The Best-Designed Products of the 20th Century: Tupperware, Eames, Fiat and More

Value of Good Design MoMA Phone
MoMA

New York's Museum of Modern Art began championing commercial design in the 1930s with its "Good Design" initiatives. Now MoMA is taking a look back with "The Value of Good Design," an exhibition of midcentury Modernist design, which championed practicality, mass production and general affordability, while still fetishizing conspicuous consumerism.

Well-crafted curiosities are included—a 1968 Fiat Cinquecento, an Ericofon telephone from 1946, the original line of Tupperware—as are items still in demand today, like Charles Eames' chaise longue  and the Chemex coffee maker. Curator Juliet Kinchin also explores the influence of nationalism and the Cold War on product design, as with the the inclusion of a 1959 propaganda film intended to show the Soviet masses the wonders enjoyed by the average American.

As we move further and further into a disposable digital world, "The Value of Good Design" reminds us of the merits—and the artistry—of well-crafted physical goods. View highlights from the exhibition in the slideshow below. 

"The Value of Good Design" is on view at MoMA through May 27, 2019.

the value of good design eames chair
MoMA

Charles Eames (American, 1907–1978), Ray Eames (American, 1912–1988). Prototype for Chaise Longue (La Chaise). 1948. Hard rubber foam, plastic, wood, and metal, 32 1/2 x 59 x 34 1/4″ (82.5 x 149.8 x 87 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the designers. Photo by Jonathan Muzikar © The Museum of Modern Art

Value of Good Design lamp
MoMA

Greta Von Nessen (American, born Sweden. 1898–1978). Anywhere Lamp. 1951. Aluminum and enameled steel, 14 3/4 × 14 1/4″ (37.5 × 36.2 cm). Manufactured by Nessen Studio, Inc (New York, NY, est. 1927). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Architecture and Design Purchase Fund

Value of Good Design 1 coffee maker
MoMA

Peter Schlumbohm (American, born Germany. 1896–1962). Chemex Coffee Maker. 1941. Pyrex glass, wood, and leather, 9 1/2 × 6 1/8″ (24.2 × 15.5 cm). Manufactured by Chemex Corp. (New York, NY, est. 1941). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Lewis & Conger

Value of Good Design cheese slicer
MoMA

John R. Carroll (American, 1892–1958). Presto Cheese Slicer. c. 1944. Cast aluminum and steel wire, 4 1/2 × 3 3/4″ (11.4 × 9.5 cm). Manufactured by R.A. Frederick Co. (United States). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Edgar Kaufmann, Jr.

Value of Good Design chair MoMA
MoMA

Lina Bo Bardi (Brazilian, born Italy. 1914–1992). Poltrona Bowl chair. 1951. Steel and fabric, 21 5/8 × 33 1/16 × 33 1/16″ (55 × 84 × 84 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Architecture and Design Funds. Photo by Jonathan Muzikar © The Museum of Modern Art

Value of Goof Design stools MoMA
MoMA

Sori Yanagi (Japanese, 1915–2011). Butterfly Stools. 1956. Molded plywood and metal, each: 15 1/2 × 17 3/8 × 12 1/8″ (39.4 × 44.1 × 30.8 cm). Manufactured by Tendo Co., Ltd., (Tokyo, Japan, est. 1940). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the designer

plumb bob value of good design MoMA
MoMA

Otto J. Kuker (American). Plumb Bob. c. 1948. Brass and steel, l. 7 3/8″ (l. 18.7 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Arthur Brown, Inc.

Value of Good Design MoMA telephone
MoMA

L.M. Ericsson Telephone Company, (Swedish, est. 1876). Hugo Blomberg (Swedish, born 1897), Ralph Lysell (Swedish, born 1907), Hans Gösta Thames (Swedish, born 1916). Ericofon Telephone. 1949–54. ABS plastic, rubber, and nylon housing, .1 (white): 8 1/2 x 3 7/8 x 4 3/8″ (21.6 x 9.8 x 11.1 cm); .2 (yellow): 9 1/8 x 3 7/8 x 4 3/8″ (23.2 x 9.8 x 11.1 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Given anonymously

Value of Good Design thermometer
MoMA

Swift & Anderson, Inc. (Boston, MA, est. 1926). Outdoor Thermometer. Before 1946. Metal, painted metal, and glass, diam. 4 1/8″ (10.5 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Lewis & Conger

value of good design bowl MoMA
MOMA

Vera Lisková (Czech, 1924–1979). Bowl. 1947. Crystal, 3 7/16 × 8 1/4″ (8.7 × 20.9 cm). Manufactured by Lobmeyr (Kamenický Šenov, Czechoslovakia, est. 1823). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of A. J. Van Dugteren & Sons, Inc.

Value of Good Design car
MoMA