A Side-by-Side Comparison of Apple and Braun Designs

With Apple being so litigous about their design patents lately, you'd expect their designs to be completely unique and innovative. But Apple and its Senior Vice President of Industrial Design, Jonathan Ive, have been known to take cues from another bastion of industrial design, Dieter Rams and Braun. Design junkies will have you know: Braun is not just an electric shaver company. In the 1960s, with young German industrial designer Dieter Rams at the helm, Braun became known for its iconic designs for a wide range of devices. Rams later used his heralded experience to coin the ten principles of good design:

Good design:
• Is innovative.
• Makes a product useful.
• Is aesthetic.
• Makes a product understandable.
• Is unobtrusive.
• Is honest.
• Is long-lasting.
• Is thorough down to the last detail.
• Is environmentally friendly.
• Is as little design as possible.

These principles have guided many industrial designers since Rams first wrote them down; Jonathan Ive, Apple's SVP of Industrial Design since 1997, is surely one of them.

Anyone can see it. Consider the gallery above, compiled from the Apple fan blog Cult of Mac. Each of these images showcase Rams' designs for Braun against some of the more iconic products of Apple's post-1997 design renaissance:

(There's also a few more visual comparisons in the Cult of Mac post.)

• Braun T3 pocket radio (1958) and first-generation iPod (2001)
• Braun LE1 speaker (1959) and the Intel Core iMac (2006)
• Details of Braun T1000 radio (1962) and the Mac Pro (2006)
• Braun ET44 calulator (c.1977) and iPhone's native calculator app (c.2007)
• Braun infrared emitter (1970's) and the iSight camera (2003)

Ive makes it no secret that he widely considers Rams as one of his biggest design influences. And the commendation is mutual; Rams has even said that Apple is one of the only companies who follow his ten principles religiously. So is it surprising that the design of Apple's products seems to follow so closely the work Rams had done for Braun decades ago? No, not really. But it might be a case of the pot calling the kettle black, considering Apple's recent $1 billion litigation with Samsung over alleged design plagarism of the iPhone's user interface.

Good design is good design, and it can and should be emulated. Apple, thanks to the direction of the insanely talented Jonathan Ive, has become the "new Braun," producing product design and intuitive interfaces that will guide generations of designers for years to come.

(Images: Cult of Mac)

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Taryn is a writer, maker, and designer based in Atlanta, and editor of lifestyle blog Formal Fringe. She loves her fiance, her dog Bacon, and collecting beer koozies when she travels.

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