Phaidon Design Classics

A three-volume set containing the ultimate selection of design classics.

Conceived and edited by Phaidon Editors


Price: USD$175.00

This edition is temporarily out of stock



About the book

A 'design classic' is an industrially manufactured object with timeless aesthetic value. It serves as a standard of its kind and, despite the year in which it was designed, is still up to date. The collection presented in these three volumes has been put together by a group of experts following the above criteria.

The objects are presented chronologically, beginning with an elegant pair of Chinese bonsai scissors from the early 1800s, still in production today, and ending with Jasper Morrison's recent 'brunch set', which is destined to become a 'classic'.

Glancing through the volumes, the reader will gain an understanding not only of the history of design, but a history of taste and culture. The book is an extraordinary journey through the objects that have shaped our society, from the first attempts to combine function and beauty in the nineteenth century, through the machine aesthetics of the thirties, the advent of plastic and other new materials in the fifties and sixties, up to the 'classics'-to-be of the last ten years.

The book includes not only classic objects created by great and internationally renowned designers, such as Breuer, Le Corbusier, Dreyfuss, Eames, Yanagi and Castiglioni, to name but a few, but also anonymously designed pieces, such as the clothes peg, the deck chair, the corkscrew and the chopstick, which, in spite of lacking a specific designer, have achieved such perfection in design and functionality that they have eliminated the possibility of improvement. From the paperclip, to the Alvar Aalto Savoy vase, to the Jaguar E Type, all of the objects featured in the book fill our desks, cupboards, kitchens, purses, dreams and pockets.

Each product is presented on two, four or six pages and accompanied by a text, written by one of over fifty experts in the field of design. The texts provide a historical context, with key information about the development of the design, and an explanation as to why that particular design is important and groundbreaking. The texts also uncover curious anecdotes about the design, and the process involved in creating it. In many cases the products are described with details that have not been published before, informing the reader about materials and process, in addition to providing rich insights into each designer's oeuvre.

The contributors have each been invited to write in accordance with their area of speciality and passion. Not only writers, but designers, retailers, critics, curators, architects, historians, and professors, each of international renown, combine to bring a unique perspective on design that is highly detailed and refreshing.

Through the informative texts and dazzling quantity of images including sketches, patent drawings, posters, comics and so on, we learn that the safety pin was patented in 1849 and that the famous Thonet chair N. 14, designed in 1859, never went out of production. We realize how clever the zip fastener is and how beautiful the Concorde.

While this collection will be groundbreaking in terms of its range of products and periods, it is also the first of its kind with regards to presenting accurate information. With Alan Fletcher's beautiful design, this is a unique collection that unites factual information with rarely seen images. 999 Design Classics is a honed and laboriously-selected list of products, most of which are still in production. The objects contained within truly encapsulate what design is and what design will be for decades to come.

In The Press

'999 of the best-designed things ever...What the Oxford dictionary is to words, this is to man-made objects...You won't want to put it down.' (Guardian)

'I defy anybody not to just lose themselves in what will undoubtedly be a kid-in-a-candystore moment for most...a fantastic source point of reference...leaves little untouched...brilliantly researched and authoritative text alongside beautiful photography, original drawings, patents and're not going to get a better sourcebook elsewhere.' (Grafik Magazine)

'As you read this you'll find at least something around you that features in here, whether it's the Post-it note, a Pritt glue stick, a mobile phone, a calendar, radio, record player, watch or the very screen in which these pixels shape themselves up to seduce you...Marvel as the humble corkscrew takes on Le Corbusier in the ring, and Eames requests a rematch with the clothes peg. Now, put down your gloves and turn the pages of this essential volume, one elegant page at a time.' (Kultureflash)

'All you ever needed to know about 999 highly desirable things...this is a mega publishing deal.'
(Style, The Sunday Times)

'A remarkable publishing achievement. These 3 volumes are encyclopaedic in their scale and thoroughness; they are really a two-dimensional design museum between cardboard covers. Every design office and design student will want to have them, but check the sturdiness of your shelves first - these books are very big, very yellow and very heavy.' (Terence Conran, Designer)

'Is a significant and comprehensive digest with a clear and concise layout.' (Marc Newson, Designer)

'The battle of design is almost won, but a good book like Phaidon Design Classics can help to finish the war.' (Philippe Starck, Designer)

'Makes good design accessible to all - and is sure to provoke many a "substance versus style" dinner party debate!' (James Dyson, Designer)

'This book is particularly well-presented and clearly referenced. It presents the process and evolution of each project in its historical context. The novelty of this approach, goes beyond a simple history of shapes, and should make this a standard text on design.' (Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Designers)

'Any design you thought was good, you'll know for sure it was good after reading Phaidon Design Classics.' (Naoto Fukasawa, Designer)

'An extraordinarily absorbing, enticingly-packaged and comprehensive collection of Design Classics that will, ironically, become a Design Classic itself.' (Jeremy Langmead, Editor-in-Chief, Wallpaper*)

'One of the greatest design source books ever published.'
(Dylan Jones, Editor, GQ UK)

'Provides exceptional insight into the biodiversity of design. It's so well researched; revealing so much that I have never seen before…it is truly fascinating and reminds me how cultured the art of design can be.' (Ross Lovegrove, Designer)

'A particular joy for a man like me who has an aversion to things but a passion for design.' (John Pawson, Designer)

'We live surrounded by design objects, familiar characters in our daily routine; the stories behind their creation, however, are rarely commented on and often unknown, but they are narrated here in the 999 'biographies' of the objects presented by Phaidon.' (Alberto Alessi, General Manager of Alessi SpA)

'A rich history of the evolution of human creativity.' (Murray Moss, Design Merchant)

'The ultimate tool kit to decode the modern world. Hugely thorough, and just the right side of quirky.'
(Deyan Sudjic, Curator and Critic)

'A new standard-bearer; this book threads a deft critical narrative through centuries of the worthiest design icons.' (Michael Maharam, Principle of Maharam)

'Finally a useful book on design.' (Peter Zumthor, Architect)

'Great objects and books embody desire and this book is filled with objects of desire, a perfect coupling.'
(Hani Rashid, Architect and Designer, Aysmptote)

'A guide to better living through design.' (Aaron Betsky, Designer)

'another of Phaidon's astonishing blockbusters, the kind of book that makes one gasp and stretch one's eyes...a remarkable achievement full of surprises...will be greatly valued by all manner of people anywhere in the world from set designers to advertisers as well as the more obvious audience of furniture designers, writers and architects...good value for £100...Phaidon has yet again set a very high standard in the generally unadventurous world of British art book publishing.'
(Timothy Brittain-Catlin, Architectural Review)

'a highly covetable treasure trove...this huge undertaking could have easily gone awry. But the result is a triumph...for anyone into design it is worth every penny.'
(Building Design)

'what makes these books so great is that they show the sketches and development of the ideas, not just the finished article. They're sure to provoke any a substance-versus-style debate.'
(James Dyson, Inventor, Mail on Sunday)

'The Konstantin Grcic custom-designed carry case that holds this three-volume epic has the potential to be his fifth 'Phaidon Design Classic' if a sequel is ever published...the book sets a new benchmark in armchair time travel...It is highly recommended that you consult your PDC next time you go to a garage sale. That old thing in the corner might turn out to be a design classic...The personal stories behind various objects provide refreshing insights into the designs and how they are (or were) used and into the eccentricities of their designers.'
(Frame (Netherlands))

'Public reaction has not been kind to the Toblerone redesign, which altered a product so recognisable it features among the 999 objects in Phaidon's book of Design Classics.'


Mass Production
New Technologies
Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec
A Taxonomy of Office Chairs


Phaidon is the premier global publisher of the creative arts with over 1,500 titles in print. We work with the world's most influential artists, chefs, writers and thinkers to produce innovative books on art, photography, design, architecture, fashion, food and travel, and illustrated books for children. Phaidon is headquartered in London and New York City. Read more
Contact us

Phaidon Offices

Contact the sales team

  Press offices

Submitting a book proposal

Careers at Phaidon

. .
. . . . . .