DESIGN CLASSICS: Anthony Lui of ustwo

Find out why a hackney carriage, Playstation controller and vintage camera are among designer Anthony Lui's top sources of inspiration.

Since this Design Classics series began, we've seen many different objects and items that inspire artists and designers. Some have been surprising, others not so, but every choice has had an interesting and insightful explanation behind it. And this week is no exception...

Anthony Lui

Anthony Lui

Continuing our design classics series today is ustwo designer Anthony Lui.

Lui is an Australian ex-pat firmly settled in east London who started his career at Stylorouge designing and art-directing albums for artists including Paul McCartney and his hero Morrissey.

Lui then did an about face and decided to indulge his nerdier, techier tendencies; he has since worked at ustwo™ designing interfaces and user experiences for clients ranging from Intel, H&M, DeNA, Bacardi and Barclays.

Playstation controller

The original Playstation controller, created by designer Teiyu Goto, was first released in December 1994

"I'd pestered my parents for a Playstation for a teenage birthday one year and owing to good marks in academic subjects which I remember nothing of now, they obliged.

"Whilst the graphics and music were incredible for the time, what I remember most was the controller, known in its current iteration as the DualShock.

Trustworthy companion

"I remember this thing looking so strange compared to the Nintendo and Sega controllers of generations past but as soon as you held it it became part of you. Through the grimy streets of Liberty City to the battlegrounds of ancient China, from the snowfields of Canada to the mountains of Gaia, the Playstation controller was your trustworthy worthy companion.

"Sony have said that the controller took longer to design than the Playstation hardware. But considering that close to 20 years on, through three generations of the console, the controller has more or less stayed the same, I'd say it was time well spent and shows that when you get something right, it can stand the test of time.

Sony have said that the controller took longer to design than the Playstation

"Purists will point out that they added two analogue sticks to the controller, and that there's updated vibrating motors and motion control, rah rah rah, but the design and layout of the controller has remained the same."

Hackney carriage

In London, hackney carriage drivers have to pass a test called The Knowledge to demonstrate an intimate knowledge of London's streets

"Being a surrogate Londoner, I take a lot of pride in this city and when entertaining out-of-towners, a ride in a black cab is on a To-Do list that includes Borough Market, the Tate Modern and the British Museum.

"Not only are these beautiful things iconic, they're also very practical. The flat bottomed design makes them wheelchair accessible and relatively easy (and elegant) to get in and out of. The famous 25ft turning circle helps them get around tight spots like Waterloo station and helps ease congestion on London's tightly wound streets. Imagine having to wait for a cab to do a three-point turn every time they picked up a passenger going the opposite direction!

Not only are these beautiful things iconic, they're also very practical

"And, perhaps best of all, you face each other when travelling in a group. When you combine great product design with great service in the form of the “Knowledge” that every Hackney Carriage driver needs to undertake, you have a design classic."

The pivoting feet on an Eames chair

Many of the Eames chair designs feature self-leveling floor glides

"Much has already been said about Eames chairs but what I love most about these chairs (at least the steel tube/wire-legged ones) is the little pivoted feet which keep them square to the ground.

"I don't know whether the Eameses invented them or whether they got them off the shelf, but what I do know is that the most beautiful, comfortable chair will do nothing but irritate you if an alternate leg hits the ground every time you shift your body weight."

Campagnolo-style side pull brake callper

Lui favours this bike brake design to others due to its functional features, including the cable clamp and well placed fingergrips

"Whilst the design of this brake has been superceded by mechanisms that offer better stopping power, improved aerodynamics or reliability in adverse conditions, I still run one of these on my bike because of the simplicity of its design.

"These brakes can be wired up and maintained by anyone that can put a round peg in a round hole and thread a wire. The affordances are so clear cut there isn't much room for error. And that minimum amount of effort goes a long way to stopping yourself from colliding with a red-light jumping cyclist at a T-junction. Safety, achieved with just a couple of pieces of forged steel, rubber, spring and wire!

It’s the thoughtful little touches that make using these Campag brakes delightful

"And whilst these brakes are probably no better or worse than the next set of brakes, it’s the thoughtful little touches that make using these Campag brakes so much more delightful from their almost identical cousins.

"Touches like the little lever on the cable clamp which allows you to loosen or tighten your brakes without having to rewire everything, and the fingergrips underneath the pads to give you a bit more purchase to position the brakes right before tightening the cable. This extra amount of thoughtfulness is what elevates this to a design classic."

Leica M6

The M6 is a rangefinder camera manufactured by Leica from 1984 to 1998

"I'd coveted one of these cameras for ages and got a windfall one year and decided: “Debt be damned, why the hell not?”. The first thing I noticed about the M6, aside from its heft, was just how damn uncomfortable it was.

"Instead of fitting cosily into your hand like a modern Nikon or Canon, your fingers have to contort to its brutalist lines and semi-circles. Shooting for a day without a grip gives you cramps. The inset shutter dial is difficult to turn, and it goes the wrong way (this was fixed with its successor, the M6 TTL). Once, I had to crawl amongst grime coated beer cups on a moshpit floor because I dropped the baseplate whilst trying to reload film in the middle of a concert.

It's the thing I own that I love using most

"However, despite all these things, it's the thing I own that I love using most. After putting through enough rolls and adjusting to its quirks, you look forward to every click, every clack, every wind and every pull. Every interaction with the thing gives you pleasure because every interaction is satisfying.

Crisp shots

"Even when the roll you just shot doesn't turn out so great because the rangefinder is misaligned, even when your DSLR mates wonder why your shots aren't as crisp as theirs (“I was shooting on 800 film”, “it's the ‘Leica glow’”), you love everything about the experience.

"The M6 is so beautiful, and so satisfying, you adapt to accommodate it. You adjust your expectations of it, just to have it in your life. Is it good design? From an academic perspective, probably not. But design is as much about the heart as it is about the mind, and as far as the heart is concerned, the M6 wins it."

So, what do you think of Anthony's choices? What inspires you? Let us know in the comments box below...