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1960s Braun Products Hold the Secrets to Apple's Future

Illustration for article titled 1960s Braun Products Hold the Secrets to Apples Future

The year 2008 marks the 10th Anniversary of the iMac, the computer that changed everything at Apple, hailing a new design era spearheaded by design genius Jonathan Ive. What most people don't know is that there's another man whose products are at the heart of Ive's design philosophy, an influence that permeates every single product at Apple, from hardware to user-interface design. That man is Dieter Rams, and his old designs for Braun during the '50s and '60s hold all the clues not only for past and present Apple products, but their future as well:

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When you look at the Braun products by Dieter Rams—many of them at New York's MoMA—and compare them to Ive's work at Apple, you can clearly see the similarities in their philosophies way beyond the sparse use of color, the selection of materials and how the products are shaped around the function with no artificial design, keeping the design "honest."

This passion for "simplicity" and "honest design" that is always declared by Ive whenever he's interviewed or appears in a promo video, is at the core of Dieter Rams' 10 principles for good design:

• Good design is innovative.

• Good design makes a product useful.

• Good design is aesthetic.

• Good design helps us to understand a product.

• Good design is unobtrusive.

• Good design is honest.

• Good design is durable.

• Good design is consequent to the last detail.

• Good design is concerned with the environment.

• Good design is as little design as possible.

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Ive's inspiration on Rams' design principles goes beyond the philosophy and gets straight into a direct homage to real products created decades ago. Amazing pieces of industrial design that still today remain fresh, true classics that have survived the test of time.

The similarities between products from Braun and Apple are sometimes uncanny, others more subtle, but there's always a common root that provides the new Apple objects not only with a beautiful simplicity but also with a close familiarity.

Illustration for article titled 1960s Braun Products Hold the Secrets to Apples Future

Braun Atelier TV and latest iMac 24.

Illustration for article titled 1960s Braun Products Hold the Secrets to Apples Future
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Braun T1000 radio and PowerMac G5/Mac Pro.

Illustration for article titled 1960s Braun Products Hold the Secrets to Apples Future
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Detail of the radio perforated aluminum surface.

Illustration for article titled 1960s Braun Products Hold the Secrets to Apples Future
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Braun T3 pocket radio and Apple iPod.

Illustration for article titled 1960s Braun Products Hold the Secrets to Apples Future
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Braun L60 sound system and Apple iPod Hi-Fi.

Illustration for article titled 1960s Braun Products Hold the Secrets to Apples Future
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Braun LE1 speaker and Apple iMac.

Some people will probably call these examples a "rip-off" but, in a world where industrial design and art are constantly being recycled into new work, I just see Apple's products as a great evolution to classic concepts. Now, as I look at Rams' work I can't help but to wonder: which of these old Braun designs will Apple revive next? Is there a MacBook Air—the rumored ultra-slim wire-free portable that seems to be the favorite bet for tomorrow's keynote—in there?

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Hopefully, we'll discover at least some answers tomorrow. See you at Macworld! [Design Museum, Dieter Rams and O Globo Online]

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DISCUSSION

While Jonathan Ive may have blatently copied the LOOK of some of Dieter Rams designs, he HARDLY applied Rams philosophies. All Apple products are based on the concept of function following form. There is no greater example of this than the puck mouse. Remember that? The iMac it came with was equally dysfunctional in having a 13-inch screen in an era of 17-inchers, and no method for expandability other than a few serial ports.

As a matter of fact, it wasn't until the most recent of Macs that Apple supplies a mouse that finally catches up with designs dating back to the 20th century. Please.

The G5 may be a nice-looking machine, but don't accidentally smack body parts into it. I've had a fractured knuckle from trying to plug a USB cable into the front port by accidentally hitting the sharp, hard edge. No fun.

So no, while he may have copied the LOOK of Rams designs, he did not implement COMMON SENSE into the designs. In the world of Apple, looks are everything, functionally MAY be an option.