Hartmut Jatzke-Wigand

Hartmut Jatzke-Wigand

Dr. Fritz Eichler and the development of Braun design - a film and theater director in the electronics industry

Announcement in the program


The Braun design is based on a uniform corporate concept. The difficult path to arrive at this concept – the interaction of engineering, design, graphic design and marketing – is at the center of the speech. It also highlights the role of Dr. Fritz Eichler – a theater director in the electrical industry.


Speech given October 30, 2019


Exhibition "A Face of Second Modernity: The Braun design" in the China Design Museum (CDM) by the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, China


Ladies and gentlemen. My name is Hartmut Jatzke-Wigand. The Braun exhibition in this museum has turned out fantastic and it is a great honor for me to be given the opportunity to speak about Dr. Fritz Eichler and the Braun company.


What would I like to talk about?


The world-famous Braun design is based on a uniform, coherent and effective corporate concept. I would like to exemplify the difficult path to arrive at this concept – the interaction of engineering, design, graphic design and marketing. In this context it is also important to me to highlight the role of Dr. Fritz Eichler – a theater director in the electrical industry – which is quite unusual.


Image Dr. Fritz Eichler


On November 06, 1951, company founder, inventor and brilliant engineer Max Braun died unexpectedly. His sons, Artur and Erwin Braun, took over the company with more than 800 employees. They were actually still too young – Artur became head of engineering at the age of 26 and Erwin, then 31 years old, took over the important company policy. But the company was not in debt and the two brothers could rely on older and experienced employees.


What did Braun manufacture?


At that time Braun manufactured electric shavers, radios, kitchen machines and electronic flash units. The devices were technologically well-designed, they corresponded to the mainstream taste of post-war Germany.


Image 2 Brochure for radio sets 1950 and the Multimix by Braun 1950


The market for electrical appliances was highly competitive. Therefore, from 1952 onwards, Erwin Braun did not look for a modern design for Braun products, but he looked for the new, for ways to keep the company competitive. The question for him was – what is the new?


Erwin Braun sought orientation, he sought advice. In December 1953 he read an article about the American designer Raymond Loewy and his bestseller "Never leave well enough alone". On September 18, 1954 he attended a speech by the Bauhaus student Wilhelm Wagenfeld in Darmstadt. Wagenfeld spoke about the practical use of industrial products. He emphasized the importance of careful and high-quality design, its social value and the responsibility resulting for manufacturers. Erwin Braun was so impressed that he asked him to help design the product range.


The company newspaper 'Der Betriebsspiegel', which was published twice a month from November 1951, also proved to be important in the search for the new. It involved the Braun employees in the events – which actually also meant uncertainty for them – and at the same time strengthened the important feeling of togetherness.


From September 1954, the art historian and film director Fritz Eichler played a key role in the search for the new. Erwin Braun hired him to produce advertising films. Furthermore, in December 1954 Erwin Braun contacted the Ulm Hochschule für Gestaltung, which was then being set up.


In my speech, I would like to focus on Fritz Eichler first, in order to then present what I consider to be the central contribution of the designers at the Ulm Hochschule für Gestaltung to the modern development of the Braun company.


Erwin Braun got to know Fritz Eichler in 1939 while serving in the military in Weimar and came to appreciate him as a friend in intensive discussions about art. Fritz Eichler was a follower of modern art, which had been banned during the Nazi era – for example, he admired the Bauhaus teacher and artist Paul Klee.
Fritz Eichler studied art history and wrote his doctoral thesis on hand puppets and puppet theater. After the war he worked as a theater and film director.


In my conversations about the development of the Braun design, Artur Braun told me how Fritz Eichler reflected the ideas of his brother Erwin, how they both had long discussions about new possibilities for the company.


Fritz Eichler made these ideas tangible and verbalized them. They finally found a consistent, visionary statement: "For a modern lifestyle" – this motto should be reflected in the company concept and product range. 1)


But what does modern mean, what does lifestyle mean?


A first starting point for modernity is the considerate design of electrical appliances. The radio-phono combination 'combi' by Wilhelm Wagenfeld and the radio receivers 'SK 1' and 'SK 2', in 1955 they represent the new beginning of design at Braun – the design for a modern lifestyle.


Image 'combi' by Wilhelm Wagenfeld


In the following I would like to go into more detail about the "SK 1" and "SK 2". Fritz Eichler and Artur Braun create these radio sets with balanced proportions and smooth surfaces.


Image The 'SK 2'


The radio set is compact, it looks simple and has a distinctive overall design. The white punched front plate becomes a future design element of Braun product design. Dieter Rams later also uses punched metal faces – albeit in sophisticated variations – as loudspeaker covers for instance for loudspeakers or the multi-band radio 'T 1000'.


Image Detail of T 1000 loudspeaker front


The large, round scale has a simple typographic design. The sparing use of colors chosen by Fritz Eichler, such as white, gray or lime green, is another design feature. The device overall demonstrates harmony in its balanced relation of measures, elements, and colors.


Produced until 1964 in different type versions, the 'SK 1' and the 'SK 2' fulfill the demands of critical consumers, because the devices embody the company's attitude with modern technology, considered use of materials, and formal quality. Their design is completely different from the competition in 1955 – it is the first device with a Braun design and a basis for the future development of the product design at Braun.


Image 'SK 2' and 'Philetta' by Philipps


On December 31, 1954 Erwin Braun commissioned the newly founded Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm to develop a radio enclosure. Hans Gugelot and Otl Aicher worked as lecturers at this university – it was the beginning of the cooperation between Braun and the university, which was fundamental to the Braun design.


Hans Gugelot stressed the rational design of technical products. A design that evolves from the purpose and the construction of each device. This requirement is intended to contrast trendy, often short-lived products with a merely decorative design. Otl Aicher shows the importance of graphic design for the Braun company. Hans Gugelot and Otl Aicher give Erwin Braun's search for the new, for the modern lifestyle, a clear basis.


Fritz Eichler was fascinated by the possibilities offered by the university in Ulm.

Artur Braun reported from this time:


"It was an exciting learning process; and Fritz Eichler did not only manage it exemplarily and did a lot of humorous convincing, but also paid attention to the little details in arduous, daily legwork. We needed a lot of patience and good will to put through concepts and products that were hardly possible in a medium-sized enterprise. And despite the pressure of time, enthusiasm grew in everybody involved. Fritz was able to bring people together, to convince, to diminish mistrust and to show what real cooperation is able to achieve." 2)


Within a mere eight months, Hans Gugelot develops the enclosure design of the record player 'G 12', the television set 'FS-G', and the radio receiver 'G 11' for Braun. Hans Gugelot builds the rectangular enclosure of the 'G 11' from light-colored, plain maple wood.


Image G 11 by Hans Gugelot 1955


The radio receiver 'G11' shows a harsh contrast to the radio sets with dark wood veneer, high-gloss surfaces, golden ornaments, and interwoven loudspeaker covers. Accurately designed and precisely dimensioned horizontal slots for emitting the loudspeaker sound accentuate the front. They are of an exemplary character – skillfully varied and positioned parallel slots with rounded edges for sound emission are henceforth considered a distinct element of the Braun design.


In Ulm, Hans Gugelot advances the theory of modular construction, the combination of given cubic and square measures in a shape. He does not consider a record player, a radio, or television set an isolated unit, but interrelates the devices with their dimensions. The television set 'FS-G', the radio set 'G 11', and the record player 'G 12' may be combined in a modular horizontal or vertical arrangement to form one harmonious unit. This clear, functional design represents rationality, modernity, and progress.


Image The pictured devices 'G 12, 'FS-G' and 'G 11' in a brochure 1955


In combination with furniture, for instance by Knoll International or Wohnbedarf Zürich, the devices blend in the area of new living.


Image Typical home furnishing of the 50's and furnishing for the modern lifestyle


Furthermore, this realization of the system idea forms the basis for the conception of a pioneering modular system for hi-fi devices.
I would like to return to 1955, an important year for the Braun company.


The equivalent to Hans Gugelot's system design is developed by the Ulm lecturer Otl Aicher with his graphical systems – he relates graphical elements such as characters, colors, fonts both in their format and their arrangement to each other. This is why for example the scale of the radio receiver 'G 11' looks tidy, clear, and easy to read.


The Braun company gradually implemented Otl Aicher's guidelines for graphic design from 1955. This is evident in the design of business papers, displays, brochures, operating instructions or advertising. According to Otl Aicher, advertising should basically be intelligent; it should not persuade people, but rather convince them with information. With his graphical systems, with the exhibition systems developed by him and Hans G. Conrad, Otl Aicher laid the foundation for the visual, holistic impression of the appearance of Braun and therefore also the Braun design.


These newly designed devices from Braun receive a great deal of attention at the German Electronic Exhibition in Düsseldorf from August 26 to September 04, 1955, while at the same time Erwin and Artur Braun take a high economic risk.


Image Exhibition system by Otl Aicher and Hans G. Conrad


Fritz Eichler reports: "What happened back then was decisive for the future development of the Braun company; because there was a really tangible model that answered all of Erwin Braun's questions about the new and that showed that it could be done and how it could be done." 3)


The radio and phono combination 'SK 4' designed by Hans Gugelot and Dieter Rams in 1956 is one of the great design creations of the 20th century.


Image The radio and phono combination SK 4


Fritz Eichler and Dieter Rams are stuck with the design of the SK4 – it is a wooden enclosure with loudspeaker slots. Fritz Eichler packs up the design and drives to Ulm to see Hans Gugelot. This is typical for him, he has no problems to hand things over, to ask others and he is open for the new.


Hans Gugelot from the Ulm Hochschule für Gestaltung solves the problem. He builds the enclosure with simple means and came up with the idea to bend an ordinary piece of sheet metal in a U-shape and to close the ends with wooden plates.


But – a metal enclosure can carry electricity and endanger people in case of a defect. That's why the engineers at Braun were against the design. What is decisive is that the new, the different could only be introduced at Braun if those involved were taken along on this journey. A conflict which, as so often, demanded Fritz Eichler's ability to communicate. Here Fritz Eichler acts like a theater director. He listens to the engineers, he takes them seriously as partners in the discussion, he tries to understand their arguments. He discusses intensively with Artur Braun any problems that may arise during production. Then he tries to convince the engineers.


Image Comparison of SK4 with conventional device


A quote from Fritz Eichler at this point:


"A good theater director talks to the actors, he develops and discards scenes, he changes the stage setting, he tries to retrieve suggestions from all areas of life. He is in a continuous dialog, he summarizes, he has to think about his budget and the audience - and also about the critics. I applied these principles at Braun." 4)


Precisely because Fritz Eichler sees himself more as a director, he has always emphasized the overall performance of all those involved as long as he worked for Braun – he left the company as a member of the board in 1991. He gives them room, he recedes into the background. I think that's also why I personally like him so much. On the other hand, it is also the reason why his overall contribution to the development of the Braun design, the corporate identity of Braun, has so far received so little attention in the history of design.


The new in design also requires a new language of photography. This is why Fritz Eichler hired the photographer Marlene Schnelle on June 01, 1955. The newly designed Braun products should be presented as factually as possible in advertisements, brochures and instructions for use.


Photography, in accordance with the new advertising concept, should use no special effects. As an object shot, it was to convey a visual impression of the product or show the product in use. Among other things, this meant a uniform background for the object shot. The angle from which the pictures were taken – the most important characteristic of a photographic exposure – was slightly from above and very often head-on. In addition to the object shots, the Braun devices were also shown in the environment of modern furniture to document the modern lifestyle.


Here is a typical photograph of Ms. Schnelle. It shows the kitchen machine KM 3.


Image The kitchen machine 'KM 3'


Besides the 'SK 4', the kitchen machine 'KM 3' is another milestone of the process-like development of the Braun design. It was designed in 1957 by the newly established design department at Braun headed by Fritz Eichler. In this department engineers and designers were able to work in closer cooperation than with the Ulm Hochschule given the distance and the poor means of communication at that time.


The kitchen machine KM 3 with its contours and the resulting three-dimensional appearance extends the Braun design language achieved by then by its geometric basic shapes such as circle, rectangle, or cuboid.


The foundation for the technical development of the 'KM 3' is provided by the patented idea of Artur Braun to drive the bowl from the rim.


Image KM 3 construction model and the 'KM 3' on the right


In 1957, Gerd A. Müller together with Fritz Eichler developed its three-dimensional appearance. Formal aesthetically, it impresses with its well-balanced design and functional details. The convincing harmony of base unit and mixing bowl is the result of identical radiuses and reference lines as well as of the order of the individual design elements. The inside slant of the enclosure for instance runs parallel with the edge of the mixing bowl, the gaps and edges between the horizontal surfaces run parallel.


In 1957, the 'KM 3' shows the innovative Braun design for kitchen appliances, it is the market leader, and sets a standard for this product category worldwide. Its high technical quality and timeless design enable a production of 2,300,000 million units with merely minor changes until 1991.


From 1957 on, the Braun company had its international breakthrough.
Here are just a few of the devices that embodied the groundbreaking Braun image.


Image studio 1 by Hans Gugelot and Herbert Lindinger from 1957


Image T 1 portable radio by Dieter Rams


Image HF 1 TV set with metal stand by Herbert Hirche 1958


The reorientation of the design is acknowledged by international success and recognition. More than 100 Braun products are exhibited in the show apartments of the 1957 Interbau in Berlin. Eight Braun products exhibited at the XI Triennale in Milano are awarded the Grand Prix. 16 different Braun products are shown in the library of the German pavilion at the 1958 world exhibition in Brussels. The Museum of Modern Art in New York shows Braun appliances in a 1958 design exhibition. These achievements strengthen the reputation of the Braun enterprise and confirm the entrepreneurial courage of Erwin and Artur Braun; they also confirm Dr. Fritz Eichler's achievements.


According to Hans Gugelot, users regard "the possession of a braun device (...) as a sign for progress and open-mindedness. the devices virtually became a social sign, although this was not intended by the designer. the great success came over time, when it became obvious that the new customers developed a kind of loyalty to the company." 5)


Graphic design with Wolfgang Schmittel as its manager was also headed by Fritz Eichler. From packaging boxes and printed matter to advertising displays in shop windows, the products displayed were modern and sophisticated.


And Wolfgang Schmittel consistently developed this verbal and visual design of Braun's corporate image on the basis of the fonts and visual concepts proposed by Otl Aicher.


Image Various placement options for the display system for shop window advertising by Otl Aicher and Hans G. Conrad 1958 – a typical system design


The new, which Erwin Braun had been looking for since 1952, took an increasingly clear form and was developed into a comprehensive corporate concept. However, another important aspect of Braun's international success is often ignored – the connection between marketing and design.


With the presentation of the newly designed Braun products at the 1955 Electronic Exhibition, Erwin Braun recognized the central importance of cooperation between engineering, design, marketing with sales and advertising. From 1955 Erwin Braun sought close cooperation with the specialist trade. It was clear to him that the different product design also called for different sales methods. He selected specialist retailers who present and sell Braun products very well in their stores. He offered them fixed prices: Braun appliances should have the same prices everywhere. In marketing, as in design, clarity and transparency should prevail. This was the beginning of retailers' brand loyalty to Braun, which was important for the success of the company.


In his speeches, Fritz Eichler emphasizes the farsightedness of Erwin Braun, the importance of clever marketing for the worldwide success of the company. There were, for example, guiding principles for sales promotion, coordination of sales and advertising. The design of advertising was uniform worldwide. Braun general agencies carried out creative advertising measures tailored to each country. Advertising at Braun always meant to provide objective reports on the device and its quality. The customer should be won over and not persuaded. They should trust the products.


Between 1956 and 1961 Braun increased its revenue by 80 percent. Modern production facilities with rationalized line production were built. The workforce increased to over 3000 employees. This rapid expansion necessitated a restructuring of the management. Design continued to be of great importance and Fritz Eichler became part of both the administrative board and the company management from June 01, 1960. Under his responsibility Dieter Rams became head of the Braun design department in 1961 and its director in 1968.


The extensive range of appliances from 1965 is an example of how consistently the design was developed by the various Braun designers.


Image The Braun product range 1965


In 1967 Erwin and Artur Braun sell Braun AG to the American company Gilette. In the face of international competition, Braun's long-term success could no longer be assured. Braun was no longer able to afford the necessary high investments in research and development from its own earnings.


Artur Braun reports:
"The fate of our design, therefore, was in Fritz Eichler's hands, who stayed with the company. He was appointed a board member for design and given the responsibility for the entire appearance of Braun. He succeeded again and again in convincing the new owners of the Braun design value. Maybe his time as a board member from 1967 to 1973 can be called his most productive period." 6)


At the beginning of the sixties, Fritz Eichler starts to mention significant characteristics of the Braun design in speeches and publications. Also the Braun award, initiated by him in 1968, was an ideal platform for PR activities about the Braun design.


Fritz Eichler first published the characteristics of the Braun design in ten points in the 1972-73 annual report. 7) They are true to the very day and offer valuable clues to the solid foundation he helped to create over long years of joint efforts.


The individual theses of the annual report illustrate examples from the product range. In view of the length of my speech, I will summarize the theses briefly:


The prerequisite for good design is a clear corporate concept defining design as a duty for the entire company. Whereby the purpose is the starting point and the objective of each design. This design must follow an intelligent order. And good design means as little design as possible. The design must be well balanced, accurate and bring all individual elements into the right proportions. There is no negligibility in the design. Good design is the expression of high quality, advanced technology, and innovative usage properties.


Basically the Braun design breaks new ground because it considers technical development and changes in the behavior of human beings. The Braun design always puts things into the context of a meaningful program.


From my point of view, this is also true for today's product design and its realization is a big, but also exciting task for designers.


Ladies and gentlemen,


In the time given I was able to show you only some important aspects of Braun's development, with special attention to the work of Dr. Fritz Eichler. I have hardly touched on the design of Wilhelm Wagenfeld or Herbert Hirche, which was important in the early days, neither on the kitchen appliances of Reinhold Weiss, the Braun Sixtant shaver by Gugelot – Braun manufactured more than 8 000 000 units by 1968 – the watches of Dietrich Lubs or other design classics by Dieter Rams. Nonetheless, the Braun design is – and I would like to stress this again at this point – a team effort.


But the products of these designers are convincingly presented by the Ettel collection in the magnificent exhibition in this museum.


To conclude I would like to show you one more object as the last picture.


Image 300 years old Chinese table on two stands


This Chinese table is over 300 years old. Its form is simple, ergonomic, elegant and appropriate for the material. It is carefully designed and has a functional, intelligent order.


It evokes the impression of harmony and usability in the user and fits into any environment – yes, it is a typical Braun design!


Thank you for your attention!


Sources and literature


This speech is based on interviews and conversations about the work of Dr. Fritz Eichler with Artur Braun (Aug 31, 2011 and Oct 11, 2011), Dr. Fritz Eichler (Jul 03, 1991, Jul 06, 1991 and Jul 07, 1991), Elfie Braun (Jun 16, 2019 and Jun 24, 2019), Dieter Rams (Jun 17, 1991 and Feb 09, 1995), Alfred Schmittel (Mar 18, 1991) and Marlene Schnelle-Schneyder (Jun 08, 2011 and Jan 23, 2019).


The following sources are accessible via my website www.designundtext.com


1) Braun, A.: The Development of the Braun Design. In: Jatzke-Wigand, H.; Klatt, J.: The Development of the Braun Design. In: Design+Design zero, Hamburg December 2011, 1st edition, 12


2) Braun, A.: The Development of the Braun Design. In: Jatzke-Wigand, H.; Klatt, J.: The Development of the Braun Design. In: Design+Design zero, Hamburg December 2011, 1st edition, 24


4) Jatzke-Wigand, H.: A Film and Theater Director in the Electrical Industry. In: Jatzke-Wigand, H.; Klatt, J.: The Development of the Braun Design. In: Design+Design zero, Hamburg December 2011, 1st edition,


5) Gugelot, H.: Der Designer in der heutigen Gesellschaft. In: Wichmann, H. (ed.). System-Design. Bahnbrecher: Hans Gugelot, Munich 1984, 77


6) Braun, A.: The Development of the Braun Design. In: Jatzke-Wigand, H.; Klatt, J.: The Development of the Braun Design. In: Design+Design zero, Hamburg December 2011, 1st edition, 41


7) Fritz Eichler and Braun AG (ed.): Annual report 1972/73 of Braun AG, Kronberg 1973, n. p. Retained at the Artur Braun archives, Königstein




Hirsch, E .: Design and Marketing. In: Sales, 4/1969 and Eichler, F .: "Said" by Dr. Fritz Eichler 1963 ... 1972, Kronberg 1973, 27-31

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