volume up, buttons down, grid style, minimalism, and yes, almost no design at all. This story is directly linked — and ably told in Designed to Keep, by the way — when Jony Ive visits Rams at his house in 2007 and brings him an iPhone. Ive said the original iPod interface drew heavily from the T3 transistor radio, and, while they were friendly (Ive collected a lot of Braun pieces), he recalled Rams’ concise reply: “It’s always nice if you meet your own work elsewhere.”
And so Braun’s influence on inventive technology proves enduring, just as samples of the company’s vintage modernism continue to pack auctions and earn praise from connoisseurs and collectors — Ikepod, the luxury French watch company, has clearly drawn inspiration from Braun’s clock and watch products, while Design Within Reach offers high-end Japanese reissues of Braun alarm clocks as part of its current production range. For this, we should thank Klemp and Phaidon for making this new book about Braun just as much about the brand’s tangible products as it is about its refracted influence.
The book — with its dual biographical structure of the company and its employees, in the same way that Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs tried and succeeded in having it both ways — also serves as a model for the preservation of famous design legacies. Rams alone spanned the crest of the International Style’s influence on product design, greeted Rams’ arrival of the first iPads and iPhones, and influenced everything from Onkyo radio receivers to the popular Dieter Rams T-shirts that YouTubers sell now.
Of course, another way “to keep thoughtfully” has always been the museum, and more. A few years ago, the Vitra Design Museum hosted NBCUniversal and BAM, organizing a global exhibition and a design festival to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the making of Back to the Future (thanks to Rams’ involvement and Braun’s fame in the industry) — showcasing the DeLorean DMC-12 and the Porsche 911, of course, but also the Braun LCC1-b analog calculator, the T1000 World Time Clock, and a bunch of transistor radios and walkmans called out by Doc Brown. Three years ago, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum hosted the world’s first major exhibition on Rams’ work, which displayed the TS 45 Hi-Fi system and HL1 table fan. It’s all part of maintaining any brand or product’s origin story — both to reel in the traditionalists who took this all for granted for years and to attract a new crowd of young design fans, more likely to shop online than ever.
At one time, Braun was known for its clean and modern product designs. They created products for everyday living, making them desirable and functional. It’s also a business success story that’s life-affirming for its discipline, sustainability, and impact on the people who inhabited spaces filled with Braun. It showered the world in modernism just as it did the world of design itself. Fremd High School’s design teacher Bob Carter, who knew the family that founded and led Braun for many years, keeps a TG 60 Hi-Fi unit in a sleek wooden case on his top shelf at home. He bought it for $100 eight years ago, after its original owner passed away in his 90s. Thirty years earlier, that same man picked it up for around $500 in Europe, stone cold sober but armed with two cognacs and a pack of smokes, tasted the sunniest of days, and sipped it like he was drinking the best lager in the world.
Unlike so much else built so long ago, Braun survived. Its 100th anniversary is sandwiched just about between what would’ve been the 100th birthdays of Reinhold Weiss (2019) and Rams himself (born May 20, 1932), and it endures within a semicircle of co-founders, sons, daughters-in-law, grandchild and Rams confidants, all of whom chipped in for the book. Too, every human on the streets of cities with all these fine products has whether they recognize it yet, adjusted their lives around Bentwood or Bauhaus.
If you have any attachment to things, it’s certain that some of those things are going to be celebrated in this book, and bring back some fond memories, not meddling in the sort of past VHS or LensCrafters label paper is. Braun: Designed to Keep — like a brand you once thought was gone forever only to stumble upon later in antique shops — just makes you happy. And, with consumerism off-kilter in 2022, and buyers for the old things that have not yet been thrown out only increasing, I promise it’s doing some people good.