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Object of Desire: Naef Play Objects Bauhaus Chess Set
Photograph by Kenji Toma
Photograph by Kenji Toma

Step away from the video game. While playing chess on an HD screen may be convenient, nothing beats the real thing — especially when it comes to growing minds. "Kids are learning about their world, and if they only learn through the limitations of a computer, they won't learn about themselves," says Jeffrey Ryan, designer for Naef U.S.A. The Swiss toy company launched in 1956 with a single building block as its flagship, and despite the wired ways of today, Naef has stuck to its message of simplicity. Its Bauhaus-designed chess set ($575) gives the centuries-old game a sleek look and even serves as a cheat sheet for beginners. A character's shape corresponds to its movement: The queen, which can travel anywhere, is a sphere; the king, which moves on the axes, is a cube. Made with hardwood maple, each piece is cut to carry a specific grain pattern to ensure that the wood doesn't warp or chip, creating a durable set that will last much longer than your first-generation iPad.

A version of this article appeared in the March 2011 issue of Fast Company magazine.