Design Museum Adds13 Classics to its Collection

The Design Museum has added 13 classics to its collection. They include a Sony Walkman, a Kalashnikov AK-47 rifle and an example of the motorway signage system, whose standardised typeface, designed by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert in 1960, has not changed to this day.

Valentine Ettore Sottsass,1969. Olivetti, Italy Olivetti’s Valentine typewriter made a piece of office equipment fashionable. It’s bright red case and portability made it the desirable product of its day.

The road signs, commissioned by the government for Britain’s new network of motorways and major roads, were tested in 1958 in an underground car park and in Hyde Park, where they were propped against trees to determine the most effective background colours and reading distances. ‘Style never came into it,’ Calvert has said of the typeface.

Calvert redesigned many of the picture signs to reflect her personal experiences. She replaced the image of a boy in a school cap leading a little girl on the school children crossing sign, with one of a girl, modelled on a photograph of herself as a child, leading a younger boy. Calvert described the old sign as being ‘archaic’, almost like an illustration from Enid Blyton.

The Design Museum’s acquisition of the 1979 Sony Walkman, a product that sold at a rate of 50 million in ten years, marks its journey into obsolescence. Nevertheless, the term ‘walkman’ is preserved in the language, listed in the Oxford English Dictionary as a description for any cassette player.

The Kalashnikov AK-47 Rifle was one of the first assault rifles to be manufactured. Developed in the mid 1940s by the Soviet Union for ease of use in arctic conditions, it’s cheap production and durability have made it one of the most widely used weapons in the world.

The Design Museum is developing its Collection ahead of its relocation to new premises at the former Commonwealth Institute, Kensington in 2014. This new Design Museum with interiors designed by John Pawson will be three times the size of its current home and will create a showcase for its world-class collection, and greatly expand its education and public events programme. The new Design Museum will be a platform for promoting design as a national asset, and supporting the next generation of creative talent. –

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