The appliances that have written the history of industrial design

The old (and overused) proverb says that one does not judge a book by its cover. But it is equally true that a successful cover entices the reader and gives a solid idea of ​​what to expect from these pages. It is an example of this Soft electronics from Shapes (256 pages, 39.90 euros). Braun’s lively orange hair dryer is the start a fascinating journey into the history of industrial appliance design through three memorable decades from the 1960s to the 1980s.

The German publisher worked with the Dutch collector Jaro Gielens which illuminates this golden age with its rich and precious collection. He reveals objects that still stand out hoppe magnum of domestic technology for style and innovation, especially compared to today’s devices where planned obsolescence has redefined the relationship we have to electronic products. In fact, even though it looks to the past by showing its economic and lifestyle changes, the book is very topical because it wants us to reflect on this issue. Just think of some data that the authors emphasize: In 2019, over 50 million tons of electronic waste were generated globally, of which only about 20 percent were officially recycled.
But why Soft electronics? «The electronic devices soft they are created for women », explains Gielens in the introduction, who deliberately invented this term,« rather than products designed for men, such as audio / video equipment and instruments, which I would describe as ‘rigid electronics’ ». And in fact, the house’s new “friends” are helping to change the habits of family and especially women enormously.

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In the first decade analyzed, it is shown how form and function become equally important in homes that are increasingly seen as status symbols.. Plastics are prevalent as well as the use of colors, strategically employed by marketing departments to differentiate their brand from competing brands. In recent years, for example, we have witnessed the introduction of the iron, the vacuum cleaner and the hair dryer, which at first “seemed to be a rather dangerous and difficult appliance to use in its first repetitions”, we read. When it comes to small appliances, one can not fail to mention Dieter Rams, then Brown’s chief designer, who during this period not only defined the aesthetics, but foresaw the appearance of home electronics for the following. These are the years when futuristic lines stand out, inspired by famous sci-fi animated films and sitcoms such as. Star Trek And The great-grandchildrenwith the introduction of automatic dishwashers, multi-burner hobs and refrigerators with ice.

Girmi’s coffee grinder from 1965. It is characterized by the power cable that wraps around the base and thus transforms an unsightly wire into a stylistic element (photo Studio Sucrow, Soft electronicsFigures 2022)

The timeline is moved to the seventies marked by an even easier domestic life thanks to the entry into the market of various companies like Krups, Seb, Kenwood, Rowenta, Melitta, Siemens and National. The news ranges from the bathroom, with electric toothbrushes, to the kitchen with coffee machines and above all robots as protagonists. The first to debut is Magi-Mix by inventor Pierre Verdon (1971) followed by other versions that immediately make this useful new cooking aid ubiquitous.

In 1978, the Japanese National launched a travel refrigerator that could be carried as a shoulder bag (photo Studio Sucrow, Soft electronicsFigures 2022)

Ten years later, we are witnessing an interesting change of direction. While fluo shades are depopulated in fashion: “most brands had to change their colors to white to clearly indicate that it was a newer device,” Gielens emphasizes. “IN the eighties, the image (or memory) of the seventies was often associated with dirty or unclean times, and in environments such as kitchens and bathrooms there was a demand for pure aesthetics ». Among the most interesting products are Black & Decker’s Popcorn Center (1982), Calor’s Chocolatière (1985) and Aromance’s Aroma Disc Player (1983), which spreads fragrance while playing records.

In 1983, Moulinex presents a complex pasta machine that does everything by itself: mixing, kneading and shaping (photo Studio Sucrow, Soft electronicsFigures 2022)

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