It's hard to overstate the influence of industrial designer Dieter Rams. At Braun in the 1960s, Rams put into practice a comprehensive approach to ID and brand strategy where products weren't designed in isolation, but rather as a part of a family of iconic products. Rams's influence can be seen today in the Apple-dominated world of highly stylized product lines.
And it is this influence that is being explored in a new London design exhibition called "Systems." The show tapped some of the world's top design studios to pay tribute to Rams with a series of 34 posters that celebrate--and sometimes critique-- the austere majesty of Braun's German Functionalism.
"In the 1960s, the entire Braun program was a single system that informed the design of everything from the products, the packaging, the guarantee slips, and they brochures," says James Charles-Edwards of Walter Knoll, a prestigious European furniture company which is hosting the exhibition at its London showroom. "What remains impressive today is the way that this great range of objects interlocked to produce a single coherent program."
In collaboration with Peter Kapos, a specialist dealer of Braun, "Systems" celebrates the cohesiveness of Rams's design program by displaying examples of the company's classic 1960s products coupled with the exhibition of commissioned posters, which are displayed in an interlocked mosaic on a giant wall of the Walter Knoll showroom.
So how do you quantify Dieter Rams's genius in an A1 print?
The exhibition showcases many different approaches: Artica Design emphasized the Braun LE 1 speakers with their clean functionalism and grid-like grill, while Swedish design studio Lundgren+Lindqvist opted to abstract Braun's design language through pixelation.
Bernd Grenther's design explores the evolution of Braun's color palette from 1955 to 1995. Designer Tom Higston, on the other hand, showcases how the design of one of Braun's iconic products--the egg-beater-- is still a beautiful object even when splattered with batter.
Not all of the designers were uncritical of the Braun legacy. "Some do seem to recognize that Braun's systemic approach to rational industrial design hasn't always led to entirely rational results," observes Charles-Edwards. "Others highlight the fact that Braun's products today have moved away from their utilitarian intentions and become more like decorative objects."
Braun may have distanced itself in recent years from the design methodology that once made the company great, Charles-Edwards is quick to point out that companies like Apple, under the direction of Jony Ive, owe a considerable debt to the Dieter Rams legacy. "It is through this connection that Braun Design has become most influential to the world we live in today," says Charles-Edwards.
Systems will be on exhibit until January 31, 2014. Each of the posters can be purchased as a limited edition print here.