Well-designed objects: Chemex coffeemaker


Chemex coffeemaker strikes by its simplicity, being considered one of the best-designed objects of all time, and it has been invented in 1941 by Dr. Peter Schlumbohm, a German chemist that immigrated in the United States in 1935. His straightforward statement is just delightful.

“A table must be a table; a chair must be a chair; a bed must be a bed. When, in 1938, the personal desire for coffee came up, my aspect simply was: A coffeemaker must make coffee, and then I applied my knowledge of physics and chemistry.”

The object is part of New York’s Museum of Modern Art’s collection where you can find another 22 inventions out of the 300 patented by Schlumbohn. Its form is inspired by the Erlenmeyer flask and it is made of glass, wood, and leather.


It continues to be manufactured today by Chemex Corp. with prices ranging from 35 EUR to 100 EUR so having a work of art and, dare to say, a piece of history in your very own kitchen can easily be a wish fulfilled 🙂

If there is any doubt on how to use it, you can check out below a very nice and handy video with instructions.

Also worth mentioning is that James Bond was cool enough to use it, as the coffeemaker has been featured in several movies including “From Russia with love”, as well as our friends from “Friends” and the promiscuous Don Draper in “Mad Men”.

What do you think? Do you agree that this is a good example of functional design?

Design for the real world by Victor Papanek


Even if written in 1971, “Design for the real world” by Victor Papanek is still relevant today and probably will always be since it’s advocating responsible design in a world where the resources are getting poorer. He strongly believes that design must be used to shape the society in a positive way by improving the life quality of the ones in need.

Design is the conscious effort to impose meaningful order.

Anything that does not add functional value is considered by Victor Papanek as a perversion of design. In a more elaborated definition of Louis Sullivan’s simple principle that “Form follows function”, he enunciates six parts of the function complex.


  1. METHOD: the interaction of tools, materials and processes which need to be used optimally by appealing to creativity
  2. USE: answering to the question “does it work?”
  3. NEED: genuine need (economic, psychological, spiritual, technological, intellectual) vs. instilled one by fad and fashion
  4. TELESIS: the design must reflect the times and conditions that have given rise to it and must fit in with the human socio-economic context
  5. ASSOCIATION: our psychological condition determined by environment, education and culture comes into play towards or against a certain value
  6. AESTHETICS: a tool that helps to transform shapes and colours into elements that move and please us

I do encourage you to read this book and share your opinion in the comments.