In 1921 Max Braun opened a small engineering shop in Frankfurt, Germany where he began making components for radios and other audio equipment. Soon Braun began manufacturing full radio sets and eventually introduced the first combined radio and phonograph. In 1935 Braun adopted the familiar logotype with the large “A” in the middle which has served as the company’s logo for more than 70 years. By 1939 the company had grown from one to over a thousand employees. That same year Braun developed its most influential and recognizable product, the electric razor, but because of the Second World War it was not put on the market until 1951.
In the 50’s the company was taken over by Max Braun’s sons Artur and Erwin. They started Braun Design, the dedicated design department at the company which soon became synonymous with German modern industrial design. Braun Design established a partnership with the Ulm School of Design which produced a number of the company’s most famous products such as the SK4 record player. Members of the company included Hans Gugelot and Dieter Rams, an important character of the German design rennaissance of the 50’s and 60’s who later became head of the company’s design department.
It was at this time that Braun released its electric shaver, the S50. The design featured an oscillating cutter block encased in an extremely thin but stable steel foil. The basic elements of the original design remain today and Braun’s electric shaver is known as one of the first, best, and most elegant of its kind.
Braun’s history is worth mentioning not simply because it is long, but because over nearly a century Braun has had a subtly pervasive impact on the way we live, listen, cook, communicate, and groom ourselves. “Ubiquitous” is probably the word that best captures the essence of Braun’s products. Their work has never revolutionized the way we live. There are no lightbulbs, or automobiles, or iPods on their resume. Their contribution to technology and design is in the vast number of objects they have made, their reputation for quality, and their simple, functional design.
It’s likely you’ve used one of Braun’s products in the past few days. You probably didn’t think twice about where it came from or who made it, or that it was designed 50 years ago. When these things cease to matter, design is successful. That philosophy of pure, functional design is what has characterized Braun since its founding and is what has made it successful. Today Braun quietly celebrates 90 years in the business and they do so without publicity or hype – they don’t need it. Their reward is their products in nearly every home in the Western world. Their reward is a century of quiet success.