Decade In Design: The Biggest Events Of 2009

The past decade has been marked by ferment and change–and design has played its part. Tell us what we missed at #designdecade

Decade In Design: The Biggest Events Of 2009

Tracks and Fields

New York’s High Line–once an elevated railway, now a popular park–has inspired other cities to reclaim old train trestles. Click the numbers below to read about other parks.


The Crowd Takes Over

2009 is the year everyone becomes a designer. That isn’t by accident.

Good Company: Quirky‘s 100-plus team in its New York office

Designers gained unprecedented means of realizing their ideas in three 2009 startups: Kickstarter enables crowdfunding, MakerBot has popularized 3-D printing, and Quirky manufactures popular products and gives creators a cut. What led to this sudden boomlet? Quirky founder Ben Kaufman explains:

I had the idea for Quirky in 2005, put the infrastructure in place, and tested it out at Macworld 2007. It didn’t take hold; people weren’t ready to to share their ideas online. But from 2005 to 2009, a number of things happened to make people comfortable with the concept. Twitter and Facebook and all that stuff came around, and then the recession hit. All of a sudden, I was in this beautiful place where people loved sharing ideas online and at the same time needed a way to make money. They realized that sharing ideas isn’t scary; it’s the way of the future.

MakerBot, Kickstarter, and Quirky rose to serve totally different people. MakerBot helps you go from zero to one. Then you’re basically left with a choice: ‘Do I want to start a business?’ If so, raise money; you have Kickstarter. Or if your choice is, “No, I like what I do for a living, I don’t want to have to figure out all this crap,” then go to Quirky.

I think if you talked to [MakerBot’s and Kickstarter’s founders], they’d say the same thing we do: We started the company because we wanted to make sure that every great idea in the world is actually in the world and not stuck in people’s heads. From the moment we launched, people understood our reason for existence and believed in it. I credit a lot of that not to any work I did or any amazing positioning–because it wasn’t. I credit the market. It was finally the right time.

Don Draper Hits the Mall

Mad Men becomes a hit outside the TV–fostering a very modern merging of entertainment, fashion, and retail.

Mad Men premiered on AMC in 2007 and quickly grew into a phenomenon, especially when it came to the sleek, sophisticated clothes. In 2009, the show’s costume designer, Janie Bryant, collaborated with Banana Republic to create a collection based on the show’s skinny ties, trim suits, and elegant dresses. Bryant explains how aspects of the show’s ’60s look directly inspired the line.

It’s possible to be too authentic. “It’s not like consumers today are going to be buying true vintage. We wanted the collection to be inspired by the ’60s but be made from modern fabric and have a modern cut. If you look at menswear in the early- to-mid-’50s, you can really see the influence of the 1940s: wider lapels, wider ties, looser-fit trousers. The late ’50s to early ’60s was a time that was moving on: the skinnier lapel, the skinnier trousers, and the skinny tie.”


Slim isn’t just for menswear. “One of the main silhouettes for the collection was that classic, iconic sheath of the early 1960s, and Joan was really an inspiration for that dress.”

Think inspiration, not imitation. “Simon [Kneen, Banana Republic’s creative director and EVP of design] and I talked a lot about the accessories that we were going to do. Tie bars were a very important part of the period then, but we wanted to create a tie bar that would translate into a modern collection. It’s not like our intention was to copy the costume design of the show. It was more about, let’s be inspired by the show and create a collection that’s tight, concise, and relevant to the modern consumer.”

Style is personality. “The dress that we designed with the fuller skirt, that was really something that Betty would wear. Joan is all about the hourglass, and Betty–I always call her my little cupcake. We really wanted to represent both of those silhouettes in the collection.”

2009 Highlights

PANTONE 14-0848
*According to expert color forecasters at Pantone.


The Dyson Bladeless Fan is a futuristic ring that blows air and minds alike.

Peter Arnell‘s package redesign of Tropicana gives consumers acid reflux, costs PepsiCo $35 million.


Nissan Leaf: First mass-produced electric car.

Philips: This LED costs $40 and is supposed to last 25 times longer than a standard bulb.


Sketcher’s Shake-Ups: Establishes “toning” as a footwear category.

Herschel Space Observatory: European Space Agency’s telescope is largest to fly.