There are various components that come into play when evaluating how well something is designed. Ease of use, usefulness to the user, aesthetics, among many other considerations all are important aspects when assessing an object’s design. Therefore, it can be difficult to succinctly define ‘good design’, particularly as this is often subjective.
With that said, in this article, I will be looking at three objects that I consider to be well designed for one reason or another. All of the following examples caught my eye as interesting, clever and unique pieces of design that I thought were worth sharing.
Truman Social Club Seating Area
The first piece of good design I found recently was in the Truman’s Social Club, a large brewery in Blackhorse Road, where I saw this unique-looking seating area/ furniture piece. Straightaway, the fact I am not even sure what to call this piece of design indicates to me it is an innovative idea from the get-go, as it does not conform to more familiar pieces of furniture.
The top of the unit essentially acts as several large plant beds, containing two Areca palms and two Swiss cheese plants (all individually separated). The bottom half acts as a rather unusual sitting area, with a bench and several counter-tops which can be used as tables.
The plants, whilst not necessary human-designed, act as a focal point because they are the only greenery in the warehouse. They are positioned exactly in the centre of the building and their height makes them stand out clearly. Their leaves give a fresh feel of the outdoors, which is very welcomed in a largely industrial setting.
The bottom part is made of several panels of wood, cut in a bespoke fashion to make four or five asymmetrical blocks of different heights. This in itself is aesthetically very pleasing and has a Cubist-like feel to it. The different levels also allow it to have multiple uses. For example, a taller sitting area on the left hand side, a lower portion for smaller guests on the right hand side, and a bench which can be used as a seat or simply a rest for drinks for guests that are standing.
The wood makes this a more sustainable piece of design, especially as it is unfurnished and is made from reclaimed wood and old pallets. This means the majority of the structure will biodegrade much faster and will be kinder to the planet, compared to plastic or other man-made materials. It also means its rustic look fits in well in its surroundings, together with being a visual example of creative recycling for guests to see.
The different levels mean that multiple groups of people can use this simultaneously; standing, sitting, eating, all whilst maintaining some privacy but without being overly exclusive or segregating one another.
I have never really seen a piece quite like this and liked it immediately upon seeing it. This object serves several unique purposes in its environment, whilst still being very visually aesthetic- making it a very good piece of design in my eyes.
Whilst I do not claim to be the biggest player of frisbee itself, I do very much like the design of this, the ‘Scrunch Frisbee’. I never thought it would be my go-to for a great piece of design, but do I think it’s a brilliant piece of design for a number of reasons.
Firstly, its size is much smaller than most frisbees, at around 15cm wide. This means people with smaller hands, such as children, can easily throw this frisbee much easier compared to a larger sized one that is more difficult to grip.
Secondly, despite its small size, it still throws very well and is comparable with that of larger frisbees, yet makes it much more portable due to its smaller size. At only a few millimetres thickness, it’s very thin and light too.
The third reason I think it’s an excellent piece of design is its material. It’s made entirely from silicon, making it very inexpensive- at a cost of around around £5. Moreover, the fact it’s made from silicon also means that unlike other frisbees, when you catch it, it doesn’t hurt your hand. This is a great feature which also means you can play in areas where a normal frisbee may cause damage to your surroundings- like inside your house.
With all that said, as the name suggests, the Scrunch’s biggest asset is that you can ‘scrunch’ it up. This is a simple yet hugely impressive piece of design, allowing you to literally fold it up like a piece of paper and put it inside your pocket to take wherever you go.
You can pop this in your jacket pocket without even realising it’s there. For people like myself, who are not serious frisbee players, this is a great feature of the Scrunch.
Aside from the aerodynamics, which I am not qualified to explain, I think the Scrunch is a perfect example of how great design is often the most simple solution. It’s a very cheap, fun, and clever piece of design that proved a necessary item during lockdown!
Hobo Knife Set
My last chosen piece of good design is this Hobo Knife set I bought in Japan a few years ago. Arguably not the most P.C. name, this set is similar in design to the design classic, the Swiss Army knife, but offers more functionality and comfort for its intended purpose.
The set is made from stainless steel, which makes it both durable and easy to clean- an important design feature as it will be used predominantly for eating with or preparing food.
It folds up very neatly into a pouch with straps so you can attach it to your belt or bag easily; is very light and has a chain for you to attach it to a keyring as well.
When folded, if you turn the top of the fork and spoon out from the body, it releases the locking mechanism in the centre. This then splits the set in half, becoming two separate items- or pieces of cutlery.
The placement of the knife and bottle opener when shut (shown above) may look on the surface as an incidental part of the design, but in fact it makes it much more ergonomic when holding it- giving a much more comfortable and tighter grip.
Small design decisions like this showcase why I think this is an excellent piece of design.
The set also has a corkscrew, two types of bottle opener, and a sharp point for piercing cans or other objects. Whilst is has less features than a standard Swiss Army knife, this set offers much more comfort and simplicity in its design.
I used this set every day whilst in Japan for a year and was the only cutlery I needed for my entire time there. Whilst its primary purpose is not to be used as daily silverware, its excellent design allowed me to do so without any issues whatsoever.
In summary, all of my chosen examples above display interesting approaches to solving various problems, whether it be wanting to enliven the design of dull furniture, minimise your cutlery needs, or fold a frisbee into your pocket!
They all offer a unique solution to problems many may not have realised existed, which I personally think is the key to great design.
Any comments? Please let me know!