Braun Apple

Braun collectors like myself have known for a long time where some of the ideas came from that led to the perforated-aluminium-look of some Apple computers. I took a few photographs of my world receiver T1000 from 1962 (!). Radii and perforations look almost identical to the ones on a MacBook Pro or a MacPro, 45 years later.


Colleagues in Japan and after them in the USA have now discovered that the iPhone also has a precedent in Braun’s past. The electronic calculator ET33 from 1977 has pretty much the same form factor as the revolutionary iPhone. The ET33 and its successors up to ET88 featured those cool semi-spherical buttons. And they had figures set in Akzidenz Grotesk, way cooler than the boring Helvetica numbers that Apple chose.




  1. Patrick Au-Yeung

    At least Apple steals from a good source. This has indirect benefits for Microsoft since they steal from Apple…

  2. Harald Striepe

    It’s the basic principle of ‘form follows function.’ I think, the issue is less copying, as having the same, great design sensibility incorporating use and materials.

    As a kid in Germany, I used to longingly look at the for me unaffordable products from Braun. This same design sense became immediately obvious with the introduction of the TI Book. It is great to see that at least some companies sustain this sensibility, and do no just make ID changes for the sake of fashion or change.

  3. kL


    Apple vs 2384729384729 calculator models.

    There are so many permutations of calculator’s design, that whatever you come up with, you can be sure to find a look-alike.

  4. GaryP

    I can’t see that perforated aluminium was exclusively a Braun design. Surely it’s a logical design for devices that need shell strength plus ventilation for air or sound. I’ve seen it on many devices over the years, but that doesn’t mean Apple ‘stole’ the concept from shavers, radios, television speaker panels or other sources.

  5. Joe

    And the Braun designers took from the Bauhaus designers (or were them) and the Bauhaus designers took from the Constructivists (or drank with them), etc.

  6. GJ Nelson

    The Boston Department of Traffic built the bus lines on the Colonists carriage paths, who followed the settlers footpaths, who followed the Native American footpaths, who followed the buffalo grazing paths, who followed the tall cool grass, which followed the shade and water, which followed the elements falling from space onto the newly formed earth, which followed the big bang, which followed a previous great society called the “Memozahns” that had 8 digits and thus counted by hexidecimal values naturally and thus quickly invented the Memozahn version of the iPhone, which ws based on the design of the Gahnzad Numbrulazor, which was based on the Hrodzotian Boogahlard, which was based…

  7. Austin

    We actually just had an alum guest lecture about the design of many of the iPhone & dashboard components, and how he wanted to make them have a sense of physicality. He talked specifically about dashboard’s calculator, but I think he also designed the one for the iPhone. It’s interesting because a lot of the ID professors at CMU talk about classic design from places such as Braun. I would have loved to have asked him about this, too bad I hadn’t read this entry!

  8. Arty Snow

    Dear Mr. Spiekermann,

    the Apple vs. Braun topic has been risen several times before. What do you think, how many times layouts were done the same way you did but just before you did.?

    In my opinion Dieter Rams tried to design products as easy, as sustainable and as functional as possible. He was a true master in that. And because he was, of course he did and will serve as an inspiration to many designers. So for Jonathan Ive, who said so himself in interviews.

    We should be happy that a major company is keeping alive the propositions about design by Dieter Rams and makes products which are easy and enjoyable.

    the 10 design propositions by Dieter Rams:

    Since you didn’t take a clear stand in your post about your feelings towards the similarity, I would be very interested in your opinion about establihed design patterns.

    Best Regards,
    Arty Snow

  9. erik spiekermann

    My point is simply that it is amazing to see how Rams did something 40 years ago that still cannot be bettered.
    I am a Braun collector and i am very happy that i can use Apple products that appeal to my taste. I also still use most of my Braun products. It is also necessary to point to these precedents for younger people who may not have heard of Braun or Rams.

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