Pink vacuum cleaner is a Postmodern icon

Concerning the response to Mike Simpson’s vacuum cleaner from Lee Carnihan and the comments of one of the new Designers judges, Anne Sinclair (DW 2 August), this highlights a debate about product design at the end of the century.

Carnihan questions the cleaner’s functionality and I agree – Sinclair says it’s great design because it’s stunning and fresh, this is also true. But Simpson’s cleaner is a classic piece of Postmodernism: function has become less important because functionality was a Modernist criterion.

Simpson’s styling is cozy, friendly and rich with metaphor, reminding us of the good old days of zappy appliance design such as existed in the US in the Fifties. Who cares how, or even if, it works – it looks gorgeous.

Is product design in the Nineties about making things useful and attractive, or about semantics and meaning? Can it be both? Would we eventually tire of Simpson’s vacuum and then find it unusable, or would its jolly little character always compensate for any impracticality? This is the acid test for “stunning” Post modern product design.

Paul Linnell

Senior graphic design technician

De Montfort University

Leicester LE1 9BH

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