Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I attended a design debate at the V&A in London on Friday night, where the panel of 7 speakers pitched their arguments for the best object of all time.

British artist Grayson Perry, was the first to deliver his opinion, and he chose what the Harley Davidson which is in his words "anti-design."

Although Perry argued the idea of design being about love, and that he indeed loved his Harley, I could not empathise with him. As iconic is the Harley Davidson brand, there are far more beautiful bikes out there. So if a motorcycle were to challenge for best object of all time then a Harley would not get my vote.

Comedienne Arabella Weir was next as she vulgarly presented her case for the Rigby Peller Bra.

I don't know if it was Weir's ostentatious and meaningless pitch, but again I couldn't agree with this selection. However I couldn't help but think that Weir was missing a few valuable points to help strengthen her case. For example the fact that Rigby Peller is a family run business based in London, with clients such as the Royals.

Graphic designer, ex-president of the D&AD and founder CDT, Mike Dempsey made the first real challenge for the best object of all time.

This object is sustainable and bio-degradable, strong, humble and is more than 70 years old. Made from paper pulp, it has withstood the opposition of plastic and I'm pretty sure if you look inside your fridge, you'll see one.

The egg box I think is a wonderful choice; it is the perfect product! Compact, strong and sustainable, it does exactly what we need it to do.

The second comedienne to nominate her choice was Jenny Eclair with the light bulb; another great object for which we take for granted. However Eclair's argument was a little flawed to say the least. For example she mentioned that energy efficient bulbs emit mercury! When in actual fact they simply contain mercury and only release the neurotoxin when they are broken.

Eclair was questioned on this fact by the panel and she searched the internet on her Blackberry (ironically probably the worst object of all time) to prove her point but was shamefully exposed in her misinterpretation. Entertainingly, the panel took her to town on this mistake.

Richard Wentworth again had a a humble choice in his object, the toilet bowl; 

"an emblem of our well being."

Again this is an object most of us will use everyday and is indeed an emblem of good design: it does exactly what it is designed to do, it's cheap and very straight forward to use.

Malcolm Garrett, AIG creative director, put forward slightly more obvious choices, the iPhone and the Oyster Card.

I'm beginning to get tired of writing about the iPhone, yet it continues to crop up in my life all the time. But Garrett doesn't argue that the aesthetics of the iPhone is what makes it the best object of all time, it's about the way in which we interact with it. 

"You are presented with the information you require and you actually have physical contact with this information through touch." 

To reinforce his argument, Garrett (far right in the above image) explains how the sheer complexity of the engineering and technology behind the iPhone is beautifully hidden in such a way that you don't realise just how advanced the technology is.

"It is so so easy to use. This is typical example of how technology has been used to make peoples lives easier."

Some interesting questions arose about the future of the iPhone. Grayson Perry (3rd from the left) said he has had his cell phone for over 10 years and doesn't need 3G or music on his. He asked if Garrett would have has same iPhone in a decades time.

After each panelist had an extra 30 seconds to finish their arguments, we, the audience of 60 or so, cast our votes by raising our hands.

Who do you think won? 
  1. Harley Davidson
  2. Rigby Peller
  3. The Egg Box
  4. The Light Bulb
  5. The Toilet Bowl
  6. The iPhone

1 comment:

Steph said...

I would vote the light bulb
I would suggest a camera
but I bet iphone won.