In March 2019, the Institute of Design at Illinois Institute of Technology was approached by Daniel Bentley, senior editor at Fortune magazine, to update the original 100 Best-Designed Products research study from 1959.
Sixty years since the findings were published, IIT Institute of Design’s new study shows that physical products are being increasingly replaced by digital, or connected, services.
98% of the products were tangible in 1959, while up to 29% of the top designs today are service and digital in nature.
Here were the criteria for good design used for this study:
- Adaptable + Expandable: adapts to the needs of users.
- Society + Environment: equitable, addresses environmental and societal issues.
- Great to Use: performs well and brings delight.
- Market Success: demonstrates impact through adoption, scale, or growth.
- Redefined Category: transformational, changes the known.
And here are the top 25: (Bold items represent ones that I have used or experienced)
- iPhone – this is what I would have picked as well. For me, it is simply the best product I have ever used.
- Google Search Engine
- Eames Fiberglass Armchair
- Sony Walkman
- OXO Good Grips Peeler
- Uber Rideshare
- Netflix Streaming
- LEGO Building Blocks – YES!
- Google Maps
- Apollo 11 Mission
- Akari Lamp 1A
- MacBook Pro
- Post-it Notes
- Boeing 747
- Polaroid SX-70
- Tesla Model S Sedan
- Nokia 3210 Cell Phone
- Savoy Vase
- Philips Hue Lighting System
- App Store
- Amazon Prime
- Muji Rice Cooker
I have interacted with, owned, or experienced 17 of these items. And in each case, I would certainly agree that the “product” is well-designed.
It is also interesting to note that Apple has 5 of the top 25 designs, and a total of 8 in the top 100 (the other three designs are iOS, Apple Watch, and Apple Pay.)
And in case you are interested, here were the top 10 products from 1959:
- Olivetti typewriter
- Eames Chair
- Barcelona Chair
- Parker Fountain Pen
- Lincoln Continental
- Edison Voicewriter
- Frigidaire Refrigerator
- Hallicrafters Radio
- Bell 500 Telephone
We’ve come along way…
*image from MyTypewriter
34 thoughts on “The Top 25 Best-Designed Products”
I still have my Parker Fountain Pen…and Lego is a given it has been added to and passed down for ytears in this family. Apple they have done very well… for me that has come at a cost I don’t suscribe to their ideals and practises or buy their products….An interesting post to see what has survivrd the years..Stay safe, Jim 🙂
I think I had a Parker Pen at some point in my life, and LEGOs are one of the all-time great toys. Sorry to hear you don’t like Apple – I am kind of obsessed with the company and its products…
Each to their own, Jim but yes Lego is one of the best toys ever made and no age barriers either from the biggest to the littlest…everyone loves Lego 🙂
I think Legos was even chosen as the Toy of the Century back in 2000.
I am not surprised at that and well deserved 🙂
When we threw my parents a 50th wedding anniversary party many years ago, my brothers and I thought it would be funny to tell a few stories. My parents, notoriously frugal, (I inherited this trait to some degree) still had their original toaster. I forget the model now, but I looked it up online and found that the company was no longer in business. Apparently, they made their appliances a little too well.
I guess you have to build in that planned obsolescence…
It took me a second to understand this was all about design and not necessarily about impact. It is the only explanation for air conditioning not being on the list. Now that was a game changer! Great post, Jim! Funny and entertaining as always!
Now I want to search and see if there is a list that ranks the most impactful products of all time. I’d still put the iPhone up near the top…
I hope to see that list in an upcoming post my friend!
you got your wish! thanks for the idea!
It is interesting that Apollo 11 and the 747 are 1960s tech that hasn’t been surpassed.
I guess the researchers were not impressed with Musk’s and Bezos’s rockets, nor by the Dreamliner.
Apple is one of the few companies that I remain loyal to their products despite my inability to tell the difference – performance attributes, features, etc. – between a 3, 5, 6, 8 and X. iPad is Sliced Bread. I hit 15/25 on the list. I’m hopeful they’ll have Barcelona Chairs to lounge on In Purgatory. Love them. I’m a little surprised Studebaker beat out The Edsel in 1959 🙂
I’ve never heard of either the Barcelona or Eames chairs. I’ve somehow made it this far without an iPad, but I think that may change this year. I’m sure the Edsel was a close second…
Soft spot for the Edsel. Mr. Ford and his three sons – Henry II, Benson & William Clay Sr. – were all members of the same Fraternity I’m an alumnus in.
nice – one degree of separation! do you drive a Ford? If so, hopefully you get a brothers discount…
No, never did drive a Ford, but the company ran full page ads in our monthly magazine way back in the early 40s. Fun fact: Edsel was President of FoMoCo until 1943 (time of death), when he was also the Alumni VP of my Fraternity.
Edsel sounds like a fun guy!
so very interesting –
since the iPhone came in first, I have complete faith in the rest of the rankings… 🙂
i so agree
Enjoyed this post! Loved that you have the 1959 comparisons included!!!
It was fun looking back at the products from 1959; glad you enjoyed it!
Interesting comparison. Not sure I personally agree with everything on the list. A friend of ours has about 20 Nokia 3210 phones. It’s all he used from when they came out until he got an iPhone two years ago.
I guess your friend really likes the Nokia phone – hopefully he is happy with his iPhone
Ah, the memories of using my Underwood manual typewriter back in my college days come back to me. Being a typing teacher from yesteryear, the IBM Selectric Typewriter was one of the best ever.
I never got comfortable with using a typewriter. I still look at the keys when I type…
The fastest typing student I ever had was Paul back in the late 1970s. He could type over a hundred words per minute on a manual typewriter. He left me in the dust.
I wonder what Paul is doing today!
First of all I want to thank you for posting such a informative article. Keep it up! Love reading your blog. Continue posting such wonderful things.
you are welcome…
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