Two decades of Design: charting the finest design innovations of 1996-2016

Two decades of Design: charting the finest design innovations of 1996-2016

History has its calm spots, long stretches where nothing much happens and the lives of men remain fundamentally unchanged. The last two decades were not such a time. Such has been the dizzying, disruptive advance of digital technology – creating seismic behavioural shifts and tech companies of vast wealth and power – it is easy to imagine the material world, the world beyond the screen, stuck in slow motion, an analogue also-ran with the wrong sort of engine.

As this expansive look back at two decades of design innovation makes clear, nothing could be further from the truth. The world of objects has also shifted on its axis. And in more and more areas, design – beautiful, functional design – has shifted from last-minute bolt-on, a perfunctory styling job, to first principle. We now begin with design and the world is a better-designed place.


The next two decades will see a new revolution as technology emerges from behind the screen and almost everything becomes smarter. Design will gain new dimensions and we will be here to show you how it happens. And, just to make clear that we can innovate with the best of them, our Proustian design reverie has a unique background pattern in every single issue. Here’s to another two decades of smarter, more beautiful, more refined stuff.

Launched in 1996 in First Class and then rolled out in Club World cabins in 2000, the British Airways flatbed transformed business travel with its increased space and comfortability.

Photography: Courtesy British Airways

1996
British Airways flatbed

Ryanair may have led the low-cost airline revolution, but it was the launch this year of easyJet that showed how an internet-only airline could really work.

Photography: Courtesy easyJet

1996
easyJet

The first glimmers of the all-electric future manifested itself in General Motors’ forward-thinking EV1. A fleet of around 1,000 cars was leased, not sold, and when they proved too expensive to run, GM had them all recalled and (mostly) crushed.

Photography: Matthew Richardson/Alamy Stock Photo

1996
General Motors’ EV1

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