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3 objects you didn’t suspect were design icons
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Estimated reading time
4 Minutes

3 objects you didn’t suspect were design icons

What if I set you a test: could you tell me the name of at least three objects that belong to the permanent collection of a design museum?

If you’re passionate about American design, undoubtedly several pieces by the Eames Studio will spring to mind, such as the Eames Lounge Chair. If you’re inclined towards radical design, Juicy Salif by Philippe Starck for Alessi will certainly be your first choice. And if you’re a real design buff, you will already have thought about Mezzadro by Castiglioni for Zanotta.

These pieces are legendary, but did you know that design museums have everyday objects too? For example, like the Vespa scooter, the Valentina typewriter designed by Ettore Sottsass and even the iconic Singer sewing machine.

Car spares at the MoMA in New York
Read the story of the Fiat 500 and the Flos Toio by Castiglioni

Here I have three objects for you, to win the next guessing game or to help you with that incomplete crossword puzzle. Seven down, four letters: in show at Triennale in Milan and MoMA in New York.

The moka. Yes, that’s right

Coffee needs to be recognised as a real religion, but it wouldn’t have become what it is today without the moka by Bialetti.

The moka has been on the market since it was first designed in 1933 and in the course of time it has undergone only minor changes. Alfonso Bialetti’s intuitive leap was prompted by a desire to bring coffee culture to people’s homes, bypassing the unwieldy and gigantic machines used in the catering industry.

They were replaced by a small lightweight object, easy to use, clean and store. And to put on the table when you’ve finished eating lunch and your friends are staring longingly at the pastries.

La Moka di Alessi, omaggio di Alberto Alessi al nonno BialettiLa Moka by Alessi, in homage to Alberto Alessi's grandfather, Mr. Bialetti

Juicy Salif lemon squeezer
Moka Alessi 6 coffee maker
Mezzadro stool

A rainbow on a flag

Without a doubt, you will have seen the Rainbow Flag designed by Gilbert Baker and adopted as the international symbol for the LGBTQ community. However, you might be unaware that in 2015 the Rainbow Flag joined the permanent collection of the MoMA in New York, and last July it became part of the collection of the Design Museum in London.

Does it seem an odd choice to you? Think about it: for more than 40 years, the rainbow flag has been

a politically powerful, meaningful, and also aesthetically effective symbol. [...] The creation of new symbols for a changing world is a significant way for design to give definition and direction to human life.
Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator of the Department of Architecture & Design at MoMA in New York
photo credit: Andrew Roblesphoto credit: Andrew Robles
Design Print
Homos Print
Musee Print

A lamp for desks – and for planes

The British Anglepoise lamp, designed in 1933 (the same year as the moka) by the mechanical engineer George Carwardine, is another surprising find. You will recognise this lamp among a thousand: it was the first lamp to be fitted with a spring mechanism to adjust the position of its arm, thus making it perfect for any desk, even your father’s.

The Anglepoise lamp earned its reputation also thanks to a special discovery. During the eighties, a WW2 British fighter plane was fished out of the depths of Loch Ness in Scotland. Inside the plane, the researchers found an Anglepoise Navigator’s Lamp, commissioned by the government for the air force, and still in perfect working order despite having spent forty years at the bottom of a lake with only Nessie (perhaps) for company.

It has really earned its place at the Design Museum in London, don’t you think?
Anglepoise Lampada da Tavolo Type75™Anglepoise Lampada da Tavolo Type75™
Giant Anglepoise 1227™ floor lamp
Original 1227™ table lamp
Type 75™ desk lamp
Type 75™ floor lamp
Type 75™ Mini table lamp with clamp
Original 1227™ table lamp bright chrome
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