There’s plenty of superfluous bad design out there, both in form and function — hello, water bottle with an app that reminds you when to drink water! But the high-tech era doesn’t mean we have come to the end of the line in terms of simple yet brilliant product-design progress. The best new stuff realizes its mission, improving performance while looking good doing and trimming away the excess fat. Here are our current picks in elevated but amplified design:
Birthed in 1917, Chuck Taylors would remain timelessly sleek and simple even if Converse did absolutely nothing to them. But your future feet will be much better off now that Converse has released the Chuck Taylor All Star II, which corrects the classic shoe’s main fault — poor support — by adding in Nike’s Lunarlon full-foot foam cushioning, along with improving breathability. It’s throwback minimalist style, minus the sore feet.
We’re entering a golden era of cool-looking entry-level retro rides, thanks to Ducati’s Scrambler. The bike takes styling cues from the 1970s, and gets its air-cooled 796CC V-twin engine from the brand’s Monster. A low seat height (31”) makes it easy to ride, while low weight (410lbs wet) makes it fun.
The perfectly proportioned Lamy is a ca. 1966 design that marries Bauhaus principles with space-age materials (a combination of fiberglass and brushed stainless steel.) MoMA picked it for their permanent collection, so you could do worse than use it for pensively tapping your lip as you say "hmmm" at your colleague's work.
For a watch so simple, it sure does stand out -- so to speak. By paring down traditional edges and crafting a rounded, seamless silhouette, the craftsmen of the Clé de Cartier have created a watch that lies flush against one’s wrist. Even the crown, inlaid with a sapphire, flows harmoniously with the entire piece. Simplicity shouldn’t be this eye-catching.
Some of the best-looking menswear lacks the execution you find in apparel purpose-built for the outdoors. Not so the stuff from LA-based outfit Aether. Its Stormy jacket takes the classic minimalist Mackintosh trench coat but gives it an athletic cut and builds it from bonded-Italian cotton that fends off wind and rain. It's the rare piece of functional rainwear that won’t screw up your style.
All you need, nothing you don’t: the Priority Bicycles Classic Diamond is built for a worry-free commute, from the grease-free belt drive that won’t stain your pants to the aluminum frame that won’t rust, to the easily-maintained three-speed internal hub. You could easily spend much more on a commuter bike, but you’ll likely spend much, more time worrying about it, too.
Despite its streamlined look, the Rapha Rucksack contains plenty of smarts for killing your bike commute. It’s expandable from 32 to 35 liters, with pockets for everything from shoes to sunglasses to your laptop. Though its 500D Cordura fabric looks black during the day, hidden reflective dots shine under headlights at night, keeping you highly visible on a dusky ride home.
This tiny Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, CA has beer fiends foaming at the mouth for this cultish Pliny the Elder double IPA: it’s won Zymurgy magazine’s Best Beer contest seven years in a row, and is hard to find even outside Sonoma. Its ingredients are as simple as the beer’s straightforward label: Amarillo, Centennial, CTZ and Simcoe hops atop a pale malt.
A simple, smart rethink: a design that tilts the axis of the Electrolux Masterpiece Blender 10 degrees forces a more consistent blend, since gravity forces ingredients directly back onto its titanium blades. Say goodbye to those weird chunks of what-the-heck-was-that in your smoothies.
A barebones system with, uh, full bones(?) capabilities. This bedside ball measures anything affecting sleep quality like temperature, humidity, noise and air pollution. Best feature: a smart alarm that can detect if you are stirring just prior to your scheduled rising time, eliminating a harsh mid-slumber wakeup.
Generator is blowing up the genre with a series of clean, affordable, well-designed spots worthy of your next grown-up trip to the continent. And they’re in areas of the city you actually want to stay in: their new joint in Paris is in the Canal St-Martin area, where it’s easy to find a spot to drink with with locals rather than tourists swiping through their Big Ben selfies.
Gone are the days when buying an audiophile-grade stereo meant opting for speakers roughly the size of a Hobart refrigerator. The Naim Mu-So packs everything you need into a compact all-in-one cabinet featuring 450 total watts of power via 75-watt amps for each of its six speakers. If you can stream it, you can hear it on the Mu-So: AIrPlay, Bluetooth, UPnP, USB, and Spotify connect are all supported.
To build the ICON BR, the aesthete’s vintage dream ride, Jon Ward takes the bones of 1960s and 1970s Ford Broncos, then totally reimagines them using modern engines, high-tech suspensions and running gear, and over-the-top interiors. The resulting machines are extremely capable, altogether excessive, and improbably restrained.
Bluetooth tech has improved (the P5s use the 4.1 standard, along with the high-quality aptX codec), enabling better sound without wires. But it's the clean polished leather and aluminum build and rich B&W tone that haven't been seen among untethered headphones that should get you to cut the cord for good.
The Philips Hue Go is a compact, wireless bulb about the size of a bocce ball cut in half. Via a paired app, you can change its color to one of 16 million possibilities — to match any vibe going on at your patio party. Afterward you can use it as an alarm that will gently wake you up by slowly dialing up the light at whatever time you choose.
Occupying the top six floors of a 38-story building, the Aman's interiors are appropriately zen, with plenty of ash, pine, and natural light, augmented by stellar views of the city (and beyond, as far as Mount Fuji.) It’s a case study in less is more.
This baby's a camera that has a compact body but pro-level specs, including a 42-megapixel sensor with enhanced low-light capabilities along with five-axis lens stabilization and the ability to shoot 4K video. Check out web forums where pro photogs hang out (good forum name: shutterbug007) and you’ll read threads about folks trading in bigger, bulkier rigs to get better results with this smaller cam.
The process of hand-made pour-over coffee yields a tasty, less bitter cup, but demands attention (and valuable get-ready time in the morning). The aluminum, glass, and walnut Ratio Eight automates the task, using the proper water temp (200F) and a “bloom” cycle that extracts more flavor from your grounds.
The highlight? The “virtual cockpit,” an all-digital, high-def dashboard with a panoramic view that can be switched to either focus on the traditional speedometer and rev counter, or give more space to 3-D mapping and turn-by-turn directions. The system allows you to choose how you view your car’s controls, putting you in the driving seat... which okay, you were already in, technically speaking.
It's built in the USA by and for sound geeks, with the parts to prove it: a Grado Black1 provides the smooth, even sonics, while a decoupled low-voltage motor drives a belt with minimal pitch variation. Most importantly -- it fits in with all the subtle, minimally designed swag you've just gone and purchased for your pad.
A lighter, louder, faster version of its mid-engined roadster, offered with a six-speed manual. You’ll find more expensive models in Porsche’s lineup, but maybe not one that’s this viscerally paired down.