Modern Design Meets Technology

“Good design is aesthetic. Good design is honest. Good design is long-lasting.”

–Dieter Rams

The 1950s and 60s were decades of rapid change for industrial designers, especially the engineers at Braun, the German company that had already established itself as a pioneer in the electronics market. Harnessing the recent engineering advances from World War II, Artur and Erwin Braun – sons of Max Braun, the company’s founder – were ready to begin creating an entirely new set of products. This SK2b Radio, designed circa 1955, is an example of a household listening device intended for a table, a distinct evolution from the earlier generation of electronics disguised in wooden furniture.

That same year, Dieter Rams joined Braun as an architect and interior designer. He mostly worked on exhibition sets, but he quickly became fascinated by electronics. In 1956, he collaborated with Hans Gugelot from the Ulm School of Design to create the SK4 combination radio and record player. The case was metal with wooden side panels, the control knobs were adjacent to the turntable rather than tucked away on the side, and the cover was made of transparent plastic. By uniting a variety of materials with modern design, the SK4 became an industry standard that was immediately replicated by competitors.

By 1962, Rams had been appointed the director of design and thus given the opportunity to update the SK4 based on recent developments in transistor technology. Smaller transistors replaced the bulky hot tubes required for clear sound, allowing Rams to create the Audio 1 M Compact Stereo, complete with an entire set of knobs, buttons, and dials next to the turntable. Rams also designed the L45 speaker and TG60 tape recorder to accompany the Audio 1 M on the 606 shelving system, an adjustable shelving unit he had been designing for Vitsoe + Zapf since 1957.

Jonathan Ive, vice president of industrial design at Apple and chief designer of the iMac, MacBook Pro, and iPhone, has cited Rams as one of his main influences.
Notice the brushed aluminum unibody of the MacBook Pro, offspring of Rams’ groundbreaking design that was originally employed in the Audio 1 M, which again separated Braun from its competitors. Both cyclical and ironic, this shimmering grey aesthetic distinguishes Apple from other common, plastic-encased laptops that are usually black, the primary color that Rams used on his Studio 1000 sound system to mark the inception of high fidelity technology. As was expected, black became the industry standard in electronics well into the 21st century, again thanks to Rams. Whether he’s working with record players, calculators, electric shavers, or furniture, Dieter Rams is a true innovator and has become one of the most influential designers of the 20th century.

Contributing Writer, Paul DesMarais

Lot Information:

Lot 39
Dieter Rams
Braun, designed 1962
Model no. Audio 1M
Retains original manufacturers pamphlet
6.25″h x 25.5″ x 11″
Estimate $2,000 – 3,000
June 26, 2011 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 40
Artur Braun
Table radio
Braun, designed 1955
Model no. SK 2b
6″h x 9.25″ x 5.25″
Designed by both Artur Braun & Fritz Eichler
Estimate $1,500 – 2,000
June 26, 2011 Modern Art & Design Auction

“Dieter Rams.” Design Museum. Design Museum, 2007. Web, 1 May 2011.


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