Iconic Designs : 50 Stories about 50 Things
Social Sciences, Arts & Humanities Research Institute
School of Creative Arts
Theorising Visual Art and Design
Art and Design
A surprising range of people and things are today described as ‘iconic’. By no means reserved for design, this increasingly ubiquitous and relatively long-standing buzz-word seems to meet a need for praising and – ironically - distinguishing that which is deemed to be excellent and peerless. Indeed, the noun ‘icon’ and its adjective ‘iconic’ are victims of their own success in expressing what people want to say about design; they have been criticized for their overuse and misapplication for so long that their specific meanings are lost. Their strangely tautological usage is also likely to be at the root of some of this criticism. However, it is too early for eulogies; even as they become increasingly clichéd, the broadcasting of these terms shows no signs of relenting. Iconic Designs responds to this ubiquity by probing the titular buzz-word and asking: What do we mean when we say that a design is ‘iconic’? How does that term aid our understanding of design and of iconicity? 50 compact chapters examine designs ranging from everyday anonymous goods to high-end ‘designer’ objects, each establishing the iconicity of its focal object, and how it contributes to our understanding of iconic design, considering its production, consumption and legacy alongside similar or contemporaneous objects. Iconic Designs enters a crowded market of surveys of iconic design, but by adopting a critically questioning approach through significantly longer object entries than is usual, it will become a key reference on the subject.