Hartmut Jatzke-Wigand
Hartmut Jatzke-Wigand: The Development of the Braun Design Until 1965 – an Exemplary Product Selection

Hartmut Jatzke-Wigand

The Development of the Braun Design Until 1965 – an Exemplary Product Selection

Which Braun products have an exemplary character and incorporate central elements of the Braun design? According to these criteria, a group of product design collectors build their design collection. This not only reduces the number of objects included in their collection, at the same time, it increases its quality.2)


A selection of products requires the disclosure of selection criteria, which will be provided in the first part of the article, to consequently define the Braun products in chronological order until 1965 that are considered as exemplary for their category and the Braun design. 3) The bibliography lists sources of importance for the product design collector.


Braun Design – Criteria for a Product Selection

The term Braun design is used inconsistently with respect to its meaning and the pertaining periods of the company's development both by the company Braun itself and in literature.4) 5) Braun design is used to describe a method, a process, the result – or a combination of them with varying weighting.


At the beginning of the fifties, Erwin Braun was not looking for a modern design for Braun products, but for the innovative, for possibilities to maintain the competitiveness of the inherited company on the highly competitive market of electrical appliances. What do electrical appliances for a user with a modern lifestyle need to look like, what does advertising for these appliances need to look like – these are the core questions for him and Fritz Eichler. The starting point was a deliberate design of electrical appliances, their advertising material and presentation. 6)


The design gradually considered characteristic of Braun products is developed by notable designers in a process of many years. Generally, the Braun design is, thus, no individual achievement but a group achievement of many involved.


At the beginning of the sixties, Fritz Eichler, as the one responsible for the design at Braun, starts to mention significant characteristics of the Braun design in speeches and publications. 7) He summarizes the characteristics in ten statements in the annual report of 1972/ 73 for the first time. 8)


According to Fritz Eichler, the Braun design is based on a distinct corporate concept. A concept that consistently defines design principles for products, communications and, thus, the company's image as perceived by employees and the public. That way, Braun constructs a consistent, cohesive, and effective image. Braun design, therefore, incorporates the entire image of the company; it is the "visible expression of a certain entrepreneurial attitude". 9) The term product design in a narrower sense describes the methodological approach to the design process and the formal design of the objects. 10) According to Fritz Eichler, it is supposed to look aesthetic, harmonious, and self-evident. Product design may not only be judged by its appearance but also by the purpose and the prerequisites. 11) Technical specifications and appearance may by no means drift apart. 12)


These explanations of the Braun design by Fritz Eichler are the guidelines for the product selection. The aim is to demonstrate which products redefine the design of their product category through innovative remodeling. Important in that context are general design characteristics such as a reduced color variety and, more specifically, individual design elements such as the shape of a control element. Design characteristics with their specific design elements are responsible for the new appearance of Braun and the harmonious togetherness of the products. The annual report of 72/73 gives decisive hints. It defines function as the starting point and the objective of the design work. Clear order, ergonomics, simplicity, balance, and accuracy determine the Braun product design. 13) In general, technology, material, and the formal design quality need to correspond to each other and the device is to fulfill the demands of critical consumers. 14) For his thoughts about the Braun design, Fritz Eichler also considers the categories used by Richard Moss for an analysis of Braun products. 15) For Richard Moss, order, harmony, and an efficient design in respect of shape and material are characteristic of the products designed until 1962.


Design for a Modern Lifestyle

The radio receivers 'SK 1' and 'SK 2' and the radio-phono combination 'combi' mark the beginning of a new design at Braun in 1955 – the design for a modern lifestyle. Fritz Eichler and Artur Braun create the compact 'SK 1' and 'SK 2' with balanced proportions and smooth surfaces. 16) 17) The radio set demonstrates formal simplicity and features a distinct overall design. The white punched front plate becomes a future design element of product design. Dieter Rams also uses puncgrundtured metal faces – albeit in sophisticated variations – as loudspeaker covers for instance for his electrostatic loudspeaker 'LE 1' or the multi-band radio 'T 1000'.


The circular scale with its simple typographic design and the tapered knobs that are accurately shaped in size and form perfectly match their radiuses. The limited use of colors, which have been selected by Fritz Eichler, is another important design characteristic. The device demonstrates harmony in its balanced relation of measures, elements, and colors. 18)


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. 19) The product design of the 'SK 1' and the 'SK 2' 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.


With the portable radio-phono combination 'combi', Wilhelm Wagenfeld realizes an individual product-language concept. A Bauhaus student, he emphasizes the principle of reasonable design, whereby "the positioning of all things in the room as serving devices is the first prerequisite for their becoming." 20) Furthermore, Wilhelm Wagenfeld indicates the entrepreneur's responsibility with respect to the designing of products. 21)


The radio-phono combination 'combi' for mains and battery operation is the smallest and lightest device of its category on the world market in 1955. 22) Wilhelm Wagenfeld eliminates all non-essentials in the design process of the plastic enclosure. He fundamentally rethinks the device concept and transfers explaining, visible functionality into the shape. This functionality becomes apparent for example in the inclined scale on the front – the scale is well readable even when the device is lying flat – or in the buttons, which are easy to operate due to the concave shape. 23) The front with soft, fluent lines, however, confronts tool design and construction at Braun with major problems.


The unfolding cover of the record player compartment stores up to five records – a useful design element for daily use. The color design in dark and light gray emphasizes the modernity of the 'combi', its functionality and order mark an important step of the development towards the Braun design. 24)


Cooperation With the Ulm Hochschule für Gestaltung – the Basis for the Braun Design

The fall of 1954 marks the beginning of the cooperation between Max Braun OHG and the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm. According to Hans Wichmann, "the decisive steps of the development the radio and phono industry was to experience in the second half of our century have been thought through and taken" in a short period of time. 25)


The Ulm lecturer for product design, 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. These devices attract much attention at the German Electronic Exhibtion in 1955. Hans Gugelot builds the rectangular enclosure of the 'G 11' from light-colored, plain maple wood. A harsh contrast to the radio sets of the mid-fifties 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 product design.


In Ulm, Hans Gugelot advances the theory of modular construction, the combination of given cubic and square measures in a shape. He is of the opinion that objects enter a harmonious relation if they are well-proportioned to each other. 26) Therefore, 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 'FSG', 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. In combination with furniture, for instance by Knoll International or Wohnbedarf Zürich, the devices blend in the area of new living. 27) Furthermore, this realization of the system idea constitutes the basis for the conception of a pioneering modular system for HiFi devices. Detailed in Herbert Lindinger's thesis at the Ulm HfG, Dieter Rams implemented it for instance in 1965 in his wall system consisting of the control unit 'TS 40', the tape recorder 'TG 60',and the loudspeaker boxes 'L 450'. 28) 29)


An equivalent to Hans Gugelot's system design is developed by Otl Aicher in Ulm with his graphical systems – he relates graphical elements such as characters, colors, fonts both in their format and their arrangement to each other. 30) This is why the scale of the radio receiver 'G 11' looks tidy, clear, and easy to read. With his graphical systems, with the exhibition systems developed by him and H. G. Conrad, Otl Aicher laid the foundation for the visual, holistic impression of the appearance of Braun and the Braun design. His brief statement regarding his opinion about product design describes the future Braun product design: "a product is always a sign, and it is part of product quality that the product signals, what it is. in addition to the technical quality, the usage quality, product design also has to provide for communications quality, namely to make the product transparent, comprehensible, understandable as regards origin, production, materials, construction, and use. a really good product appears like it is." 31)


The portable receiver 'exporter 2' with the base 'NA 2' is another product that shows the reorientation of the design in 1956. 32) The Ulm HfG, which was commissioned to redesign the enclosure, suggests a white front side – a harsh contrast to the 'exporter 1' with its clear-glass plastic surface and gilt bronze background. 33) Otl Aicher develops the product typography, for which Braun uses the screen-print process for the first time. The prominent slotted screw of the gray blue knob for selecting the channel, the product typography, the loudspeaker slots, and the reduced variety of colors are important design elements for the future product design at Braun.


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. 34) On the 'SK 4', the designers put the record player and the control elements on top of the unit – an ergonomic concept for a simple operation. This concept is already represented in the radio-phono combination '6740' produced by Braun in 1939.


Otl Aicher develops the clear, vertical, and graphically organized scale with frequency markings. The 'SK 4' shows "no arbitrary arrangement of details, but a virtually mathematical order and relation system of the parts to each other, the placement of all elements such as handles, scales, fonts, gaps, and loudspeaker slots subjected to it." 35) The placement of the slots on the front and back side, their spacing and relation to the elements on top are the result of thorough proportion studies. This truly deliberate design allows for a free placement in the room.


For Hans Gugelot, the combination's design problem is "to construct the enclosure with the simplest means possible. (...) however, i had the idea to u-shape a common sheet metal plate and cover the ends with small wooden plates." 36)


The wooden side plates are a link to the components of his media systems 'G 12', 'G 11', and 'FS-G' he had designed in 1955. And also to the constructive structure and the supporting side parts of his furniture system 'M 125' for Bofinger. 37)


The transparent plexiglass cover developed by Dieter Rams protects the top of the 'SK 4' – this design feature sets a new standard for the radio and phono industry. The 'SK 4' embodies formal principles of precision toolbuilding – it is the renunciation of phono furniture on the way to a modern design of electrical appliances. Its design elements, clear order, balance, and the ergonomic layout create a harmonious shape with simple means. 38)


Extending the Design Language – the Kitchen Machine 'KM 3' and the Television Set 'HF 1'

Besides the 'SK 4', the kitchen machine 'KM 3' is another milestone of the process-like development of the Braun design. 39) Its contours with 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. All accessories may be mounted to the machine quickly and easily without any screw joints and readjustment. The smooth surfaces of the white thermoset enclosure facilitate handling and cleaning – the 'KM 3' is of a high practical value.


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 – and also the gaps and edges between the horizontal surfaces run parallel. 40)


Self-explaining operation is one remarkable design feature of many Braun products. The blue switch of the 'KM 3' with its easy to understand product typography and the blue bottom section of the mixing arm refer to the operating process. 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 are the reason why it underwent merely minor changes as long as it was produced until 1991.


From 1956, Herbert Hirche considerably influences the Braun design developed so far with his radio-phonographs and television sets he designed for Braun. In 1958, the visitors are amazed by the modernity of his television set 'HF1' exhibited in the German pavilion of the Brussels world exhibition. The enclosure of the 'HF 1' rests on an elegant frame anodized in black.41) 42) In combination with the plastic front coated in light gray, the device impresses with visual ease. Herbert Hirche systematically examines the operation of television sets. Therefore, he positions the large power button deliberately in the center of the front while the other control elements are hidden under a cover on top of the enclosure. An arrangement which is – as a design element of the Braun product design – exemplary for future television and HiFi devices. The dark loudspeaker slots cut out of the front form a harmoniously proportioned rectangle – they emphasize the graphical character of the design. The 'HF 1' with its modern, inconspicuous, and down to the last detail consistent design demonstrates the new, future image of Braun in 1958. 43)


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. These achievements strengthen the reputation of the Braun enterprise and confirm the entrepreneurial courage of Erwin and Artur Braun.


Users regard "the possession of a braun device (...) as a sign for progress and openmindedness. 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." 44)


Modularity as a Design Characteristic – 'studio 2' and the Phono Combination 'TP 1' As early as in 1957, the compact unit 'studio 1' with separately placeable loudspeakers suggests Braun as a pioneer for the reproduction of spoken words and music as true to the original as possible. Important development impulses for the design of HiFi systems are provided by Herbert Lindinger's research on a modular radio phono tape recorder system.45)


With the HiFi system 'studio 2' and the loudspeakers 'LE 1', Braun extends its product range by a new type of devices. 46) Dieter Rams interrelates the measures of the modules of the control unit 'CS 11' with record player, of the receiver 'CE 11', and of the power amplifier 'CV 11'. They are designed as straight cubes with front plates of brushed aluminum. Grid patterns determine the arrangement of the accurately shaped control elements. Obviously, the arrowshaped switch signals its function for selecting the wave bands. 47)


In 1959, Braun acquires the license for the electrostatic broadband loudspeaker 'ESL' from Quad. This loudspeaker features an extraordinary reproduction quality with its rectangular membrane – and at the same time a design reminiscent of the forties with a thick wooden frame and brown fabric cover. Dieter Rams redesigns the 'ESL' and realizes an impressive draft in the 'LE 1' with its clear industrial aesthetics. A light gray metal frame with exact radiuses encloses the tilted, rectangular membrane. This membrane covers a slightly curved, anthracite, perforated plate. The metal stands mounted at the rear underline the clear, minimalist product design. 48)


Transistor technology – an innovation at the end of the fifties – enables the construction of small-sized radio receivers. Two thermoplast cups form the white, flat cube of the pocket receivers 'T 3' (1958) and 'T 4' (1959) designed by Dieter Rams. 49) The loudspeaker of the 'T 3' is positioned behind an accurately proportioned, rectangular perforated section. The channel is selected by turning the inside dial, which received its clear and functional design by the Ulm HfG. The pocket receiver 'T 4' features a circular perforated section; it is an harmoniously balanced counterpart to the scale window. 50)


In 1958, Dieter Rams designs the miniaturized record player 'P 1' as the first device of a compact device program consisting of matching modules. 51) The record may be arrested on the round support of the 'P 1'. The audio head hidden behind a sliding window reads the record from below. A carrying case of anodized aluminum combines the record player 'P 1' in the mobile phono combinations 'TP 1' ('P 1' and 'T 4') or 'TP 2' ('P 1' and 'T 31'). With these combinations, Dieter Rams demonstrates his sense for an interesting organization of elements and surfaces in 1959 giving a highly aesthetic appeal to the phono combinations.


Product Design for Innovative Appliances – Tangential Table Fan 'HL 1' and Toaster 'HT 1' 1959 marks the beginning of Reinhold Weiss's employment as a trained industrial designer and the first graduate of the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm in the households department at Braun. 52) His design methodology based on the Ulm teachings defines the product design of innovative appliances such as of the table fan 'HL 1' (1960) or the toaster 'HT 1' (1960). 53) Reinhold Weiss sees a product as a system with subordinate systems which in turn consist of elements. These elements need to be directly interrelated with each other. 54)


In the tangential table fan 'HL 1', the shape of the cylindrical fan drum follows the design of the motor enclosure to form an organic unit.55) The swiveling acryl glass cover provides for adjusting the air flow direction. A chrome ring with a single-legged stand connects the 'HL 1' body with its base plate.


The Ulm perception of design is exemplarily represented in the switch concept. The switch rotates around the motor shaft and harmoniously and consistently blends in with the enclosure's curves. This also enables an uncomplicated modeling of the injection molding tools. The precise determination of the radiuses and their transitions provide the 'HL 1' with a shape that corresponds to its use – a central design characteristic of the product design at Braun. 56)


The design language or semantics is a significant aspect for Reinhold Weiss for the basic analysis of the product to be designed. It constitutes the starting point for the spectacular product design of the toaster 'HT 1'. 57)


The graduated physicist Claus C. Cobarg develops the concept with raising mechanism and lateral heating elements. 58) For the base plate and the side walls varying in width, the engineers use heat insulating, black thermoset material. High-gloss chrome-plated steel panels with clear outlines dominate the sides. In the 'HT 1', Reinhold Weiss for the first time uses the key colors black and silver – a central design characteristic of later Braun products.


The Multi-Band Radio 'T 1000' and the Control Unit 'audio 1'

In 1962/63, Dieter Rams develops the product design of the universal receiver station 'T 1000'. 59) It is a device with an unmistakable design "that emanates a clear fascination, however, at the same time was consistently designed for perfectly fulfilling its purpose from the basic shape to the smallest detail." 60) The perforated loudspeaker cover or the functional design of the switch for the 12-channel turret tuner are central design characteristics; they emphasize the elegant appearance of the device. The precise construction of the removable protective cover for the control panel and its product design reduced to the essentials underline the device's professional character. In addition, the pocket inside the cover stores channel tables or the user manual – an example for design that is focused on day-to-day usage. 61) Therefore, all connections for additional loudspeakers, headphones, and antennae are also positioned on the front plate. The extremely large and well-structured scale with clear product graphic emphasizes the universal frequency receiver, it facilitates channel selection. Colored accentuations such as the red FM button, the red dot on the knob for selecting the channel, and the red scale for FM indicate the setting for FM reception. These design elements facilitate operation with their self-explaining function. The 'T 1000' sets a new standard for the practical value of electronic devices with its product design. 62)


The first all-transistor control unit for stereo reception with a record player designed by Dieter Rams in 1962 marks a milestone for the development of HiFi devices with respect to its formal design and technological realization. 63) The robust sheet metal enclosure of the 'audio 1' is coated in white, the transparent plexiglass cover protects the device. For the front plate, Dieter Rams chooses anodized, silver-colored aluminum as a design element. He arranged all elements of the 'audio 1' – from the scale to the retaining screws – according to a clear grid pattern. The light or dark gray control elements are positioned ergonomically. The discrete color accentuation of the green power switch – an important Braun product design element – serves for self-explaining its function. The reserved typography of the 'audio 1', its easy to understand product graphics underline the essential. 64) The consistent design effort in every detail aesthetically expresses – by means of its simplicity, balance, and accuracy – a certain value, which represents an analogy to the extraordinary technical quality of the device.


In 1965, Dieter Rams takes the product design of the 'audio 1' as the basis for designing Haushaltsthe control unit 'TS 45'. Together with the loudspeakers 'L 450' and the 'TG 60', it may also be mounted on a wall. The semi-professional tape recorder 'TG 60' with its technical appearance stands out from the design of the competition. Interrelated design elements such as the brushed aluminum front plate, the elegantly shaped switch, the accurately rounded level indicator, the audio head supporting plate as well as the distinct pressure lever give distinction to the product design – technology and formal quality match.


The 'sixtant' – a Milestone in the Development of Electric Shavers

Worldwide, the electric shaver Braun 'sixtant' is considered the best electric shaver regarding its construction and the most elegant regarding its form in the sixties. Its market success – Braun produced more than 8,000,000 units until 1968 – constitutes an important economic base for Braun AG. 65) Technologically advanced over the predecessor 'SM 3' in particular due to the galvanoplastically produced hexagon shear blade, Hans Gugelot gives a slightly smoother shape to the slim and well-balanced 'SM 3' enclosure in 1961 by means of slightly adapted radiuses. 66) The effect of black and silver is of central significance for the 'sixtant' design – additionally increased by the haptically and visually impressive surface treatment of the chrome steel as well as of the plastic enclosure. 67) The finely lined matt finish upgrades the materials, the elegant case of the 'sixtant' underlines this impression. The Braun 'sixtant' sets a groundbreaking standard in color selection and material processing for the camera, radio, and phono industry.


The Coffee Grinder 'KMM 1' – Design in Every Single Detail Remarkable about this coffee grinder – another device category in the range of house hold appliances – designed by Reinhold Weiss in 1963 are sophisticated detailed product design solutions. Corresponding to operation, the cylindrical bean container is positioned above the 'KMM 1'. It continues the half rounded shape of the enclosure which extends into a rectangle towards the transparent collecting container. 68) This design characteristic is responsible for the impression of consistency and enclosure direction. The rectangular transparent grist container is fitted flush with the enclosure. The circumferential black rubber foot emphasizes stability, it clearly defines the edge of the 'KMM 1' enclosure.


The accuracy of the design – characteristic for the Braun product design – shows for instance in the cover of the coffee beans container. It should snap in place as easy as possible when closing it, yet seal the container tightly. This is achieved by Reinhold Weiss through utilizing the flexible characteristics of plastic as well as through slim fins on the inside of the cover. They bridge the part tolerance and are responsible for the fitting. 69) The design of the 'KMM 1' overall looks aesthetic, harmonious, and self-evident. Technical performance and appearance match. This is why the 'KMM 1' is able to stand its ground on the highly competitive market with a long product cycle from 1965 to 1994.


The Braun products introduced in their exemplary selection show how renowned designers developed what is regarded as Braun design or, in a narrower sense, as Braun product design today. Some products such as the kitchen machine 'KM 3', the toaster 'HT 1', or themulti-band radio 'T 1000' set newstandards for the practical value, they define their respective product category through innovative technology and innovative design. Other devices are developed step by step – such as the electric shavers. What all these products have in common and what makes them stand out is that their ergonomics, simplicity, balance, and accuracy give the users the impression of harmony, perfect usability, and durability. Important design characteristics such as a reduced color selection with only a few key colors – based on Fritz Eichler – constitute the basic canon of the Braun product design. Among these design characteristics, which are also responsible for the family likeness of Braun products, are the modularity, the use of primarily geometrical basic shapes, the accurate slots, the identically shaped control elements for different products, or a selfexplaining operation. 70) It is a product design that, according to Fritz Eichler, strengthens the competitiveness of the company by "building a uniform, consistent, and thus effective image." 71)



Jatzke-Wigand, H.: The Development of the Braun Design until 1965 – an Exemplary Product Selection. In: Jatzke-Wigand, H.; Klatt, J.: The Development of the Braun Design. In: Design+Design zero, Hamburg December 2011, 1. Auflage, 110-129

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