Phaidon, publisher of the best-looking books on the planet, just released Pioneers, Mass Production, and New Technologies, three volumes each containing 333 of the most impressively designed objects of the last century. Here are 12 gadgets that made the cut.

The books move loosely through the 20th century—though they also contain some objects that were devised in the 19th century, and others that a certain Mr. Ive and Mr. Jobs cooked up since the year 2000. We skipped over all the Apple stuff, and much of the classic Braun and Bang & Olufsen objets de tech that you commonly encounter in gadget retrospectives. We looked deeper into the list, to find unexpectedly wondrous objects of great design. (We also skipped about a million different chairs—according to these books, designers spend more time thinking about where to park their keisters than any other dilemma in human history.)

Needless to say, the books are unbelievably gorgeous and informative, and the juxtaposition of so many varied products gives you new insight into what designers think about.

All three books are published this year by Phaidon as a series. They list for $40 each, but thankfully Amazon is selling them for a lot less (see below). While it makes sense to maybe buy just one, it's tough to pick just one, and not just because the products are numbered from 1 to 999, with each volume covering one third. To simplify things perhaps too much, Pioneers covers archetypal designs we now take for granted, Mass Production includes all of the smartly conceived products we grew up with, and New Technologies brings design up to date with contributions from the consumer electronics and computer businesses. As much as the third volume best fits our readership, it's almost more exciting to see how the legacies of the earlier product design movements informed the new tech.


• Pioneers on Amazon for $26.37

• Mass Production on Amazon for $26.37


• New Technologies on Amazon for $29.16