Jonathan Glancey: From Nigella to the Wimpy Bar - G2's alternative design classics

Jonathan Glancey: Few people will disagree with the choice of British design classics depicted on Royal Mail's latest set of stamps

Few people will disagree with the choice of British design classics depicted on Royal Mail's latest set of picture stamps. Each of the 10, from Concorde to the Mini, from early Penguin paperbacks to Giles Gilbert Scott's red K2 telephone kiosks, are part and parcel of Britain's 20th-century design adventure. But this is a list largely concerned with idealistic design, intended to improve our lives not just technically or even aesthetically, but also morally. Here, we offer 10 alternative designs that might, perhaps, be seen as more representative of Britain's true sense of the appreciation of modern design.

Or not ...

1 Nigella Bites

For a nation that barely knows how to cook, Nigella's seductive and handsomely designed recipe book seemed an ideal treat. Big type, big pictures, lots of white space to write notes on; this did most to fetishise food in recent years. Imagine cooking like a domestic goddess. Then, pop something instant into the microwave.

2 Cadbury's Curly Wurly

What makes it the nation's favourite retro-chic chocolate bar? The odd shape, the sticky, stretchy sweet itself, or the whirly, colourful graphics decorating the eye-catching wrapper? Now, why on earth has the 70s been called the decade design forgot?

3 Dalek

The croak-voiced aliens encased in pepper-pot shells, and famously challenged by stairs, were designed by the BBC's Raymond Cusick for the second series of Dr Who in 1963. Somehow, they have become as lovable as they are monstrous.

4 Ryanair adverts

In contrast to Harry Beck's painstakingly inventive Tube map, the cheaper-than-potatoes Irish airline goes out of its way to challenge every fixed notion of old school British good taste and genteel manners. "Fawking Great Fares" was the Ryanair way to go just before 5 November 2004. Perfectly in tune with the British spirit today.

5 Shell suits

Originally meant for athletes, yet in its 90s heyday, the shell suit was worn by millions of Britons 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Like it or loathe it, it is, by any stretch of the imagination, or fabric, the lodestone of everyday British design.

6 MGB Roadster

The Aston-Martin DB5 might be faster and more elegant, but the sturdy MGB Roadster is surely more representative of everyday British motoring tastes and dreams from its debut in 1962 until its (slow) demise 18 years later. The car for driving to Mock Tudor pubs for a pint or two of warm beer in summer.

7 Wimpy Bar

The British answer to American burger restaurants: the food was a novelty, if not exactly as Americans ate it, but the bubbly decor, playful graphics and bright colours seemed so very modern, much like early motorway services stations, and a world away from archetypal greasy spoon cafes.

8 S-chair

Tom Dixon made his name internationally with this chair for the Italian manufacturer Cappellini in 1991. The lacquered steel frame could be sheathed in a choice of wicker and marsh straw, or spotted pony leather. We might not always make things in Britain today, but we still know how to make them look good.

9 Harrier Jump Jet

A truly revolutionary design: the pug-like aircraft can take off vertically, travel backwards and is, so lucky pilots say, a joy to fly. No fighter will ever replace the Spitfire in the British imagination, but the Harrier is the stuff of aerial sorcery.

10 Roberts Rambler RD-76

This interpretation of Harry Roberts' classic radios, in production in one form or another since 1932, will sit as happily in most contemporary interiors as it would have done in fashionable homes of 50 years ago. The British are good at retro-chic design.


Jonathan Glancey

The GuardianTramp

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