Often great historical designs go unnoticed by generations of students and design professionals, as they are generally not reflected in trend publications, and rarely enter into any retrospective of the discipline.
Periods of war, with the pursuit of great minds and resources, are a source of remarkable inventions. A great example of good industrial design is the World War II German canister, better known as jerry can which was used as the source of military water can or fuel can.
During the course of the war, the prodigious and coveted German canisters arrived in the hands of the allies who also decided to begin the production of their own canisters. What they discovered in the German design led to the adoption by all the nations to the point that today it is the standardized portable water for fuel drum of NATO.
It turned out not to be a single incremental innovation in design but a thoughtful approach around the needs of the canisters that solved much of the disadvantages they had so far.
The jerry can was more practical as it had a capacity of 20 liters, which allowed its transportation by a single person. Its rectangular prism shape facilitated the storage and its loading was easy as it could be hooked to the vehicles.
It was more resistant for the reason that it was built with two pressed steel plates which were joined with single line of welding and it had the characteristic marks protected in the sides, letting to enhance the firmness for loading and the expansion of the liquid inside. It reduced the chances of leaks of the liquid and it was able to withstand higher impacts.
Its space behind the handles also made a reserve of air which let the canister to float so that it could easily be recovered from the sea. It had an evolved opening system i.e. the plug was solidary to the canister and avoided the loss of liquid.
Another point to emphasize was the system of three handles which let the transportation of jerry cans possible by two persons while a single person could transport two empty canisters grabbing the external handles.
The inner part of the canister was covered with a synthetic cover initially used in the manufacture of beer, which allowed to use the same type of container to carry drinking water or fuels. The canister was painted in different colors to identify the contents, whether diesel, gasoline or water.