Apple dominates Fortune’s ‘greatest designs of modern times’ list

Apple dominates Fortune’s ‘greatest designs of modern times’ list, as one might expect.

Apple Fortune's greatest designs. Image: Apple's revolutionary iPhone
Apple’s revolutionary iPhone


In 1959, Fortune published a “fascinating and brash” project that set out to discover the 100 best-designed products of the modern era. The list was compiled by Jay Doblin, the director of the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), based on a survey sent out to 100 of the era’s top designers, architects, and design teachers. The result is a fascinating document for modern eyes—perfectly illustrating mid-century design philosophy, yet often mirroring contemporary tastes: sleek sports cars by Porsche and Cisitalia, and even sleeker armchairs by Eames, Aalto, and Saarinen. Domestic appliances with forms foreshadowing Sputnik and the start of the Space Age. Above all, a deep appreciation for the aesthetic beauty not just of luxury goods but also the practical items that improve people’s lives on a daily basis.

In 2019, to recognize the 60-year anniversary of the original list, Fortune again partnered with the IIT Institute of Design (ID), now under the deanship of Denis Weil, to re-create the survey. Following Doblin’s methodology as closely as possible — with some sensible modern tweaks — ID polled educators, influencers, freelance designers, and corporate design teams on the creations they consider truly great. After more than a year of planning, surveying, and consolidation, we present to you the 100 iconic designs that rose to the top.

MacDailyNews Take: Here are Apple’s products and their placements on Fortune’s ‘greatest designs of modern times’ list:

1. iPhone, Designed by Apple, 2007: “An iPod, a phone, an Internet communicator” was how the late Steve Jobs announced the iPhone to the world in 2007. At the time it was an impressive claim. Now it seems like a massive understatement for a device that changed how we live. Analysts were initially skeptical that Apple could succeed selling a premium phone for $499 in a market in which most devices were subsidized or given away by carriers. But by relentlessly pushing the envelope of hardware and software design, adding a professional-grade camera, and creating an ecosystem of apps and services, Apple has sold more than 2 billion iPhones — and in the process has become the most valuable company in the world.

Apple Macintosh
Apple Macintosh

2. Macintosh, Designed by Apple, 1984: Apple started the personal computer revolution with the Apple II, but the Macintosh defined the category. “The Macintosh was not the first personal computer, nor was it the first one with a graphical user interface, but it was the first complete product that took all these ideas and more into a complete package. It became a computer one could understand and interact with using both language and vision, typing and drawing. It changed the way we relate to a computer.” — Johan Redstrom, professor, Umeå University

10. iPod, Designed by Apple (Jonathan Ive), 2001: The heir to the Walkman’s throne. Put all your music in your pocket. “It revolutionized a category with a closed system, and propelled the music industry forward.” — José Manuel dos Santos, head of design & user experience, Signify

MacDailyNews Take: Just a note that the three incredible Apple products above placed higher than the likes of the Apollo 11 Mission (No.12).

14. MacBook Pro, Designed by Apple (Jonathan Ive), 2006: Untethered creative professionals from workstation computers. “It simply changed every part of our life.” — Yongqi Lou, dean of the College of Design and Innovation at Tongji University

22. App Store, Designed by Apple, 2008: Manufacturers used to control what was on your phone. The App Store lets you decide. “With the App Store, Apple pays developers handsomely to create ever-greater apps that make this all possible. All this is refined by a principled, curatorial force of nature that makes us all feel inspired and optimistic that life is perpetually getting better.” —Jason Ring, senior design manager, Uber

29. iOS, Designed by Apple, 2007: A mobile operating system installed on 1.5 billion devices. Simple to use; powerful enough for serious work. “A user experience that even babies can figure out without being taught.” — Hitachi Design Team

46. Apple Watch, Designed by Apple, 2015: The power of an iPhone in a package not much bigger than a postage stamp. “Before the Apple Watch, smartwatches were bulky wrist computers. Apple transformed this category into a fashionable accessory that improves people’s health.” — Bas van de Poel, director, Space10

64. Apple Pay, Designed by Apple, 2014: Digital payments authorized by your face or fingerprints. Combined with Apple’s “secure enclave” chip, it’s infinitely more secure than a traditional credit card.

See Fortune’s full list here.

MacDailyNews Take: One glaring omission: Apple’s iMac, 1998, deserves to be high up on this list.

Apple's revolutionary iMac G3 in its original Bondi Blue color
Apple’s revolutionary iMac G3 in its original Bondi Blue color


    1. True. Supposedly, EVERYONE wants a folding smartphone despite them being so easily damaged and being rather expensive. I guess the world always prefers products that give you less for more money. Personally, I don’t see the point of having a smartphone that flips open, but I’m probably in the minority. Surely, Apple must be wrong by not following the trend of selling products that break prematurely. Although Apple did follow that trend with their MacBook keyboards.


  1. True about the iMac. It essentially birthed the “all-in-one,” slammed the door on beige/ugly, challenged the need for the panel of I/o (some would say too much so) and, for Apple, it was the financial savior. Let’s forget about the mouse.

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