Life in brief: Roger Tallon prolific designer behind early TGV and Eurostar trains

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The Independent Online

Roger Tallon was a French designer who gained a reputation for his versatility and innovation, and was widely regarded as one of the pioneers of French industrial design, although he never received the international recognition one might have expected considering the breadth and quality of his projects. As well as creating a diverse collection of over 400 products, ranging from crockery to cameras, he was the force behind the design of the iconic TGV high-speed train and the design director of the Eurostar trains. A true renaissance man of the mid-century, Tallon was one of France's foremost industrial designers, who was wildly prolific and always at the forefront of innovative, highly engineered designs both materially and structurally.

Born in Paris on 6 May 1929, Roger Tallon was the product of a broken home. As a child he dreamt of becoming a pilot, but the "galloricain" was seduced by American gadgets and products. After graduating with an engineering degree in 1950, Tallon completed his military service before briefly becoming an anarchist and following Dadaism.

A huge admirer of the designer and architect Jean Prouvé, Tallon helped to create over 400 products from 1953 to 1973, including such diverse items as a motorcycle (1955); the Japy typewriter (1958); the Wimpy chair (1960); the Super Caravelle fridge (Frigidaire) in 1960; the world's first helicoid metal staircase (1964), which became part of the Museum of Modern Art collection; and the funicular railway in Paris (1970).

Tallon went on to gain an international reputation for his transportation design, which included work for Mexico City's underground system and the first TGV models (1969). 1974 saw the SNCF introduce Corail carriages as part of the first stage of the modernisation of France's railway infrastructure. Tallon wanted to change the whole travelling experience. He changed the ergonomics: comfort, sound, lighting, colours - in fact anything and everything, including the railway stations themselves, their signage and even staff uniforms with the help of couturier Michel Schreiber.

Born 6 May 1929

Died 20 October 2011

Martin Childs