and im so glad you have this blog dude!

Tony W. said...

While I love the old radio designs, this article helped me understand the thinking behind some of the newer devices: click