Inspired the design philosophy of Apple and WeChat, never out of date

History is like a rear-view mirror on a car, you have to take a good look when you drive forward.

Apple has recently made two hot searches: a month ago, the iPod was officially discontinued. Last week, Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference announced the "iOS 16 Custom Lock Screen" feature. The former comes from people's melancholy nostalgia for the "Peninsula Iron Box" in the early 21st century, while the latter means that many people are dissatisfied with Apple's fancy "Android-style" design.

▲ The biggest innovation of the iPod is the combination of click wheel, user interface, size, battery life, fast transfer charging cable, capacity, USB storage, ease of use, and syncing with iTunes – every place is a plus

The simple, restrained, and elegant design of the iPod is often overwhelmed by the evaluation of "small" and "portable". The more dazzling the trends, the harder it is to hide the ingenuity of the iPod, even if its era has come to an end.

Consumer electronic devices define modern life. The question is, what should these devices "should" look like, what functions should they have, and how should the functions be designed?

Behind the iPod, the design concepts of Constructivism, Bauhaus Modernism and Minimalism that were all the rage in the last century are the key to our understanding of what "modern life" is.

Art meets factory

The iPod is very similar to the Braun T3 pocket radio: both are "white blocks" with clean lines, rounded corners, and round control wheels. The only difference is that one has a speaker and the other has an LCD screen.

▲iPod (left) and Braun T3 pocket radio (right) perfectly reflect the level of detail and function of the product

The German Braun product, Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs, and former chief design officer Jonny Ivey have a soft spot. Not only the iPod, but Apple has a plethora of products that pay homage to Braun's devices.

Like the Braun T1000 radio and the Mac Pro, the Braun LE1 speaker and the iMac, and the Braun IR blaster and the iSight camera all work the same way.

▲ Braun T1000 radio (left) and Mac Pro (right)

▲ Braun LE1 speaker (left) and iMac (right)

▲ Braun infrared transmitter (left) and iSight (right)

Most of these Braun products were created by German designer Dieter Rams, known as the "Godfather of Design". In the 1950s and 1960s, the living equipment he created led the aesthetic trend of the entire era, and his influence has not faded to this day. The clocks, radios, calculators, cameras and kitchen utensils he designed for Braun made Jonny Ivey lament that there was one more "improvement".

Famous designer Philippe Starck once said to Rams "Apple is stealing your stuff", Rams responded humorously "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery".

"Less but better." Ramsay's famous saying and modernist architect Mies van der Rohe's famous saying "Less is more" (Less is more) contrast. Apple has followed a similar philosophy, making "minimalism" still popular today.

▲ Dieter Rams and his design works

Originally an architect, Dieter Rams joined the German electrical appliance manufacturer Braun in 1955 to work on office interiors. He turned to industrial design by accident, and in the late 1970s he distilled his design philosophy into ten principles. This design principle is well received

Good design is innovative.
Good design makes a product useful.
Good design is aesthetic.
Good design makes the product easy to understand.
Good design is honest.
Good design is unobtrusive.
Good design lasts.
Good design is thorough down to the last detail.
Good design is environmentally friendly.
Of course, good design is as little design as possible.

▲The representative products of Dieter Rams, from top to bottom and from left to right are: Radio-Phonograph; TP1 portable record player; shaver; SK 4 radio phonograph, dubbed "Snow White's coffin by the British" ”; PS2 Stereo Phono; RT 20 tischsuper Radio; L450 Flat Panel Speaker, TG 60 Disc Recorder and TS 45 Controller

Rams designs appliances that are functional, easy to use and built to last. Not so striking at first glance, but over time, you can appreciate the elegance and simplicity they exude, as well as their timeless “modern” flavor—even if the earliest products are more than 60 years old today.

Rams' "mentor" was Fritz Eichler (1911-1991). Eichler set the direction for Braun within a year, using "integral design" as his criterion. This method is called "art meets factory": he contacts and actively cooperates with the artistic and creative talents in the university; at the same time, he combines design with the company's in-house technology development.

Rams and Eichler may not have imagined that Braun's design concept would be highly praised by Jobs and Zhang Xiaolong, and reflected in the product design of Apple and WeChat, which in turn would affect billions of people.

form follows function

In 1951, the founder of the German Braun company, Max Braun, died of a sudden heart attack, and his two sons, Erwin Braun and Artur Braun, were in danger: a 30-year-old and a 26-year-old. When the Braun brothers took over, they planned to make a "big change" in the product style. Braun products "should be made for those who are open to modern lifestyles, who care about authenticity and quality."

▲Self-portrait of Fritz Eichler

Irving Braun met Fritz Eichler, who was then an Army radio operator, during World War II. Previously, Eichler studied art history and theatre in Berlin and Munich, and in 1935 received a doctorate in theatre studies with a thesis on the design of hand puppets and puppet shows. Immediately after World War II, he moved to Frankfurt to work as a director and commercial filmmaker. In 1955, he was invited by Owen to enter the Braun company. Their common goal was: What does the future Germany need?

▲Puppets made by Fritz Eichler

At that time Braun had no design department at all. Eichler was there to "advertise" and Ramsay was an interior designer. Immediately, Ramsay was drawn to the design department headed by Eichler, which became the "supreme authority" on aesthetics. In 1960, Eichler served as the first design director, in 1973 on the supervisory board until his "retirement" in 1990. Rams served as chief designer from 1961-1995.

Eichler said in interviews in his later years that ornate equipment was suitable for stage settings, but not for a tastefully decorated modern apartment. Therefore, the device should be unobtrusive and functional, like a silent servant. At the same time, the function of the device should be identified in a clear form. People will love these devices and enjoy living with them.

▲ Fritz Eichler (left) and Dieter Rams (right)

Eichler's "representatives" include the phonograph "SK 1" and "SK 2", and the "KM 3" food processor. Rams designed the "SK 4" known as "Snow White's Coffin", the T 52 portable radio (1961) and the T 1000 radio (1963), and the high-quality D-series slide projectors D45, D46. His 606 Universal Locker System (1960) for the furniture maker Vitsoe also became a classic.

Eichler and Rams elevate design to a company-wide strategic level, and their roles are much like today's product managers, both working closely with management to keep an eye on product development, and as designers setting the tone for the product Do planning. Eichler's hands-on experience in theatre and film, as well as his knowledge of art history, made the appliance maker one of the most dazzling aesthetics of the 20th century.

▲ Is the famous T100 radio, especially the red dot, similar to the computer HAL in "2001 A Space Odyssey"?

Eichler, like Rams, was a staunchly "functionalist". In an interview before his death, Eichler said, "For a device with a function to be implemented, I can't imagine that function is not the starting point of the design."

Silent servant?

The design philosophy of Eichler and Rams can be summed up as a return to purity and simplicity.

Their design works present the observations and suggestions of the world in front of us in a clear and orderly manner. The calmness, restraint, and prudence revealed in every detail shows the artist's inner desire to bring "order" to the world.

▲ Rams' Vitsœ 606 universal locker system, people can find the designer's desire to "create order"

Because it was a chaotic age. The oil crisis spread to the world, the Bretton Woods system collapsed, the Apollo landed on the moon, and the hippies who were free from the waves were pursuing a new experience of soul and body. The "May Storm" opened a corner of the burning capitalist world. Man realizes that living is just a fluke.

From 1960 to 1975, the "minimalism" trend continued, resisting the surging emotions of the times with Puritan restraint. Minimalist artists, also known as "men's clubs," are generally obsessed with mechanically cold, unromantic work, and work like engineers who make plans, give orders, and supervise production.

▲ Minimalism, Dan Flavin, "Monument to V. Tatlin 1" 1964

Similar to Pop artists, Minimalist artists also erase personal traces from their work, rejecting any expressions of emotion and subjectivity.

▲ Minimalism, Donald Judd, Untitled (Stacked), 1967

Minimalist art with a distinct 1920s Bauhaus: informality, sophistication – Volkswagen "Beatles," Penguin Book Covers, pencil skirts, MoMA, Guggenheim and Tate The large white space of the modern art museum…

▲xxx Bauhaus, Moholy-Nagy "Telephone EM1" 1922

The Bauhaus originated from the left-wing "Craft Union", which declared that "art is created by the people, for the people", opposed utilitarianism, and called for "building a more civilized and less selfish society". "Symbols of purity" are popular all over the world. From Lincoln Center in New York to the "Top Ten Buildings" in Beijing, we can all see the simplicity, restraint and elegance of the Bauhaus.

▲ Bauhaus, Adler & Sullivan's Wainwright Building 1890-1892

Minimal art also has a shadow of constructivism. At that time, minimalist art was also called "art of the space age", and it paid attention to precise and ruthless analysis. Minimalist artists are not only like engineers, but also more like scientists, exploring matter, system, volume, mass – this is the answer that Eichler's team got from "What does Germany want in the future?" Not only Germany, but the whole world needs such a "feel".

In the film "2001: A Space Odyssey" by the famous director Kubrick, most of the scenes are very "minimalistic". Large areas of white space, empty, tight spaceships, and the ruthless, concise central computer HAL – it's almost like a product designed by Braun. Especially the "black stele" that appears at the beginning and end of the film, a huge, smooth, cold, angular black stele, the audience can find infinite possibilities from its interpretation.

▲The poster of the movie "2001 A Space Odyssey" (1968), we don't know where we are going home

Constructivism flourished around the 1920s. The most famous work is Malevich's "Black Square" (1923). There is only one black square on the canvas. The audience can think about the boundary between black and white, the balance of the relationship between the two, observe the texture of the paint, and feel the lightness and lightness of white. Heavy black. Malevich believes that he has lifted "the burden of objective imagery on art", which is the benefit of abstract art.

▲ Few people "understand" "Black Square"

When Eichler said that "electronic consumer devices define modern life," televisions, cell phones, and personal computers had not yet entered every household. Today, when we stare at our side again, the contradictory relationship between electrical appliances and people has never been so profound. We use electrical appliances, and electrical appliances are defining and domesticating the "gender", "role" and "power" of the user.

In the family, who uses the washing machine, who cleans the washing machine, who cooks with the gas stove, who washes the dishes with the dishwasher, who is monopolizing the game console, who is watching variety shows on TV… "In the contest, we define our own life, define the "control" of the family, and unconsciously complete the imitation and assignment of roles.

▲ Braun MPZ 21 multi-stage juicer

The mobile phone that cannot be separated from it for a moment has become another organ of the human body. When the "mediator" becomes the human being, is its function truly "achieved"?

Perfectly functional, beautifully designed, endlessly emerging electronic devices, or the "silent servant"?

That must be the question that both Eichler and Ramsay hope to answer. Minimalism itself contains reflection on consumerism. Behind the calm, objective, rigorous and beautiful design of all products, conveys a "modern" attitude, which does not serve "light consumption".

The dark humor is that today, the more minimalist products are, the more they can stimulate people's desire to consume.

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