Wednesday, 29 December 2021

Input 14 ice bucket, Martin Roberts, 1973

I love the vibrant green colour of this ice bucket (AIBDC : 008800), a rather appropriate object for this time of year as we get ready to toast in 2022.

Image ref: The ice bucket, showing the white, removable liner (right).
Image credit: Katherine Pell

I also love the design of the lid. It has three indented circles for finger grip and reminds me of a button.

Image ref: External and internal view of the lid.
Image credit: Katherine Pell

Designed by Martin Roberts for Conran Associates and manufactured by Crayonne Ltd, the ice bucket was part of a range of 21 brightly coloured, heavy-duty plastics containers sold through Habitat. First launched in 1973, the Input series was created to be interchangeable, with the same height and diameter used throughout, and included trays, bowls and vases with an assortment of lids and insulating liners.

Image ref: The Input series consisted of 21 different numbered, interchangeable, containers.
Image credit:

Originally available in red, yellow, green or white, additional colours were added later and none of the pieces were named but instead given a number. The ice bucket was referred to as Input 14 and is made from polished acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), chosen for its scratch and shatter resistance, with a polyethylene (PE) liner. Injection moulded, the bucket wall was designed to be almost twice as thick as comparable products on the market (refer image below).

Image ref: The robust wall of the ice bucket (left) and the manufacturer’s mark on the underside (right).
Image credit: Katherine Pell

Crayonne was a subsidiary of Airfix Plastics, set up in 1972 to try to improve the image of the plastics material. They approached Conran to apply high design principles to everyday homewares with the successful Input range going on to win the 1974 Design Council Award for Contract and Consumer Goods – the entry description is provided below.

Image ref: 1974 Design Council Awards, Containers by Numbers.
Image credit:

1974 Design Council Award for Contract and Consumer Goods.

Containers By Numbers Input Range heavy duty abs resin containers. Made by Crayonne Ltd, 81 Windmill Road, Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex. Designed by Conran Associates. Approximate retail price: 85p to £4 05 ex VAT.

Two years ago, Airfix Plastics, one of Britain's biggest injection moulding companies, initiated a design programme aimed to give plastics the kind of improved image already well established on the continent. The company approached Conran Associates, design subsidiary of Habitat, with a view to jointly producing a range of products for the home or office. A happy association between the two companies was soon formed and in May 1973 the Input range was launched, designed by Conran Associates for Crayonne, a newly formed division of Airfix.

Research had shown that everybody needed 'something to put things in' and these things could be anything from fruit and flowers to pencils and paper clips. The Input range consists of 21 such 'containers', all made from heavy duty abs plastics. This material was chosen for its strong, solid finish and its scratch and shatter resistance. A particularly low-rate injection moulding cycle enabled the units to be made nearly twice as thick as other abs products, adding to the impression of solidity.

The range is built up logically, all units being based on the same diameter and height ratios, which gives them an integrated quality. There are bowls, dishes, trays, vases, pots, and an ice bucket; some have lids and some are open; they are fitted with different ceramic, melamine and insulating inserts. None of the units is named; each is simply given a number, so that the buyer can use it for whatever purpose he wants. Colours are bright red, yellow, green or white. All items are packaged for the gift market: each one comes gift-boxed, according to the corporate image created for Crayonne by Conran Associates, which includes packaging, graphics, point-of-sale and catalogue material.

One order of which the company is very proud came from the Royal Free Hospital which wanted a large supply of Inputs to be used as vases to brighten up their wards. The Input range is only the first of a series of products planned by Crayonne. Soon to be launched is a range of bathroom fittings this time in pastel colours. Input has already won the Living Award for Good Design (sponsored by Living magazine in conjunction with the Design Council).

Image ref: The launch of Input, left to right: Ralph Ehrmann (Chairman and Chief Executive, Airfix Industries), Terence Conran (Chairman, Habitat) and David Sinigaglia (Managing Director, Airfix Industries).
Image credit: Forty Years of Airfix Toys by Jeremy Brook

MoDiP has another example of this ice bucket in
red, a smaller container, the Input 10 (essentially the Input 9 vase/storage tub with a lid), a bathroom jar that was part of the second range of colours introduced by Crayonne, as well as some of the bathroom fittings referred to above. These were all recently donated to MoDiP by Zack Wyse and I shall be including other objects from his collection in future blog posts soon.

Image ref: Other MoDiP examples of the Crayonne Input series.
Image credit: Katherine Pell

Katherine Pell
Collections Officer

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