Design + Business




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Update Jay Doblin’s 1959 survey to reflect changes within contemporary practice, including digital experiences and service designs. Determine a contemporary list of the 100 best-designed products by polling design leaders, educators, and influencers.

Role + Responsibilities

Design Researcher + Project Lead

  • Primary + secondary research

  • Survey design + administration

  • Cull lists of design and business leaders

  • Data preparation + cleaning

  • Qualitative + quantitative data analysis

  • Category analysis of comparative data sets

  • Deck creation for client handoff


Publication of research findings in the forthcoming 2020 February Design Issue of Fortune magazine.

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1959 survey

The culmination of almost a decade of research undertaken by Jay Doblin and faculty at IIT Institute of Design, this landmark survey established the paradigm for undertaking a general accounting of achievement in the field of industrial design. The research findings were published on pages 135-141 of the April 1959 issue of Fortune magazine alongside an explanation of methodology used list was curated, which formed the basis of our effort to update the list to reflect the contemporary design field.

1970 publication

"One Hundred Great Product Designs" was published in 1970 as a complement to the original 1959 survey. What makes the book different from the original survey is that each product is as accompanied by a written explanations the design’s significance.


Research process

Phase I: Develop Methodology + Cull List of Participants

Phase II: Quantify Convergence + Separate Single Submissions

Phase III: Qualitative Data Analysis

Phase IV: Rank Single-Submissions

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Phase I

The first stage consisted of culling lists of potential participants. Attempting to update Doblin’s study, we followed his methodology whenever possible, but expanded our sample size to a curated list of just over 200 individuals, and broadened the target populations to include design teams as well as industry leaders.

As a supplement to the rank-based polling Doblin relied on, we required reasons for each entry. The previous study left readers to speculate on the parameters by which any given design was selected. As noted in the original Fortune article: “Some of the selections obviously were chosen for purely aesthetic reasons, others because they were trendsetters, still others out of sentiment or nostalgia. A few (the Talon zipper, for instance) are surely more invention than design.”

Phase II

We received 303 unique nominations and convergence around 25 designs, which became the “top 25 designs of modern times.” (Doblin failed to achieve his goal of total convergence in the original study as well). For those designs around which there was convergence, we determined their rank based on quantity of submissions. In cases of a rank-based tie, rankings were determined by an analysis of the distribution spread. If designers, educators, and influencers all independently nominated a design, that constituted consensus elevating a design’s rank. Within the three populations, we ranked designers first, influencers second, and educators third.

8 designs reappeared after 60 years, signaling their lasting impact throughout the intervening decades. Accordingly, any designs that reappeared from Doblin’s study were automatically included in the final list.

52% of our responses came from industry leaders, 23% from design school deans, and 23% from media influencers; with respect to gender, 33% of our respondents were women, 67% were men. The survey did not include a field for self-identification according to race or ethnicity.

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Phase III

Rather than ask participants to rerank the full list of products, as Doblin did, we determined the remainder of the list using the participants’ provided reasoning. We synthesized rationale using a Python-based search algorithm designed specifically for this study. The quantified results were then peer-reviewed by four other design researchers, who determined the final criteria:

  1. Adaptable

  2. Impactful (Society + Environment)

  3. Usable

  4. Successful

  5. Transformational

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Phase IV

A double-blind study was then designed and administered to four design researchers who were asked to rank each product against the five predetermined attributes using a Likert scale. The submissions with the highest weighted scores were included in the final list.