Just about every sentient human being has their own set of criteria for what constitutes a “classic” design. My own are fairly simple, in that a classic design:
- should make everyone who sees it go: “Ah yes! That’s _____________”;
- must stand the test of time — people should recognize exactly what it is, decades after its creation or even demise;
- should be universally recognizable even to people not familiar with the product or product category;
- should be beautiful enough so that one might desire to own it or view it in person, even when you’re not quite sure exactly what it is.
I (and others) might not even care for the stuff, but the iconic designs nevertheless need to be recognized as such. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about.
Walther PPK (“the James Bond gun”)
The Eiffel Tower
Volkswagen Beetle (old shape)
Cartier (“Tank”) Watch
Austin Mini (old shape)
1965 Ford Mustang
Those are just the first ones that spring to mind — I used the “five-minute” rule to establish which, to me, exemplify the concept. Yours may differ, so feel free to comment.