Design: Items and Icons classics

Design is a peculiarly 20th- century phenomenon which began when arty crafty everyday things just weren't practical any more. So artisans learnt to make one-offs - prototypes for machines to manufacture. Soon mass production made clones of everything. So designers were invented to give products identity. Now we live in an age of designer labels. But at a price. Philippe Starck designed toothbrushes that cost pounds 11. And yet the French still don't have a word for design. "Dessiner" means to draw. They call designers editeurs. As in edit. Finnish Ami Nuurinesniemi who designed headsets for Bell telephones in the USA, had to design them all over again for the Japanese market, as when they held the phone to their ear they missed the mouthpiece by millimetres. He called it physiognomy. I call it ergonomics. That person who turns your toaster into a space machine is more than just the pretty face of packaging. They have to know how things work as well. Everything is designed - graphics, electronics, textiles, lights, ceramics, fashion, furniture, films, products. So now that we have an entire museum dedicated to it, what do you put into it? Not everything in the Design Museum's book Twentieth Century Design by Catherine McDermott, from which the items on this and the following page are taken, is in the museum. But it's a look at 360 examples of the best and most enduring examples of modern design, placing each in its historical context. And that makes it an entertaining story of our times. Nonie Niesewand

20th Century Design, Carlton Books, pounds 25. The Design Museum is at Shad Thames, London SE1 (0171-403 6933 for times)

Helmut Newton annoyed the students at the Glasgow School of Art when he showed them his photographic campaign for Wolford tights (right). Then he explained that he often walked about at home in high heeled shoes because "they're brilliant for your calves" and they laughed. He didn't mention the tights

The Anglepoise lamp (top right) was designed by George Cawardine in 1932 for the Herbert Terry company Sniffin' Glue was one of the first fanzines, and the best known, to emerge in the 1970s and challenged the idea that design was the sole property of qualified designers. Every schoolboy's dream Christmas present, the Swiss army knife was designed by Carl and Victoria Eisener in 1891. The Sony Walkman was conceived by Sony chairman Akio Morita while playing tennis. First on sale in 1978, it has since sold in the region of 50 million and seen many imitators join the market

Jasper Morrison is the first product designer to have been invited to give a STARchitect lecture at the Royal Institute of British Architects. Jacques Chirac sat on his sofa for the Summit recently. His wine racks (above left) for Magis in Italy are the ultimate designer accessory. When Italian furniture maestro Vico Magistretti was asked for the best designed British product, he chose the London Underground map (above right). It conveys information succinctly to foreigners to make policemen redundant. It was designed in 1916 by Edward Johnston

The designer of this archipelago of a vase (above) is Finnish and so famous that his head is on the bank note. Alvar Aalto's vase is still made by Ittala. Next year is the centenary of his birth, so this will be the souvenir of the century.

A mean machine, the Ducati M900 (left) was designed in 1993 by Fabio Taglioni to highlight the powerful engine that really stands out against the bike's minimal bodywork

Unchanged since 1922 when Gustraf Dalen designed it, the Aga (below) is so famous that it even has its own cookbook. Baked potatoes, casseroles and meringues go particularly well in it. Stir fries, sushi and fast food don't

Alessi turned world famous architects and designers into household names. But not everything that they design is brilliant. The style of their toaster (left) is great but the content burns. Admire it but don't use it, unless you want your breakfast toast bruschettaed

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