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Why a duck? Because, admit it, just the sight of it inspires a smile. Just wait to hear the alarm, a duck quack that's too endearing not to make you, er, quack up.
Finnish designer Eero Aarnio created this electronic alarm timer for Italian house Alessi, and the duck's January 2013 debut at the Maison & Objet show in Paris was only trumped by its appearance on the front page of the New York Times in March. Its form is a nod to the long-necked ducks found in Europe. The pop of style and color make it an easy fit in any kitchen. Or consider it for other uses, from timing water-guzzling showers to a kid's post-playtime clean-up.
A name nearly synonymous with modern Italian design, Alessi defined the post-modern 1980s with its superstars Philippe Starck and Michael Graves. However, the company was actually founded almost 100 years ago in 1921 by Giovanni Alessi, as a tableware workshop producing items in nickel, chromium and silver-plated brass in Valle Strona in the Italian Alps. Son Carlo Alessi, trained as an industrial designer, brought modernism to the fore in the 1930s and later his brother Ettore Alessi began the practice of collaborating with outside designers.
By the 1970s, the company teamed with the likes of Achille Castiglioni and Ettore Sottsass before ushering in its most iconic decade. Now under Carlo's son Alberto Alessi, collaborations continue with a new generation, including Jasper Morrison, Mario Botta and Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec. "A true work of design must be able to move people," says Alberto, "to convey feelings, to trigger memories, to surprise, to go against the grain."