The Twenty SS20 Issue

Box & Blocks: TV Design – Outside the Box

By Jo Phillips


Maybe it doesn’t strike a familiar note now that Flat-screen TVs are pretty much two dimensional, but back in the days when you couldn’t hang a TV on a wall people used to say “What’s on the box tonight?”. The traditional parallelepipedal design has largely dominated TV product design throughout the ages, however some exceptional cases prove to us that designers have sometimes thought, so to speak, ‘outside the box’.

Nothing further from a sober cube then Kuba Komet. Some people say it reminds them of a sailboat, because the gigantic upper section swivels on its axis like a sail on a mast (for a more comfortable vision, we assume). This huge, eccentric set – 216 x 171 x 75 cm (!) -, was manufactured by the German company Kuba between 1958 and 1962 and included 8 speakers, a phonograph, a television tuner and a radio receiver. Everything for the modest price of 2,785 DeutscheMarks, the equivalent of around $1250, which at the time corresponded to more than a year’s wage for an average worker. Nowadays these set are incredibly rare and practically impossible to find, yet one has recently been sold at an auction for around $7000.



Image courtesy of Update or Die


Less wacky, but still out of the ordinary, is this Zarach dated 1969. The design studio in London – still operative now – inserted some Sony 14” sets into a shell of their own making. Only around a hundred units were produced, and three are known to have survived the sands of time. Securing one of these spaceship-eggs, heir of the futuristic craze of the end of the 60s, would cost you around £1500 pounds now. Mind you, it’s been voted the ‘Seventh coolest television of all time’.



Image courtesy of Non Flere

Motility must have felt like a particularly modern attribute for a TV to have when Philco Predicta designed this ‘Chalet’ model in the 1950s. Inspired by the quintessentially American institution of the Drive-In Cinema, this TV boasts two-axis rotation (which sounds about as innovative as blu-ray). This vintage design is not as complex to find as a new company called Telstar has bought the rights to the design, so is now producing replicas that are built following contemporary electronic standards. This said, as Urban Outfitters teaches us, modern vintage does not necessarily mean ‘cheaper than vintage’, and the makers maintain a reserved silence over how much these TVs actually cost.