From the publisher:
Iconic Designs is a beautifully designed and illustrated guide to fifty classic 'things' – designs that we find in the city, in our homes and offices, on page and screen, and in our everyday lives. In her introduction, Grace Lees-Maffei explores the idea of iconicity and what makes a design 'iconic', and fifty essays by leading design and cultural critics address the development of each iconic 'thing', its innovative and unique qualities, and its journey to classic status. Subjects range from the late 19th century to the present day, and include the Sydney Opera House, the Post-It Note, Coco Chanel's classic suit, the Sony Walkman™, Hello Kitty™, Helvetica, the Ford Model T, Harry Beck's diagrammatic map of the London Underground and the Apple iMac G3. This handsome volume provides a treasure trove of 'stories' that will shed new light on the iconic designs that we use without thinking, aspire to possess, love or hate (or love to hate) and which form part of the fabric of our everyday lives.
Listen to radio interviews about Iconic Designs:
Interviewed by Cassie McCullagh for The List on ABC Radio National, Australia, about Iconic Designs: 50 Stories about 50 Things, 2014
Interviewed by Tom Morris for Monocle radio about Iconic Designs: 50 Stories about 50 Things, 2014
Following the success of The Design History Reader, and the publication of Writing Design: Words and Objects, I was invited by Bloomsbury to edit a book about iconic design. I decided to approach my role in editing this book, and bringing together an extraordinarily astute group of authors to the project, as a chance to reflect on and critique the overextension of the terms ‘icon’ and ‘iconic’ in design discourse. Authors were asked to retain a critically questioning approach to their subjects, and not to assume that the design icon(s) they had agreed to write about were necessarily iconic I used my introduction as an opportunity to reflect on the history of icons, and the the commonalities, if any, between religious icons and contemporary design icons, as well as the processes of iconization, by which designed systems, places and objects are accorded so-called iconic status. My introduction to Iconic Designs elaborated four criteria for iconic status in design - reception, representation, recognition, and reverence - which connect iconic design to its religious antecedents while also allowing for what is distinctive about contemporary icons as a group and as individual instances.
Iconic Designs was reviewed by Deyan Sudjic (2015) The Design Journal 18 (3): 463–466. Sudjic, then as now Director of London’s Design Museum concludes that in Iconic Designs ‘an impressive range of academics’ have produced:
a valuable introduction to the contemporary landscape of academic inquiry into design. It provides an argument for the tradition of using objects that were born for purposes of utility, but have lost it, as the subject of a continuing inquiry into the meaning of things.