Designer Approved

Who knows better than a top designer what the best-designed products are? We asked our five Masters of Design winners to share their top picks for home, office, and the road.


Joshua Prince-Ramus

Home: Naim stereo components (the CD5x CD player, the NAC 112x pre-amplifier, and the NAP 150x power amplifier)

$2,950 (CD5x), $1,350 (NAC 112x), $1,650 (NAP 150x)


“It sounds better than anything on the planet. If you know anything about music, you know you shouldn’t have dials and whistles. You should hear the music the way it was made. This system produces music like you can’t believe, and all you can do is push ‘play.’ It’s superdesign. It does what it’s supposed to do.”

Office: Nike Oregon Series Alti-Compass watch


“It’s just a tank. This watch has no reason for being this big, but I like the brutality of it. I also have a really beautiful Panerai watch, whose purpose was to be seen at 300 meters when you were about to die in a submersible during World War II. That massive thing took up three-quarters of your wrist for a functional reason. This Nike watch rivals the size, but it’s like, ‘Okay, well, that was beautiful, and we’re doing it on a digital watch.’ It’s self-conscious, absurdist, but beautiful.”


Road: Rooftop Bar at the Standard Hotel, Downtown Los Angeles

Price of a martini: $12 and up

“Someone made a living room in the middle of a bunch of skyscrapers. Who knew L.A. could be urban?”

Brian Collins

Home: My grandfather’s leather jacket



“It had also been my dad’s. He gave it to me when I turned 40. The leather is 75 years old and looks like it has survived a few wars–which it has. There are deep, lined pockets to put my hands in if it gets too cold. And there are lots of other pockets to store my cell phone, sketchbook, pens, passport, and airline tickets. It’s a wearable briefcase.”

Road: Motorola’s Moto Razr V3

$449 (with two-year Cingular service contract)

“This is the most exquisite and powerful piece of design I have. It feels incredible in my hand, the interface is enjoyable to navigate, it sounds amazing, and looks like it arrived in a time warp from 2010. People are curious about it and have asked me to let them hold it. And it is just good manners to use your clients’ products.”


Office: Coca-Cola bottle

$4.95 for a six-pack of 8-ounce bottles

“For years I have kept a small refrigerator in my office stocked with freezing-cold Coca-Cola–but only in the original glass contour bottle. I offer it to everyone when we meet in my office. Coca-Cola delivered this way activates so many positive emotional and sensorial cues–sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste–that it’s always a great way to kick off a meeting. I have seen some people get crazy happy about it. And happy people are imaginative people.”

Chuck Jones

Home: John Deere X585 4WD Garden Tractor

Starts at $12,099


“I was born and raised on a farm, and I really do enjoy tractors. This one has a 25-horsepower engine. It’s a scream. I use it for blowing snow as well as mowing the yard. Most designers might not think that a garden tractor is highly refined design, but when you consider the problems the design team had to solve in terms of functionality, durability, ergonomics, and affordability, it’s impressive. It’s like the Swiss army knife of tractors.”

Office: Sony Clie PEG-UX50

$490 (No longer in production, but still available at some retailers)

“Beyond doing the basics of keeping my schedule straight, it has a built-in camera. If I’m on the road and I see something that provides inspiration for myself or my team, I yank this out and take a pretty decent photo. That’s incredibly helpful.”


Road: Hummer H2

Starts at $53,280

“I’m on my second Hummer. I like the fact that it can pull my snowmobile in winter, or my Indy car to a race, and that I don’t give a second thought to using it to take my wife and family to a nice restaurant. General Motors does a phenomenal job of managing the brand equity across the whole experience–Web site, advertising, point of sale, even subtle details such as the gearshift. It’s rounded and muscular. If KitchenAid built a car, this would be it.”

Bruce Mau

Office: Five-Star notebook

About $5


“The single most necessary device for me is a notebook. What I try to do is just write down everything that I’m thinking about. Eventually, I’ll make sense of it all. I just plow through notebooks. I’m not picky about the brand. I guess I should be more aesthetic about them, but I’m not.”

Home: Segway Human Transporter

$2,995 and up

“It’s like the first car ever made–not a new design of a car, but a new vehicle class. It’s also just magical to ride. We’re getting one because my 10-year-old daughter is totally obsessed with it. She wants to move around this way. It’s more or less silent. And it doesn’t pollute. People say it doesn’t do this and that. But it’s the first one, and it’s going to be improved. You have to take the long view on these things. Look at what it represents.”


Road: Solio solar charger for cell phones


“I’m forever having my cell phone be a useless piece of plastic and silicone. I never remember to charge the bloody thing until I need it. With this, you take energy right from the sun and do it in real time. What’s quite brilliant is that it has a hole that you put a pencil through to prop it up and aim it at the sun. There’s no stand piece. And the little three-part fan design collapses into a small package. So it’s easy to carry.”

Claudia Kotchka

Home: Fiskars Pruning Stik Tree Pruner



“It’s one of those ‘Wow!’ things you tell your friends about. It’s lightweight, with a very long pole and a little pivoting head that can go in all kinds of directions. I used to hate to prune. I used to use either clippers and a ladder or my husband. Now I go looking for things to prune.”

Office: Manolo Blahnik shoes

$237 and way, way up

Too chic to have a Web site

“I went to talk to Tom Ford about design, and there I was, standing in very comfortable and boring plain black shoes. I decided I had to get better shoes. So I got these, and they’re as comfortable as a pair of flats. They make your feet look great. Honestly, I can wear these shoes every day. I have, like, eight pairs.”


Road: Nonprescription reading glasses from A.J. Morgan Eyewear

$19.99 to $39.99

“I am obsessed with these things, because they’re lightweight, like air. I can sit on a plane trip to Europe and read and work, and they don’t leave a mark on my nose. And they’re cheap. I am passionate about them.”