Kenneth Grange is a bit of an unsung hero, which is probably why you haven’t heard about him until now. I can however assure you that at some point in your life you have sat in, used or walked past one of his designs.
Kenneth Grange is an industrial designer known for designing in a friendly manner – Grange has said that he wants his products to be a ‘pleasure to use’. He sort to eliminate ‘contradictions’ in design that failed to make the products easy to use. In this respect, he reminds me of today’s digital UX designers, striving to make the web a better place.
Kenneth Grange has never had a particular style – he’s moved with the times, but what stands out for me is his repeated use of rounded corners, making his products seem refreshingly different yet still maintaining a familiar status. He makes use of the rounded corner on some of his more impressive portfolio subjects – iconic everyday British objects like London’s black cab, the InterCity 125 train, Kenwood food mixers, Thermos tea flasks and Kodak cameras.
Today, web designers use rounded corners in a huge array of their work – the introduction of CSS3 has made it easy for rounded corners to be implemented (in decent browsers) and the technique has been hugely popular amongst web designers, but there is a fundamental difference towards the use of them in their work compared to Kenneth Grange’s legacy.
Grange developed rounded corners to make his products fresh. Whilst it is true that web designers using rounded corners in their work are differentiating web designs from the straight edge of the days before CSS3, the rounded corner alone cannot make a website seem refreshingly different. As more and more websites take on a rounded corner effect, the less effective it becomes in seeming refreshing.
Take the black cab for example, the design is so distinctive and different that you can pick out a black cab with ease in busy London traffic. I know that the black cab has a lot more to it than rounded corners, but the curvature of the design plays a big role in giving the cab it’s persona, it is unusual but still inviting – something that is incredibly important to a taxi. If every car in London had that same curvature, it wouldn’t be as easy to thumb down a taxi.
It’s not just online that our everyday lives are getting rounder and rounder. Just by looking around my room I can demonstrate this. Jony Ive and Apple’s design team have put rounded corners on everything, and in some cases have made new models even rounder than before (the new Macbook for example). PlayStation and Xbox models are rounder than ever before (remember those old straight cut models). Rounded corners are modern.
To conclude, the use of the rounded corner in web design does make devices seem more inviting and friendly, but rounded corners should not be used as the main concept to make a design look fresh.
Photo credit: Jonathan Burr