AMITIAE - Tuesday 1 January 2013

Great Design is no Accident: The Design Museum Collection for iPad

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers

Design Museum

In some classes I teach, as a way to improve the students speaking confidence, I run interview sessions. As well as asking them questions, the students have an opportunity to ask me. A number of students in these interviews have asked me about two clear preferences I have: Why BMW bikes and Apple computers? The answer is simple: Engineering; and Design.

While Apple (and of course BMW) has a clear emphasis on product design, especially under the guidance of Jony Ive, they are not the sole example of good design. Indeed, Ive cites a number of clear influences in his development as a designer, among them Dieter Rams (Braun).

iMac Design Bauhaus is another useful example and, as well as BMW, I tend to regard Porsche design quite highly. It is not that Germany has a monopoly on great design, but some of the simple and functional designs coming from there are difficult to surpass. The iPad as design is simple and functional on the outside with the screen connecting directly to the user in a way that a computer with a keyboard or mouse cannot.

Although I prefer the iPhone for day to day work, one of the ways in which the iPad betters the smaller device is in the ability to display larger amounts of text and to make images used clearer. Magazines and newspapers as well as books are easy to read on the iPad and while some publishers may not have grasped fully what the medium is, many have.

As a display medium, the iPad works rather well and it is no surprise to see apps that capitalise on this. It is also a pretty good device for displaying Art and I have a number of apps that allow me to view genres, check out exhibitions (Gagosian), and even buy online digital art ([S]edition). Among the types of Art I have apps for are Japanese (Hiroshige HD and Hokusai HD) and French (Monet HD and Seurat HD): there are scores more.

Good design is not usually accidental and the best examples - which were winners when they first appeared - retain that freshness and sense of rightness for a long time: the anglepoise lamp comes to mind.

Anglepoise Design Telephone Design

Some of the best examples of design are displayed at The Design Museum in London and it is no surprise to find that there is an app from The Design Museum that focuses on a number of the exhibits. As befits such an app, The Design Museum Collection for iPad has a clean interface with the focus on the product: a checkerboard display of the items included.

A neat touch is that the rows can be scrolled left and right, while columns scroll up and down, so a user can rearrange the opening display screen.

Images and information on some 60 items are available. This may be viewed either by tapping the item in the main display or a pages icon in a toolbar to the left. This starts at item #01 (one laptop per child). The page can be scrolled down to access the information, or to the right for the next item.


Scrolling through all pages might be tedious if a specific item were needed, so a heart icon allows a specific page to be added as favourite. At the bottom of the toolbar is a number with an icon of the object. Tapping that reveals all numbers (and their respective icons). A user can scroll down that list quickly and access the number/item needed.

A series of classifications also gives access to Categories of designs (e.g. Graphics, Transport), Types (Clock, Poster) as well as Dates. Designers, Manufacturers and Places of Origin, plus Colours or Materials are also ways in which designs featured may be viewed. The only motorbike listed is the 1946 Vespa.

As well as some obvious examples (Olivetti Valentine typewriter, Colombo plastic chair) there are enough that at first glance might not appear to be worth including, such as British road signs, the Ecko Bakelite radio, the Kalashnikov AK-47 and a Corbusier car made of wood, to make this an app with content that has some nice surprises.

Ekco Design

There is a fair amount of Apple content, like the original iMac and a single-button mouse as well as the Hot Bertaa kettle designed by Philippe Starcke who also designed Venus, the Jobs' family yacht.


Each entry has a text explanation (Stephen Bayley) and a video commentary by Deyan Sudjic. Both of these provide some interesting insights to the exhibit and gave me a learning experience. Also each information panel has a Comments section, so those who use the app are also able to contribute.

Just looking at great design can be inspiring. To have some of the best examples, along with explanations of the design philosophy, is valuable. The idea that such information is available in a free app and we are thus less restricted as to when, where and how we examine the items, makes this an app that will give those who download it, much pleasure.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



Made on Mac

For further information, e-mail to

information Tag information Tag

Back to eXtensions
Back to Home Page