Top: Braun products, designed by Dieter Rams. Bottom: Apple products, designed by Jonathan Ive.
Apple, the Cupertino computing powerhouse, has long been synonymous with elegant industrial design. Co-founder Steve Jobs insists on an austere, spare approach to each new product, and lead industrial designer Jonathan Ive has become a fair-haired boy in international design circles.
iPhone calculator design by Ive (left), and Braun calculator design by Rams (right). Note how Ive's buttons are shaded to simulate the look of a rounded, three-dimensional button. An unnecessary detail such as this reassures the user that, despite infinite technological leaps forward, the new product is as familiar as the old.
But how much do Jobs and Ive owe to Braun, another design-centric company? Many observers have noted the similarity between Ives' designs and the mid-1960's work of Braun's lead designer, Dieter Rams.
Designing 40 years apart, both Rams and Ive encased their products in a nearly identical perforated aluminum finish.
My verdict? Certainly Ive is aware of Rams' work. Any serious student of industrial design is familiar with Rams. But I believe when two industrial designers approach similar projects with a simple, reductive functionalism, they're bound to arrive at a similar result.
Carry on, Jonathan Ive! You're doing beautiful work. And pat yourself on the back, Dieter Rams. Imitation = Sincerest form of flattery.
For a more in-depth assessment, read this post by Jesus Diaz.