Timeless design

August 16, 2008

What do these items have in common?

They’re all examples of timeless industrial design. In my mind they’re also brilliant archetypes for the work of their designers Dieter Rams, Giorgetto Giugiaro and Jonathan Ive. While you may not agree with my particular choice, these designers have created so many excellent products that surely a couple of them will capture your imagination. Perhaps a Braun pocket radio, an electric shaver or one of their stereo systems. Maybe the Lancia Delta, the Lotus Esprit or the Alfa-Romeo Brera. One of the iPods or an iPhone, the Titanium and Aluminium PowerBooks/MacBook Pros or even the Mac Mini. You can take any of these items and easily put them in a museum, and in fact people have done so already.

Another thing they have in common, especially the works from Dieter Rams and Jonathan Ive, is a lot of simplicity, clarity, even cleanliness. In fact, it is widely-suspected that Apple’s chief designer Ive takes direct inspiration from Rams and the devices he designed for Braun, as several articles on the web illustrate, in particular one on Gizmodo and a Brazilian one. Of course they also illustrate just how timeless Rams’s design really is, if thirty years later it could inspire a whole range of products that are widely appreciated for their looks.

By now you’ve probably gathered that I’m amongst those who do appreciate the looks. Yes, I have to admit that to a large part it is the simplicity and cleanliness in such design that make me I prefer a 35 year-old Braun stereo over a Sony boombox, a MacBook Pro over a Thinkpad (though there are other reasons, too) and a Mk1 Golf over any later model. And another thing just occurred to me: When my dad went to college, he spent his savings (and a bit more) to buy a Braun stereo, which by today’s standards were even pricier than today’s top-of-the-line Macs. For several years now I’ve spent a considerable amount of money on Apple stuff. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

4 Responses to “Timeless design”


  1. […] philiKON – a journal added an interesting post on Timeless designHere’s a small teaserOne of the iPods or an iPhone, the Titanium and Aluminium PowerBooks/MacBook Pros or even the Mac Mini…. […]


  2. Yeah, I love the Braun calculator design in the iPhone, timeless: http://oglobo.globo.com/blogs/arquivos_upload/2008/01/172_721-rams-iphonecalc.jpg

    Of course, I’m partial to the designs of Steven Crijns, who did the Lotus Elise redesign:

    and his concept prototypes:
    http://www.seriouswheels.com/cars/2007/top-2007-Lotus-Hot-Wheels-Concept.htm

    Lotus also does other intersting things, like Olympic-winning bikes:

    and now, even snow-mobiles(!) for arctic expeditions:
    http://www.engadget.com/2008/08/13/lotus-concept-ice-vehicle-promises-to-aid-arctic-expeditions-th/

  3. Aroldo Souza-Leite Says:

    To my feelings, the Bauhaus in Dessau (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Bauhaus.JPG) align well with the three objects whose images you linked to. And before Dieter Rams, Giorgetto Guigiaro and Jonathan Ive lived Walter Gropius.

  4. philikon Says:

    You are of course right, Aroldo, but I decided to focus on timeless design in *technology* for this blog article. If I hadn’t, I certainly would’ve mentioned Gropius’ Bauhaus and, one of my favourite items to come out of the Bauhaus workshop, the Wassily Chair by Marcel Breuer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wassily_Chair.


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