I go through the world marveling at the objects around us—from lamp posts to toothbrushes to buildings to sailboats—looking for details, craftsmanship, function, beauty, and purpose. If you know someone nutters like that, here are some gift ideas:
Objectified: This documentary has its ups and downs, but it's good. If you are new to industrial design, it is going to give you a good view on how they make all these objects around us. More importantly, it will explain to you why they are the way they are, and what good design is all about. If you are not new to industrial design, it's worthy just to see Dieter Rams talking about design, and listen to Jon Ive getting all lyrical with his British accent. A perfect stocking filler for just $US10.(AU: Not available in the AU Apple Store, but most of you can work around that...) [iTunes Store]
New York Coffee Cup: It seems ordinary, and it is. It's not beautiful either. But with time and use, certain objects become popular icons that resonate through millions of photos, illustrations, movies and daily scenes. The New York "We Are Happy To Serve You" paper coffee cup, introduced in 1963, is one of them. Designer Exceptionlab collaborated with the Sweetheart Cup Company to turn the latter's paper cup into beautiful ceramics that actually feel like paper. The ordinary and disposable—180 million are used in NYC every year—turned into permanent design. $US14. [Moma Store]
Lego Architecture buildings: There are many to choose from, including landmarks like New York's Empire State Building and Chicago's John Hancock centre, but my favourite is Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater house, perhaps because I always wanted to live in a house like that in the middle of the woods. That or in a sailboat across the world. Or both. From $US20 for the landmark buildings to $US100 of the Falling Water House. [Lego]
Paul Smith wallet: I know, wallets are boring. But not these. Why? They have neekeed ladies. The pretty pin-ups wallets designed by Paul Smith come in different sizes and configurations. The leather is beautiful, and so is the printing. How do I know it? Because I have the one in the photo. Start at $US195. [Paul Smith]
BeoVision 10: Hookai, so generally I don't like B&O's overpriced AV equipment. I don't like most of their designs either. They just don't seem honest enough to me, except for the BeoVision 10. If I wanted to have a TV, this would be the one. I'm partial to projectors and silver screens, though. $US8700 [B&O]
Braun wall audio equipment by Dieter Rams: I don't care if they work or not. I just want two L 450 flat loudspeakers, one TG 60 reel-to-reel tape recorder, one TS 45 control unit, and a PCS5 turntable. That's how beautiful audio looked in the sixties, and nothing has ever come close. And you know, actually I'm sure that the units you can find up for auction—mainly in Europe—still work fine, unlike their modern counterparts. You can find them on eBay starting at around $US400. [EBay]
IMPOSSIBLE Replica of the America schooner: Yes, it is a sailboat. It's also one of the most beautifully designed objects I've ever cross paths with: The replica of a 1851 schooner called America. The original went to England to challenge the Brits at their own sailing game and won, becoming the origin of the America's Cup race. It's an example of beautiful honest design, in which every detail answered a need, nothing was extra, and every element was beautifully handcrafted, in harmony with everything else on board. The 140-foot schooner can carry 49 people, although I would like one just to carry two grown-ups and supplementary little people all around the world, with friends coming and going all the time. Just too expensive for most of us.
DON'T BUY Gadget cases: I have a hard time thinking about Jon Ive getting pissed off, like they would say in Inn-Gland. So calm, so civilised and zen and British... until he sees someone using an iPhone with a horrible case around it. I imagine he goes bonkers every time he sees his beautiful iPhone—one of the most minimalistic and beautiful electronic objects in existence—wrapped in a bag of naffness. Putting a case around a beautiful object is just not a possibility for anyone who really loves good design. I don't care if it's to protect it. I shattered my phone against the asphalt the other day to the tune of a $US200 replacement, and I'm not putting it in a case. Why? Because beautiful objects are made to be enjoyed as they are, as the designer imagined them.
Sure, you can personalise them with a gelaskin or something that you make on your own. That's part of the life of the object too. But stuffing it into a fugly mass-produced plastic case? That's like someone putting golf pants in Michelangelo's David. Or your grandmother covering her sofa with a plastic cover. Or your going through life not loving or taking risks just because you are afraid you are going to break or get scratched. What's the point if you can't enjoy something fully? Exactly, there's no point. Don't buy. [Don't buy]