Braun identity: How razor-sharp product design inspired Apple and beyond

From Rams to Ive

Flashlight
The Braun Flashlight, with its modular design

This devil's detail is certainly apparent Braun's earlier work. Some of Braun earliest designs were shown off, including a modular flashlight where units could be swapped on the device. Released in the 60s, the flashlight ended up having 100 different pieces made for it over that decade.

The products on show were varied - from a 'building blocks' electronics kit made for schools to a piece of audio history, the Audio 2. Again, Braun's fascination with modular design was highlighted in this device which was originally on sale in the 60s.

According to Braun, the record player was one of the first times that audio equipment wasn't hidden inside a cabinet – the technical aspects of the device were celebrated and not shied away from. It was a celebration of the technology that made up the record player and what the technology could do.

Braun Audio 2
The Braun Audio 2 was showcased at the event

Also on show was a side by side comparison of a Braun calculator and the original iPhone's calculator, as well as an iPod Classic and the Braun T3 Pocket Radio.

Put together and the designs are achingly similar - with a circular centre dial dominating both products. Where the iPod has a screen, the Braun radio a speaker grill – but the streamlined design is noticeable on both. It is this simplicity that has stuck with Braun, notes Wilson.

Braun
Braun and Apple side by side

"Braun design has of course evolved in relation to what is technologically possible, but the design philosophy and core values of design quality, design function and design aesthetic have stayed the same.

"Braun design has always stood for functional, honest, consistent and 'good design'. Today we say the 'strength of pure' when we talk about Braun design," he explained.

Standing the test of time

Design is not all about the form – it is every part of the process.

When asked to come up with designs for the exhibition, 34 agencies agreed to create a poster for the show - this was out of a list of 35 that were asked. Number 35 only declined due to time constraints.

Wilson says that this 'love' for Braun is something that sets the company apart from other big-name manufacturers out there.

Braun
Braun and Apple's design have always been compared

"Good designs that stand the test of time become classics and therefore have a certain collector's value," explained Wilson.

"The Braun story, products and Braun design has inspired many designers and companies over the years. Owning these products is like owning a part of this history."

And it is this history that Braun isn't scared to go back and look at, especially when it comes to new products.

Although Braun is now most famous for its razor lineup, it is also continuing in the watch space – a place it dominated in the 70s.

Braun

"Over the past three, four years, the evolution of our clocks and watch business has been a great means to extend our portfolio into existing and new markets, and that helps building and strengthening the Braun brand," said Wilson.

Does this mean we will see a Braun smartwatch? Well, for now it's more about making watches relevant again.

"In this day and age, a watch is not really a tool you 'need'. Time is everywhere, on the computer on a smartphone... So, for us creating a watch that people want is great. It's also a huge challenge and a passion topic for all of our designers."

Cool design

The latest product to come from Braun camp couldn't be further from the analogue world of watches, though. The Braun CoolTec razor is the first electric shaver with active cooling technology. An integrated electro ceramic cooling element within the razor takes the heat out of shaving. Which all sounds great but how does this rather complicated technology fit with the 'functional' aspect of Braun?

Braun
Braun's CoolTec razor is the latest in a long line of products

"From the beginning of the development process, our design team worked very closely with the engineers and scientists to ensure that the Braun CoolTec looked like and felt like a Braun shaver, while also living up to the users expectations of a modern, state of the art shaver," said Wilson.

"The team did a great job in designing this 'new to the world' product, CoolTec has also already received various prestigious international design awards, Red Dot and the Australian Good Design awards."

It all seems a world away from the modular world of Braun when Dieter Rams was in charge of design, and what blatantly inspired Ive to further Apple's product line with innovative products. But Wilson believes that there are still a lot of similarities, while the new products come under a new mantra.

"Today our philosophy, the 'Strength of Pure' is the basis for our current and future designs."