The Top 25 Best-Designed Products

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 Designโ€™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:

  1. Adaptable + Expandable: adapts to the needs of users.
  2. Society + Environment: equitable, addresses environmental and societal issues.
  3. Great to Use: performs well and brings delight.
  4. Market Success: demonstrates impact through adoption, scale, or growth.
  5. Redefined Category: transformational, changes the known.

And here are the top 25: (Bold items represent ones that I have used or experienced)

  1. iPhone – this is what I would have picked as well. For me, it is simply the best product I have ever used.
  2. Macintosh
  3. Google Search Engine
  4. Eames Fiberglass Armchair
  5. Sony Walkman
  6. OXO Good Grips Peeler
  7. Uber Rideshare
  8. Netflix Streaming
  9. LEGO Building Blocks – YES!
  10. iPod
  11. Google Maps
  12. Apollo 11 Mission
  13. Akari Lamp 1A
  14. MacBook Pro
  15. Post-it Notes
  16. Boeing 747
  17. Polaroid SX-70
  18. Tesla Model S Sedan
  19. Nokia 3210 Cell Phone
  20. Savoy Vase
  21. Philips Hue Lighting System
  22. App Store
  23. Spotify
  24. Amazon Prime
  25. 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:

  1. Olivetti typewriter
  2. Eames Chair
  3. Barcelona Chair
  4. Studebaker
  5. Parker Fountain Pen
  6. Lincoln Continental
  7. Edison Voicewriter
  8. Frigidaire Refrigerator
  9. Hallicrafters Radio
  10. Bell 500 Telephone

We’ve come along way…

*image from MyTypewriter

34 thoughts on “The Top 25 Best-Designed Products

  1. 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 ๐Ÿ™‚


    1. 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…


      1. 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 ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. 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.


  3. 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!


    1. 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…


  4. 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 ๐Ÿ™‚


    1. 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…


      1. 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.


  5. 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.


  6. 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.


      1. 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.


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