A new history of Braun charts the company’s path to ultimate modernist manufacturer

Phaidon’s monograph Braun: Designed to Keep tracks over a century of product design, including its long-standing collaboration with Dieter Rams

Braun: Designed to Keep, Klaus Klemp, Phaidon
(Image credit: Phaidon)

The work of Dieter Rams and his subsequent elevation to design god and guru is well chronicled, both in exhibitions, collections and books, including Sophie Lovell’s definitive Dieter Rams: As Little Design As Possible (2011). Klaus Kemp adds to the oeuvre with this detailed look at the company that enjoyed such a mutually beneficial relationship with Rams, Braun. 

'Braun: Designed to Keep', published by Phaidon

Braun: Designed to Keep, Klaus Kemp, Phaidon

Home Recorder, BMF 2020. This recorder and microphone set, produced in 1935 and 1932 respectively, allowed customers to record on blank records. An innovative idea that was ultimately stymied by technological issues

(Image credit: courtesy Gerhard Kellermann / © copyright BRAUN P&G and Braun Archive Kronberg)

In Braun: Designed to Keep, published by Phaidon, Klemp considers the history and influence of this German manufacturing powerhouse. Max Braun set up his first workshop in Frankfurt in 1921 to capitalise on the rising public demand for radio. Expansion was rapid, especially after Braun focused on making high-quality components for other manufacturers to buy, and branches and factories opened across Europe. 

Subsequently co-opted in the Nazi war machine, for which the company produced flashlights, walkie-talkies and other military componentry, the Braun factory was extensively damaged by bombing. It survived to become one of the pillars of reconstruction and the introduction of the pioneering S50 electric shaver in 1950 transformed Braun’s fortunes.

Braun: Designed to Keep, Klaus Kemp, Phaidon

Spread from Braun: Designed to Keep

(Image credit: Phaidon)

Max Braun died in 1951 and his sons Artur and Erwin took over, taking the company into a new era of prominence. Domestic goods now made up a substantial proportion of its output, from electronics to kitchen appliances. The consumer revolution was under way, and together with smart marketing and presentation – some of which is reproduced here – and a focus on design, Braun became shorthand for reliable, no-nonsense modernist goods.

Braun: Designed to Keep, Klaus Kemp, Phaidon

A selection of Braun products from 1960 to 1974

(Image credit: Picture credit: courtesy and © copyright BRAUN P&G and Braun Archive Kronberg)

After a spell of collaborating on graphics and product design with Otl Eicher, Inge Aicher-Scholl and Hans Gugelot from the Ulm School of Design, the spiritual successor to the Bauhaus (the bulk of the work was done by Gugelot), the company turned to Rams, who had joined in July 1955 as a product designer. From 1961 until 1997, he was Braun’s head designer. The book covers the ins and outs of this bold decision to bring product design in-house, and how Rams’ personal philosophy of design bled into the Braun aesthetic. 

Braun: Designed to Keep, Klaus Kemp, Phaidon

Wall-mounted Hi-Fi unit: TS 45, TG 60 and L 450, Controller, tape recorder and flat loudspeaker, 1964 & 1965, Dieter Rams

(Image credit: Picture credit: courtesy Gerhard Kellermann and © copyright BRAUN P&G and Braun Archive Kronberg)

Klemp, a design curator and professor at the Ulm School, captures the company’s key products, tracking how technological advances were filtered down into mass manufacturing and how and why the Braun design aesthetic has never wavered, right up to modern day collaborations with the likes of Virgil Abloh. As well as advertising and archive imagery, there is excellent all-new photography of classics from the corporate archive. A comprehensive and covetable overview of one of the greatest modern manufacturers. 

Braun: Designed to Keep, Klaus Kemp, Phaidon

The Braun product portfolio in the late 1990s

(Image credit: Picture credit: courtesy and ©copyright BRAUN P&G and Braun Archive Kronberg)

Braun: Designed to Keep, Klaus Klemp, Phaidon, £59.95, Phaidon.com

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Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.