Red! Here I Am! Red-hot! In 2009, I first noticed this electric space heater prototype, designed in 1973 by Bill Moggridge, from across an exhibition gallery. The form immediately grabbed my attention with its startling—yet pleasing—tone of vibrant red. A departure from the black- or beige-box modernism of many industrial design objects of the period, this heater combines rational design with emotional appeal in a highly utilitarian object.
The heater is roughly the size of a large book. At first glance, it appears to be a minimal, rectangular outline. The solid black base with controls and the gently undulating red top and sides, however, comprise a form that expresses its essential function: warm air circulation. Air is drawn in through the side vents, compressed, and pushed out through the front by the heat exchanger. The colors and curves create a striking emotive quality, fitting for an object that provides warmth and comfort, and that shows the designer’s consideration of the people who would use the heater in their homes. Looking almost like red waves of heat, the form also shows a sense of humor. Bill and his London-based firm, Moggridge Associates, designed the heater for Hoover Ltd., but it was never manufactured.
The heater prototype was featured in Cooper-Hewitt’s Design USA exhibition, celebrating the ten-year anniversary of the National Design Awards (NDA) by showing the work of past winners. Bill, also the designer of the first laptop computer and a pioneer in the relatively new field of interaction design, won the 2009 NDA award for Lifetime Achievement. His book and website, Designing Interactions, tells the story of how interaction design is transforming our daily lives. Bill was Cooper-Hewitt’s Director from 2010 until his death last month. During his time at Cooper-Hewitt, he applied his truly interactive approach and warm humor to working with people, technology, and objects.
Today is the first day of National Design Week.