Blog, Design Ideas

Timeless Designs of the 20th Century

The 20th Century: A Bottomless Goldmine of Inspirational Design

What’s old is new.

We’ve seen a massive focus on innovation in the last two decades.

Mobile phones have seen a complete revision in their design and the advent of the internet has seen an explosion in the sharing of ideas. However, designers from every creative industry are still eager to plunder the timeless ideas of the 20th Century for inspiration. From classic watch styles to influential items of clothing, such as the bomber jacket, we’re still finding new and exciting ways to adapt the ideas of the past to the demands of the present.

Here are some examples of major design landmarks that refuse to go away:

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual

Often imitated but never equalled – the Rolex watch has been the go-to timepiece for discerning ladies and gentlemen for over a hundred years. Established in 1905, this London brand made a move over to Switzerland in 1919 and has since been known as one of the foremost luxury brands in the world.

Mercedes Glietze became the first celebrity sportswoman after swimming the English Channel in 1927. She was given this early Oyster Perpetual prototype by Rolex founder, Hans Wilsdorf, in honour of the occasion.

Priding themselves on pinpoint accuracy and industry innovations, many of Rolex’s current models are direct relations to models made deep into the 20th Century. The Oyster Perpetual was the first ever watch to be certified as waterproof to 100m, back in 1953. It features a self-winding mechanism which means that the watch needs no battery and does not need winding. The current model of the Perpetual looks more or less the same as it did over 50 years ago, but now features anti-magnetic parts that further protect the accuracy of this classic timepiece.

The American Bomber Jacket

Fashion is often referred to as moving in circles. Throughout modern history, trends and items have wormed their way in and out of vogue. However, every fashion, no matter how big or small, always has it’s epicentre. The bomber jacket (or flight jacket as it’s sometimes known) is one such piece that has been given the status of ‘timeless’. It’s a piece of clothing that is considered as iconic as a pair of denim jeans or Converse sneakers. Established by the US Army’s Aviation Clothing Board in 1917, these study windproof jackets were adopted by youth group movements in the 1970s and 1980s.

Although this garment may have changed in style over the years, the principles of design remain the same.

The design is still being toyed with, over a hundred years later. The recently released Amelia Jane Bomber Jacket, features the classic shape and style of the American flight jacket with the addition of a pronounced fur lining and embroidered sleeves – a modern reinvention of a truly iconic garment.

Alvar Aalto’s Armchair 406

The breakthroughs that Finnish designer Alvar Aalto made in the world of Architecture can still be seen in modern architecture today. Although he started out designing buildings in the style of Nordic Classicism, by the mid-thirties he was exploring the use of natural materials and organic forms – as opposed to the brutal lines and grey concretes that were being used at the time to speed up the production of new builds in other European countries. Amongst other design innovations (such as the Aalto Vase), Alvar Alto designed two armchairs that would go on to form the basis of one the highest-selling chairs of all time.

A living room staple for millions of people around the world, the Poang chair is one of Ikea’s most popular items.

Sweden’s Ikea recently celebrated the 40th Anniversary of it’s Poang Armchair. The smooth, self-supporting structure is a direct stylistic relation to Alto’s Armchairs, providing comfort as well as a timelessly modern design. The Swedish manufacturer has sold over 30 million of these chairs since their debut in the 70s and they’re still finding new ways to innovate upon this cutting edge design.

The Poster Art of Drew Stuzan

When people think of the movies that defined blockbuster entertainment as we know it today, they think: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future. Picture those films in your mind and its likely that you’ll think of the iconic posters, before you think of the movies themselves. What do all of these have in common? Favouring glossy lighting and dramatic shadows, the posters of Drew Struzan defined the look and feel of an entire era of movie making.

Critically acclaimed Netflix series Stranger Things successfully appropriated tropes from Action-Fantasy movies of the 1980s – Lambert’s poster did likewise with Struzan’s iconic style.

There are very few other designers that have had such a wide-reaching impact on their chosen industry. You can see his legacy in Kyle Lambert’s Stranger Things poster and even the alternate poster for recent release, Logan. Today, comic book artists and movie makers continue to pay homage to his work – a vast portfolio of work that hangs on the walls and rests in the DVD cases of millions of homes.