Design is in everything. From the games we play to the devices we use. And while industrial design has always been around – it saw a resurgence with Dieter Ram and his wonderful work at Braun – to Jony Ive, who brought it into the mainstream with apple, there’s this thought that when we talk about design – it’s for looks.
It’s not – you’re thinking about aesthetic design- not functional design. But the two shouldn’t be different – a good product design both looks and works well. Take the 2015 MacBook Pro as an example – it’s tiny, has a beautiful screen, great design, and still one of the best trackpads you can get for a laptop – but it also had all the ports and features you needed. It took the utilitarian design of laptops at the time and made it elegant. But then you look at the 2017 MacBook Pro; it only has two lightning ports – one that you’re going to use for power and the other, requiring a dongle to use any other item. This is design over function. And it’s a trend that is happening more and more.
New designs on products that don’t need a redesign –I blame this on corporate consumerism. Companies need to make more money off you – that’s why we constantly have new and more powerful phones every 1 to 2 years with little or no other design changes, with a slight technical upgrade. But it’s the 16 instead of the 15 or it comes with 2 megapixels increase in the camera or gets rid of the headphone jack. However, there is a company that arguably has a product more iconic than the iPhone and longer lasting than the architectural marvels of the world. It’s something we use every day – but never think about it – it’s something so inherently easy to use, we never need instructions. Its purpose built for almost every office and I’m assuming in most homes. And if you haven’t purchased one recently – you’re probably using one that was handed down from your parents because its highly designed engineering is flawless.
Swingline has been in the business of combining paper for 95 years, with 1931 being the turning point for “modern” Stapler design. And I say modern as in – Swingline invented the top loading staple design we still use today. One of the first models to have this design was called the Swingline Speed Stapler #3. And while this means almost nothing to us now. It revolutionized office productivity – so much so that Swingline is featured in the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum and the Art institute of Chicago. Not bad for something we can purchase for under 10 bucks.
One of Swingline’s most iconic designs – wasn’t even their own. When released in 1999 Office Space showcased a Red Stapler owned by one of the movie’s protagonists. As the movie gained a large cult following, so did the stapler, and two years later – Swingline released the 747 Rio Red to the masses and it became the second-best selling stapler, next to the standard black 747.
As you can see – the design hasn’t changed that significantly – from the original top loader – to the more streamlined version of the 70s and 80s to the iconic fashion Stapler of the mid 2000s – Swingline knew, you didn’t need to reinvent the product, instead, they focused on what they did best. It’s a testament to the company that a person in 2020 would instantly know how to use a stapler released in 1931 and vice versa.
This leads us to the Fashion Stapler or runway stapler. It’s the cumulative history of every stapler design before it. The designer Chris Cunningham took into consideration the essence of what a stapler is and does. Able to staple around 20 sheets of paper – with the same metal and plastic design as other swinglines, this is an office product with an apple quality design language. Unlike apple however – it didn’t sacrifice function over form. It still utilized the same top loading design with standard staples – you can extend the hinge and has the same rubber footing of other swingline staplers – it just came in a more aesthetically pleasing form.
Released in 2012 – this stapler still looks modern today – and that’s because good design is timeless. There’s a reason why Dieter Ram’s Designs are still being produced or mimicked today and why the Eames® lounge chair & ottoman, a chair designed in the late 50s that still costs thousands of dollars is sought after by lovers of design, and featured in high-end real estate and architectural photography.
So yeah – Swingline is kind of a perfect example of what real design is. It’s not invasive – you already know how to use it – you don’t need to change the design – and it just works.That’s what makes Swingline still relevant today and why you probably can’t name another stapler company.