When Christopher Ward decided to create the C61 and W61, compact versions of their best selling C60 Trident, it’s clear that they were very careful to faithfully replicate the purity of design and clean lines of the classic C60 to a subtly compact scale. A Compact Classic. And it got me thinking about other examples where a compact scale has become part of a product’s DNA. Because for me, a design classic doesn’t just inspire admiration – a true classic is a product that people really come to love.
It makes me smile to think that the bestselling British car of all time was, by necessity, a compact classic. Launched by BMC in 1959 in response to the fuel rationing brought about by the Suez crisis, the perfect symbol of Britain in the sixties was, in fact, designed by the genius Greek, Issigonis and looked equally stylish in Tunbridge Wells, St Tropez or Turin where it was just the job for cutting through Italian traffic!
THE MOBILE PHONE
Most of us couldn’t do without our constant companion, confidante and comforter, the mobile phone. My latest phone, a slim, beautifully designed iPhone is a miracle of technology in miniature. Packed with features, calendars and apps (most of which I don’t understand) there’s even a gizmo called ‘find my phone’. Which is funny because the first mobile I ever owned would have been technically impossible to lose owing to fact that it was so heavy that you couldn’t carry it very far. Nicknamed ‘the brick’ only heavier and less stylish you could slip it effortlessly into a suitcase and roam about in contact with the world. In theory. How I prefer the sleek, compact lines of my latest phone which weighs about as much as the aerial on my brick and means the guys at the office can contact me day and night. Actually, maybe the brick wasn’t so bad after all?
THE MOULTON BICYCLE
The small but perfectly formed Moulton bike embodies everything I like about British design. The first Moulton was launched in 1962 to enormous interest and with its small wheels and step-through frame could really be said to be a compact re-thinking of the traditional bike. Architect Sir Norman Foster called the Moulton ‘the greatest work of 20th-century British design’ and who am I to argue? I’ve always liked the way that though the design has been endlessly developed – there are versions in titanium and carbon fibre – the essence of the original is ever-present. And for a cyclist like me, who has always loved bikes but has never been fond of lycra, stepping onto a Moulton, designed without a top tube is surely the most stylish, not to say dignified, way to start a ride.
OLYMPUS TRIP 35
When I was growing up in the early seventies, you could say it was a golden age for photography because it was the time when professional standard equipment became available to everybody. The new compact, 35mm cameras featured high quality optics and a built in light meter – light years away from the cumbersome equipment used by professional ‘studio’ photographers. My favourite was the Olympus Trip 35 which was launched in 1967 and later promoted by David Bailey. Beautifully designed, though robust and small enough not to attract attention, it epitomised a more democratic approach to image making – the perfect visual notebook. From 1968 to 1984 Olympus sold over 10 million of these compact classics making it the people’s point and shoot camera.
THE FOOTBALLER’S HAIRSTYLE
Though not strictly a classic as such, the final thing that comes to mind when discussing scaled-down design is the professional footballer’s haircut. Let me explain. In the seventies the diminutive Kevin Keegan, perhaps in an attempt to make up for his small stature, began a trend for what would later be described in the style-loving eighties as ‘Big Hair’. This trend came to a – ahem – head in the year of 1992. The head in question was that of Newcastle’s Barry Venison. The style? Incorporating two haircuts in one – business on top, party round the back – it could only be the Mullet. Many have tried (Mr Beckham, take a bow) and many have failed to compete with Mr Venison for pure ambition, not to say creative expression. And the compact version of this classic? I give you Liverpool’s Stephen Gerard. Stylish. Manly. Smart. A better haircut, a better player.
I think we can all agree that when it comes to Footballers’ hairstyles, less really is more.