Space Age Design: when designers went nuts for balls

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A model of the Sputnik 1 artificial satellite, 1957; image courtesy of the National Air and Space Museum, Washington D.C.

Space Age Design: when designers went nuts for balls
Fifteen iconic globe-shaped designs of the 1960s and 1970s

The period between the early 1960s and the early 1970s was marked by an optimistic vision of the future as a time in which technology would have brought us, citing Star Trek, “where no man has gone before”.
Such a hopeful attitude was fueled by an impressive sequence of scientific achievements – in space exploration, engineering, material science, physics, and medicine. On the whole, those accomplishments completely changed people’s habits and everyday life in just a few years and gave the impression that the potential of the human race was limitless.
Designers mirrored that confidence in the future in objects characterized by iconic shapes, a preference for synthetic materials, and a futuristic look; in a nutshell, all the distinctive features of what we call today “Space Age Design”.

Possibly inspired by the shape of Sputnik I or the popular depiction of planets and subatomic particles as smooth shiny balls, the designers of the time clearly had a strong preference, a real passion we may say, for globular forms, spheres and bubbles. Indeed, Ball-shaped furniture, lamps, toys, and home appliances were ubiquitous in the 1960s and, though the phenomenon only lasted a few years, they indelibly marked the distinctive style of that period.

Moon, pendant lamp, Verner Panton, 1960

The pendant lamp “Moon” designed by Verner Panton (Denmark) for Louis Poulsen in 1960; lacquered metal; image 1stdibs.com

Moon Lamp Vernee Panton

Verner Panton with the Moon lamp, image Verner Panton Design AG, Basel.

Gino Sarfatti, Lampda 586, Arteluce, 1962

Gino Sarfatti (Italy), table lamp “568”, Arteluce, 1962; polished aluminum; image Cambi Auction House.

Tobia Scarpa, Jucker table lamp, Flos 1963

The “Jucker” table lamp designed by Tobia Scarpa (Italy) for Flos in 1963; lacquered metal; image Palainco.

Eero Aarnio, Ball Chair, 1963

Eero Arnio (Finland) Ball Chair, 1963; fiberglass and aluminum; image courtesy of aarnoriginals.com

Eero Arnio, Ball Chair, cross-section; image courtesy of Design Museum Helsinki.

Eero Aarnio, Ball Chair, Million Dollar Brain film 2

A still from the 1967 film “Billion Dollar Brain” directed by Ken Russell.

Eero Aarnio, Bubble Chairs, 1968

Eero Aarnio, Bubble Chairs, Adelta, 1968; acrylic glass and steel.

Vico Magistretti, Eclisse lamp, Artemide, 1965

Vico Magistretti (Italy), Eclisse table lamp, Artemide, 1965; lacquered metal.

Giovanni Luigi Gorgoni, Buonanotte table lamp, Stilnovo, 1965

Giovanni Luigi Gorgoni (Italy), Buonanotte table lamp, Stilnovo, 1965; lacquered metal.

Globe-shaped pendant lamp, Stilnovo, 1960s

A 1960s globe-shaped pendant lamp manufactured by Italian company Stilnovo; image 1stdibs.com.

Panasonic 7-70 Panapet suspended radio, 1970

The Panapet 70, also known as Model R-70S, was a ball-shaped AM radio created in 1970 by Japan manufacturer Panasonic to celebrate the Osaka World Expo; image courtesy of Deutsches Kunstoff Museum.

JVC Videosphere TV 1970

Also known as Model 3240, the Videosphere was a helmet-shaped CRT television – made of plastic, glass, and metal – manufactured from 1970 to the early-1980s by Japanese corporation JVC; image courtesy of RISD Museum.

Space Age Design, JVC Videosphere TV 1970 vintage advertisement

A vintage advertisement of the JVC Videosphere.

Weltron 2001 Spaceball portable radio 1970

Nicknamed “Spaceball”, the Weltron 2001 was a portable stereo manufactured by American company Welton and released in 1970; image VNTG.com 

Electrohome Apollo 860 turntable and speakers 1970

The Electrohome Apollo 860 turntable stereo receiver by British company BSR (Birmingham Sound Reproducers with its globe-shaped speakers, 1970; image lofty.com.

Space age Design Rosita Vision 2000 Hi-Fi System with Grundig Audiorama loudspeakers

A Rosita Vision 2000 HIFI system (1971), designed by German designer Thilo Oerke, with two Grundig Audiorama 7000 HIFI loudspeakers (1970); image stdibs.com.

Grundig Audiorama 7000 spherical loudspeakers

The Grundig Audiorama 7000 HIFI could be either mounted on a pedestal or as pendant loudspeakers using a chain.

Space Hopper toy rubber ball

The “Space Hopper” (as it is known in the United Kingdom, “Hoppity Hop” in the United States, and “PonPon” In Italy) was a popular bouncing ball toy invented by the Italian company Ledragomma in 1968.

Boys in Glasgow with Space Hopper toys, vintage photo

Two boys playing with their Space Hoppers in Glasgow, 1970s; image source Brainpickings.com.

Hoppity Hop bouncing ball toy 1970s

A 1970s advertisement of a “Hoppity Hop” (or Hippity Hop), as the European “PonPon/Space Hopper” was renamed in the United States.


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