The O&N Mikro travel iron was made in Denmark, ca. 1950, and is a small but powerful example of the streamline design style that began in the 1930s and lasted well into the 1950s. Streamline embraced the development of new engineering capabilities, as well as new industrial materials and manufacturing techniques to create a sense of new possibilities for living in the twentieth century.
Streamline designers began to look at architecture, furniture, electrical appliances and everyday objects, as well as automobiles and all manners of transportation, through these philosophical and stylistic lenses. Raymond Loewy, Henry Dreyfuss, Walter Dorwin Teague and Norman Bel Geddes were some of the leading practitioners of streamline design, and are all represented in the permanent collection of the Cooper Hewitt Museum.
The Mikro was manufactured by Olesen & Nørgaard of Copenhagen, and is believed to be based on the Smoothie, a travel iron patented by the Lucas Holder Co. of Coventry, England in 1948. Many industrial designers working on pressing iron assignments during this time, whether they be full size or travel size irons, embraced the streamline style to articulate their vision for this industrial age.
The Mikro is small, befitting its purpose as a travel iron: H x W x D: 5.5 x 12 x 5.2 cm (2 3/16 x 4 3/4 x 2 1/16 in.). Its materials are simple – a creamy, white plastic molded top, a polished stainless steel base and fabric-wrapped electrical cord. The shape is typical of streamline design, with its aerodynamically curved front and clean lines, reminiscent of locomotives or automobiles of the time. Streamline designers believed that the feeling of movement was an essential component to design in the industrial age, and imbued even inanimate objects with this sense of motion. There are gentle grooves in the top of the Mikro to make it easy to hold and glide over an ironing surface. As the iron was expressly designed for travel, the voltage is adjustable, from 110v to 220v.
There are larger objects in the Cooper Hewitt collection that exemplify streamline, but none that so succinctly capture the essence of this important design style than the O & N Mikro travel iron.
Bill Shaffer is a graduate student in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program jointly conducted by The New School/Parsons and The Cooper Hewitt Museum.