Braun Design Guidelines - “The Realization of a Corporate Concept”

On my last visit to the Letterform Archive I got to have a look at some of the Braun design guidelines. These aren’t the Dieter Rams principles for good design, they are the translation of the Braun design philosophy into a set of brand guidelines. I do admire Dieter Rams and his work but I’m in no way part of the whole “Dieter Rams design cult” that seems to have sprung up over the few years in the UI/UX space, for me there's more to design than minimalism. However the guidelines have four parts and The Realization of a Corporate Concept part is chocked full of great design insight - a wonderful translation of product design into practice and on into brand.

Braun Design Guidelines

 

Here's a selection of pages from the guideline: 

These have some real gems on them, like:

  • Braun design is teamwork - I love this, so often we focus on the individual, but at the end of the day design is always a collaboration. It takes a lot more than 1 person to bring a product to life.
  • Design is not an applied technique of embellishment - damn right! Design is core to the essence of a thing; how it works, the intension of use, the expereince of the thing.
  • Design is not a transforming mask, nor an added after-thought - hence; "you can't put lipstick on a pig", "you can't polish a turd" ("but you can role it in glitter" as an old colleague of mine used to say).   
  • The design must contribute to the use of a product and Design forms part of a greater whole - it must always be meaningful, it must support the overall purpose.
  • Consistency is an expression of our design philosophy - this hits home for me, it creates that underlying almost invisible sense of belonging and being part of the same family, so key for any organisation.
  • Communication and product must compliment each other - often there's tension between product and marcomms teams, but everything must feel part of the same overall aesthetic/ideals or there's an unsatisfying shock when someone experiences one then the other, mismatched marcomms can make a customer feel duped.
  • For us, good design means as little design as possible - not so sure about this, I'd say that the impression of 'little design' is still a lot of design work - at least in the technology field.
  • Our design is orderly - I love this as it seems to cut straight to the cultural heart of the brand.

And here's part of the guidance for comms work:

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Whatever you feel about Braun and the elegance/tyranny (delete as necessary) of the modernist Northern European design aesthetic, these guidelines offer some great advice for product/brand teams and how they can come together.

Also take a look at Dieter Ram's now infamous Ten Principles for Good Design. 

Letterform Archive - an eclectic sample

One of the things I love most about visiting the Letterform Archive is the impromptu discovery of awesome bits of design. You can book a research session with them and get a focussed deep dive into a particular subject area, but as a volunteer you just turn up and get stuck in. At one of my sessions Rudy VanderLans and Zuzana Licko from Emigré had just sent over a batch of posters and printed paraphernalia. Letterform Archive already has Emigré's archive including the digital development of the type faces, but this was a stack of items that they had been sent (by the looks of it back in the '90s). It was an amazing flashback to my time at art school. Here's a selection from the stack that includes the work of (amongst others) The Designers Republic, Phil Baines and Graphic Thought Facility. I particularly love the poster for The Residents gig in Zurich, not sure of the designer, Homer Flynn maybe?

Although the eclectic nature of the archive is being filtered heavily through the things I love, it's still amazingly diverse. Here's a bunch of shots that include Raymond Queneau's Exercices de Style (see my copy here) and Cent Mille Milliards de Poèmes, dada letter art, type specimens and a few pics from the many, many design journals they have. 

And this wonderful type specimen with the annotation in pencil explaining that the ragged top is the result of mice.

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