Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Great Moments in Design

Northville, MI

This is a portable stereo, or DJ station, that I saw in the window of a store in Northville, MI, last week.

I appreciate great design. I like good industrial design that is beautiful as well a functional. The Cray Systems cube supercomputer and the Michael Graves egg-shaped tea-kettle both have rich aesthetic charms.

I have a soft spot for retro-futurist design: the sort of things that were designed during the 1930s through the 1950s as futuristic. I like the look of the ancient future. I enjoy anachronisms and paradoxes. I enjoy the aerodynamic stylings of the 1950s Car of the Future. I enjoy the truth that cellphones, now ubiquitous, have only been around as a technology for about 20 years; on my own cellphone, I use as my ringtone a 1940s bakelite telephone ring. I like dipping into the history of technology, and I appreciate both technological changes over time, and also the occasional daffy remix.

I was wandering around with my family, just doing a little shopping and taking in the downtown Main St. area. I saw this in the window, and was halted in my tracks. I have no idea if this is a customized unit, or commercially available. I think it's a work of design genius, either way. I wish I had one.

This portable stereo commemorates Charles Lindbergh's 1927 transatlantic flight. The controls are designed to look like old single-engine prop cockpit controls. There's a CD, cassette, and radio, earphone station, stereo VU meters, and other controls. The unit folds down into a sturdy portable wooden container. The decals and logos are all Lindbergh-flight-era period, including the Spirit of St. Louis iconic image on the logo panel.

I could imagine a DJ at a music gig pulling this unit out, and generating waves of astonished pleasure. I could also see this on my side-table in my living room, operating as a genuine (portable) stereo in my home.

I have a small collection of reproductions of antique navigational devices—brass replicas of sextant, telescopes, compass, sea-compass with foldable sundial on top, etc.—and this Lucky LIndy stereo would fit right in. Am I covetous? You bet.

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