Shop Stories
20.03.2023 | Perspective

100 Years of Iconic Designs

Icons bring together innovation, functionality, timelessness and captivating design. Celebrate 10 of the most iconic products created over the last century of design.

ENSEMBL stories: 100 Years of Iconic Design


Rowen Dinsmore


What makes an icon?










Spanning over the 20th & 21st centuries, join us as we travel through 100 years of truly iconic product designs.

1920’s: The “Wassily” Armchair (Model B3 Chair) by Marcel Breuer (1925)


The “Wassily” Armchair, designed by Marcel Breuer in 1925-1926, is considered an icon of modernist furniture design.


  1. Innovative use of materials: The “Wassily” Armchair was one of the first furniture designs to use tubular steel, which was a relatively new material at the time. This made the armchair lightweight, durable, and inexpensive to produce.
  2. Minimalist design: The armchair’s design is simple, functional, and minimalist. It consists of a few geometric shapes, including two intersecting rectangles that form the seat and backrest, and two bent tubes that form the armrests and legs.
  3. Association with the Bauhaus movement: Marcel Breuer was a student and later a teacher at the Bauhaus, a school of art, design, and architecture in Germany. The “Wassily” Armchair embodies the Bauhaus philosophy of combining art, craft, and technology to create functional, beautiful objects for everyday use.
  4. Timelessness: Despite being almost 100 years old, the “Wassily” Armchair remains popular and relevant today. Its clean lines and simple form fit seamlessly into modern interiors, and its innovative use of materials and minimalist design have influenced countless furniture designs that have followed.


The “Wassily” Armchair is an iconic piece of modern furniture design that continues to inspire designers and decorators today.

The "Wassily" Armchair (Model B3 Chair) by Marcel Breuer, 1925
The Wassily Chair Marcel Breuer ENSEMBL stories Iconic deisgns
The "Wassily" Armchair (Model B3 Chair) by Marcel Breuer, 1925
Alfonso Bialetti. Moka Express. Designed 1933 (this example 2008) MoMA
Alfonso Bialetti. Moka Express. Designed 1933 - MoMA

1930’s: The Bialetti Moka Express by Alfonso Bialetti (1933)



The Bialetti Moka Express, designed by Alfonso Bialetti in 1933, is considered an icon of Italian industrial design.


  1. Innovative design: The Moka Express was one of the first coffee makers to use a simple, yet innovative design that allowed for a quick and easy way to make coffee at home. It consists of a water chamber, a coffee basket, and a collection chamber, all made of aluminum, that work together to brew a strong and flavorful cup of coffee.
  2. Popularity: The Moka Express quickly became popular in Italy and abroad, and it has remained a staple in Italian homes for decades. Its distinctive octagonal shape and signature design have made it instantly recognizable and beloved by coffee lovers worldwide.
  3. Cultural significance: The Moka Express is not just a coffee maker, but a cultural icon that represents Italian design, tradition, and lifestyle. It has become a symbol of Italian coffee culture and is often featured in movies, TV shows, and other media.
  4. Timelessness: Despite being almost 90 years old, the Moka Express remains popular and relevant today. Its simple and functional design has stood the test of time and continues to be appreciated by coffee enthusiasts around the world.


The Bialetti Moka Express is an iconic piece of Italian design, used and loved around the world just as much today as it was at its time of invention.

Alfonso Bialetti. Moka Express. Designed 1933 - MoMA

1940’s: The Slinky by Richard James (1943)


The Slinky, designed by Richard James in the 1940s, is an iconic toy that has remained popular for over 75 years.


  1. Simple yet captivating design: The Slinky consists of a long, thin spring that can stretch and bounce, creating a mesmerizing visual and tactile experience. Its simplicity and the way it moves has made it an enduring favorite among children and adults alike.
  2. Enduring popularity: The Slinky has been popular since its introduction in the 1940s, and has sold over 300 million units worldwide. It has been featured in movies, TV shows, and even music videos, cementing its place in popular culture.
  3. Engineering innovation: The Slinky was originally developed as a tension spring to support ship equipment, but Richard James saw its potential as a toy. He developed a manufacturing process to mass-produce the Slinky, which was a major engineering innovation at the time.
  4. Timelessness: Despite being invented over 75 years ago, the Slinky has remained a popular and relevant toy. Its simple yet captivating design has stood the test of time and continues to delight generations of children and adults.


The Slinky is an iconic toy that has captured the imagination of people around the world for generations, thanks to its playful, simple design.

The Slinky by Richard James, 1943
The creation of the slinky
The Slinky by Richard James, 1943
Gabrielle Chanel by Mike de Dulmen, 1957
Gabrielle Chanel by Mike de Dulmen, 1957

1950’s: The Chanel 2.55 Handbag by Gabrielle Chanel (1955)


The Chanel 2.55 handbag, designed by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel in 1955, is an iconic fashion accessory.


  1. Classic design: The 2.55 handbag features a timeless design that has remained popular for over 60 years. Its quilted leather exterior, chain strap, and iconic CC logo make it instantly recognizable and an enduring symbol of luxury.
  2. Functional features: The handbag was designed to be both practical and stylish. It features several compartments, including a zippered pocket and a hidden compartment under the flap, making it easy to organize and access belongings.
  3. Revolutionary elements: The 2.55 handbag was the first purse to feature a shoulder strap, which allowed women to carry it hands-free. This innovation was particularly significant as it gave women greater freedom of movement and represented a departure from the traditional hand-held purses of the time.
  4. Association with Chanel: Gabrielle Chanel, the founder of the Chanel brand, is one of the most influential designers in fashion history. Her personal style and innovations in design have had a lasting impact on the fashion industry, and the 2.55 handbag is an important part of her legacy.


The Chanel 2.55 handbag is an iconic fashion accessory that represents both the enduring appeal of classic design and the innovative spirit of its creator. It continues to be a highly coveted item among fashion enthusiasts and collectors today.

Gabrielle Chanel by Mike de Dulmen, 1957

1960’s: The Lava Lamp by Edward Craven Walker (1963)


The Lava Lamp, invented by Edward Craven Walker in 1963, is an iconic piece of pop culture.


  1. Unique design: The Lava Lamp’s distinctive design features a glass globe filled with a colorful liquid that is heated by a bulb at the base. As the liquid heats up, it rises and falls in mesmerizing, lava-like patterns.
  2. Association with the counterculture movement: The Lava Lamp became popular during the 1960s and 1970s, a time of social and cultural upheaval in the Western world. It became a symbol of the counterculture movement and was often featured in movies and TV shows that celebrated the era’s rebellious spirit.
  3. Enduring popularity: Despite being invented over 50 years ago, the Lava Lamp remains popular today as a retro decor item that evokes the spirit of the 1960s and 1970s. It continues to be sold in stores around the world and has become a staple of modern pop culture.
  4. Innovation in design and technology: Edward Craven Walker’s invention of the Lava Lamp was a unique combination of art and science. He used innovative materials and technology to create a product that was both visually striking and functional.


The Lava Lamp is an iconic product that represents the cultural and technological innovations of its time.

The 1960's Lava Lamp
1960s lava lamp - ENSEMBL 100 years of iconic design
The 1960's Lava Lamp
The Sony Walkman ENSEMBL iconic designs
The Sony Walkman TPS-L2, 1979

1970’s: The Sony Walkman TPS-L2 (1979)


The Sony Walkman TPS-L2, first introduced in 1979, is iconic.


  1. Revolutionary technology: The Walkman was the world’s first portable cassette player, allowing users to listen to music on the go without being tethered to a home stereo system. It was a game-changer in the music industry and paved the way for the development of other portable music players like the iPod.
  2. Symbol of personal freedom: The Walkman allowed users to personalize their music listening experience and take control of what they listened to, when and where they wanted to listen to it. It was seen as a symbol of personal freedom and independence, especially among young people.
  3. Sleek design: The TPS-L2 was the first Walkman model to feature a sleek, compact design, with its signature metallic blue and silver color scheme. It was both stylish and functional, fitting easily into a pocket or bag.
  4. Pop culture status: The Walkman became a pop culture icon, appearing in movies, TV shows, and music videos. It was often featured as a symbol of youthful rebellion and freedom, and became a must-have accessory for anyone who wanted to be seen as cool and trendy.


The Sony Walkman TPS-L2 was a revolutionary product that transformed the way people listened to music.

The Sony Walkman TPS-L2, 1979

1980’s: The Polaroid Sun AF 660 (1981)


The Polaroid Sun AF 660 Camera, introduced in 1981, is an iconic product.


  1. Instant gratification: The Polaroid Sun AF 660 was one of the first instant cameras that allowed users to see and hold their photos immediately after taking them. This instant gratification was a game-changer in the world of photography, allowing people to capture and share memories in real-time.
  2. User-friendly design: The camera’s simple, user-friendly design made it easy for anyone to take a photo and get an instant print. The camera’s automatic focus, built-in flash, and self-timer made it simple for users to take high-quality photos with minimal effort.
  3. Nostalgic appeal: The Polaroid Sun AF 660 has a distinctive look and feel that has become synonymous with retro and vintage style. Its iconic rainbow stripe design and bulky shape have made it a sought-after collectible item among photography enthusiasts and vintage lovers.
  4. Association with Polaroid: The Polaroid brand has a long history of innovation and creativity in the world of photography. The Sun AF 660 was one of the most popular and recognizable cameras in the Polaroid lineup, and its association with the brand has helped to cement its place in pop culture history.


The Polaroid Sun AF 660 Camera is an iconic product that represents the innovation and creativity of the Polaroid brand. It is a beloved and sought-after item among photography enthusiasts and collectors alike.

Polaroid Sun AF 660, 1981
1980: Polaroid Sun AF 660
Polaroid Sun AF 660, 1981
ENSEMBL Iconic design iMac G3 1999
The iMac G3 by Steve Jobs, 1998

1990’s: The iMac G3 by Steve Jobs (1998)


The iMac G3, first introduced by Apple in 1998, is an icon, and perhaps the most iconic computer ever made.


  1. Revolutionary design: The iMac G3’s distinctive design, featuring a colorful, translucent shell and an all-in-one form factor, was a radical departure from the beige, boxy design of traditional desktop computers. It was a bold statement of Apple’s design philosophy and became an instant icon in the world of industrial design.
  2. User-friendly interface: The iMac G3 was also a revolutionary product in terms of its user-friendly interface. The all-in-one design eliminated the need for separate components like a tower, monitor, and speakers, making it easier for users to set up and use. The computer also featured Apple’s easy-to-use operating system, making it accessible to a wide range of users.
  3. Popular culture status: The iMac G3’s distinctive design and user-friendly interface made it a popular culture phenomenon, appearing in movies, TV shows, and music videos. It became a symbol of technological innovation and design, and was embraced by creative professionals and everyday users alike.
  4. Innovation in technology: The iMac G3 was also a technological innovation, featuring cutting-edge components like a fast processor, USB ports, and built-in Ethernet. It was a powerful machine that helped to usher in a new era of computing.


The iMac G3 is an iconic product that represents the convergence of design, technology, and popular culture. Its revolutionary design, user-friendly interface, and innovative technology have cemented its place in history as one of the most iconic products of the late 20th century.

The iMac G3 by Steve Jobs, 1998

2000’s: Louis Vuitton’s Stephen Sprouse Collaboration (2001)


Louis Vuitton, under the creative direction of Marc Jacobs, collaborated with American artist Stephen Sprouse in 2001 to create the Graffiti Collection.


  1. Bold and daring design: The Graffiti Collection was a bold departure from Louis Vuitton’s traditional, classic aesthetic. It featured bright, neon-colored graffiti-style lettering painted over the iconic monogram print of Louis Vuitton, creating a unique and edgy design that was both daring and unexpected.
  2. Fusion of high fashion and street art: The collaboration between Louis Vuitton and Stephen Sprouse brought together two seemingly disparate worlds of fashion and street art. The Graffiti Collection broke down the barriers between these worlds, and became a symbol of the fusion of high fashion and street culture.
  3. Pop culture status: The Graffiti Collection quickly gained popularity among celebrities and fashion influencers, and became a status symbol for those who wanted to be seen as edgy and fashion-forward. It was also featured in popular movies, TV shows, and music videos, further cementing its place in pop culture history.
  4. Limited availability: The Graffiti Collection was only produced in limited quantities, making it a highly coveted and rare item. Its exclusivity and limited availability have helped to maintain its status as a highly sought-after collector’s item.


The Louis Vuitton Stephen Sprouse Collaboration Graffiti handbags are iconic and represent a unique and edgy moment in the history of fashion.

Louis Vuitton spring, 2001
Louis Vuitton spring 2001
Louis Vuitton spring, 2001
Tesla Model S, 2012

2010’s: The Tesla Model S (2012)


The Tesla Model S is considered an iconic car.


  1. Revolutionary electric powertrain: The Model S was one of the first electric cars to offer long-range driving capabilities and fast charging. Its innovative electric powertrain and battery technology changed the perception of electric vehicles and paved the way for the widespread adoption of electric cars.
  2. High-performance capabilities: The Model S also boasts impressive performance capabilities, with the ability to accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in just a few seconds. This combination of range and performance helped to dispel the myth that electric cars were slow and unresponsive.
  3. Sleek and modern design: The Model S has a sleek and modern design, with a minimalist interior and large touchscreen display. Its design was a departure from traditional gasoline-powered cars and helped to establish Tesla as a leader in the electric vehicle market.
  4. Cutting-edge technology: The Model S is packed with cutting-edge technology, including advanced driver assistance systems, over-the-air software updates, and a high-tech infotainment system. It represents the future of automotive technology and continues to push the boundaries of what is possible in a car.
  5. Pop culture status: The Model S has been featured in numerous movies, TV shows, and music videos, further cementing its status as an icon in popular culture.


The Tesla Model S is an iconic car that represents a revolution in automotive technology and design.

Tesla Model S, 2012

2020’s: The Stackware Collection by ENSEMBL (2022)


Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t give a nod to our own innovation – The Stackware Collection + its Removable Handle.


While it is too early (and we’re too modest) to call this iconic, our hope is that the handle technology we created represents a starting point to change the way we think about our cookware, and the products we bring into our homes.

ENSEMBL Stackware Full6, 2022
ENSEMBL Stackware Full6 high-performance cookware
ENSEMBL Stackware Full6, 2022

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