The Three Best Product Designs. Ever.

Director of Industrial Design, Mark Schoening, describes what he believes to be the three best product designs ever.



Observed Trials is a little known motorcycle sport wherein riders try to negotiate obstacles – or ‘traps’ – without ‘dabbing’ a foot.  In the late 60’s and early 70’s, the Spanish bikes were the best, and the Bultaco Sherpa T Model 92 was the best of the best.  And most beautiful: the slim tank, the minimal seat, polished alloy fenders, and an exhaust system that perfectly follows the frame geometry.  I’ve owned 4, my current one purchased as a pile of discarded oxidized steel and alloy parts: a true basket case.  I’ve since disassembled it completely, and am ready to begin reassembly.  Any day now.

Porsche 911s should be terrible cars.  Weird spoilers are needed to keep the car from lifting at speed; oversize rear tires are necessary to keep the rear from misbehaving in corners. Not to mention the air-cooled engine, vague shifting and peculiar floor-pivoting foot pedals. And yet 911s are magic. The iconic body, after 50 years, now appears perfectly resolved, never equaled and surprisingly, never imitated.  The first 5 minutes behind the wheel feels very strange.  After 45 minutes, the strangeness is replaced by complete mind-body-car integration. The best – BEST – part is the sound of the raspy, whirring 6 cylinder engine, ideally enjoyed from the driver’s seat.  Like sitting inside an old-school mechanical watch.


How could a simple piece of cardboard be one of the “Three Best Product Designs” ever? What if it were slightly modified by a crudely crimped, pointy nail on one edge, and half of a metal grommet taped to another surface?  If this cardboard had a cheap waxed surface, or had simple black-ink bi-lingual graphic instructions that referred to red-hot nails and pointy sticks … would that even make it interesting?  Check out our demo to find out.  I discovered this device while at one of many odd jobs working my way through college.  There were cases of them stashed in a back room, along with Spanish-language 78rpm spoken-word records.  Apparently they were intended to be dropped out of airplanes in Mexico in support of one religion or another.  In any case, it is a marvel of simplicity and an example of what we value here at SIGMADESIGN.


by Mark Schoening | Director of Industrial Design