Gadgets and new consumer technologies are often judged by how well they function, but the aesthetic choices that technology designers make can have just as big an impact on whether a technological innovation becomes a worldwide icon. Sure, you might want to use the latest gadget, but do you want to be seen using it? Really special design doesn’t pit form and function against each other but rather engineers a symbiotic relationship.
Here are four gadgets that became fashion statements as well as technological marvels. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Looking around at the technology we use every day, it is clear that style and technology are inseparable, and the relationship between the two has molded the way in which we live our lives.
When naming the Apple Watch as one of the top inventions of 2014, Time Magazine noted how the device was a fashionable piece of high-end design. Indeed, the smartwatch is a classic example of a gadget that has to serve both fashion and technology aims from the outset. It is both jewelry and a personal computer. The Apple Watch leads the pack in both regards. A quick check on Superwatches at the evolving design of the Apple Watch shows just how much consideration the giant tech company has put into keeping the looks of their flagship wristwatch up to date. The origins of the smartwatch might be older than you think: the first examples were released in the 1980s.
The Sony Walkman
A towering icon of design, the Sony Walkman changed the aesthetic role of personal technology during the 1980s. To date, 400,000,000 of these little rectangular boxes have been sold, mostly in the 1980s and 1990s. Functionality and fashion worked in perfect synchronicity with the Walkman: the boxy design principles popular in the 1980s suited clear labeling, big buttons – and of course, the shape of the cassette tape. Any design profile of the Walkman wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the classic slim headphones, often bundled with the tape player – a wonderful accessory in its own right.
The Polaroid Camera
Another classic design made famous in the 1980s, the Polaroid camera satisfied the demands of a generation beginning to desire instant gratification. Something about the way the clamshell cover clicked open gave the first popular instant camera a definite aesthetic appeal. Even today, 40 years after the camera was first introduced, it would still be a bold and fashionable choice to wear one of these clunky devices around your neck. Just remember, shaking doesn’t actually make the photo develop any quicker!
Adding to a design isn’t always the most innovative way of improving it. In the case of Apple’s influential Airpods, taking an element away has secured the little headphones a worthy place on this list. The use of Bluetooth enabled the designers to eliminate the cumbersome wires found connecting conventional earphones to their sound source. The result is startling. The wearer of Airpods looks less like a teenager on the bus to school and more like a cool and collected spy. Sometimes in design, less is more.