Braun research and development teams showed visitors through the Braun product design laboratories and workshops. A series of monolithic ‘cubes’ were unveiled on the Braun headquarters’ lawn, showcasing some of the innovations and ideas that the Braun Design Future Lab is exploring and new product releases.

Executives from P&G and Braun spoke about the importance of Braun to the P&G Group – the brand’s simplicity, utility, aesthetics and pioneering history in product design, and its product innovation capabilities.

Marcus Strobel, vice president Global Prestige Products for Braun, spoke of Braun’s strong history of creating timeless designs and referred to the commandments of Dieter Rams. He then switched to Braun’s future direction. “Currently Braun products look too different and we need to make them more cohesive,” said Strobel.

Braun’s new corporate identity features slogans such as ‘Braun is Gestaltung’ and ‘Braun is beyond design’. While keeping a close eye on their history in product design and attention to technical detail, Braun is looking to unite its product ranges into a tight and cohesive family.

Oliver Grabes, the new chief of design, and the design team have exciting times ahead as they work towards a new direction.

Oliver Grabes, the new chief of design at Braun, spoke to Curve editor, Belinda Stening, at Braun’s headquarters in Kronberg about the future directions planned for design at Braun, the need for collaboration with external design teams and the importance of the BraunPrize.

Grabes has an impressive background. He has worked for many years as a design consultant for groups including Teague in the USA, PDD in London and was, until his new role, a Professor of Industrial Design at the University of Wuppertal in Germany.

The role of chief designer at Braun is a prestigious position in the product design world and Grabes is using his impressive credentials and experience to steer design at Braun into new and exciting areas.

You mentioned that the Braun Design department had, in a way, “cocooned” itself from collaboration with external design consultancies in the past – and you plan to have a more open approach to this. Can you explain why this is important and how you plan to implement this?

There are two reasons to open up the department to work with external people. Depending on the scope of work and schedules, sometimes we don’t have enough capacity within the internal Braun design team, then it makes sense to partner with external designers and design teams.

The other important reason is creativity. It can sometimes be very helpful to involve others with a different background. This can include design consultants, researchers and also universities with teams of students.

It can be a great tool to open up the way of thinking and it allows the internal design team to get exposed to new approaches and to experience them.

You mentioned that you and your team will be focusing on “What Braun design is all about”. Can you explain what you mean by this?

This is something that we have started to look at. It is too early in the process to have this defined, but we are re-evaluating what Braun design means in the future. Obviously with Braun, this is a unique situation. Having such a famous design past and a strong brand image, this is not only about design, but also about the Braun values and how those should be communicated through the products in a contemporary way.

You also said that Braun values – such as high-functionality, innovation and aesthetics – need to be defined more. Can you explain this also?

First of all, selling products is important to be able to grow and expand the brand. But I think the challenge is to do this with products that express the Braun values more consistently throughout the product portfolio and with more clarity.

It is not about changing our values but about communicating the ones we have in the right way, visible to a wide range of people that share those values. This communication has to happen as an overall product experience, and design is very important in this, but also the product quality and technology.

We need to focus on bringing these three aspects really well together to continue to be successful.

How is P&G influencing Braun design?

The design team has changed to function more like an internal consultancy since we are not only designing Braun products, but also products for Oral-B, Gillette and other P&G brands we now get connected with.

Our knowledge and experience with devices and technical products is something unique within P&G. Also the fact that we work very closely with R&D and engineering on the Kronberg campus to deliver high-quality overall solutions.

Designing not only for Braun is very positive for the designers, as mentioned. They get exposed to other categories, products and brands, have more variety in their work and at the same time need to sharpen their focus on each individual brand, coming with different values and design languages.

You mentioned that Braun is looking for new markets and more ideas. How is it doing this and how is the design department involved?

Exploring in what markets a brand could expand into is important and something that many companies do continuously. For Braun, leveraging the new connections to other P&G brands in the area of Beauty & Grooming is obvious, but also beyond this we need to stay open-minded. We have a strong past in other categories and to reconnect could be a possibility in the future.

Can you explain the focus behind the conceptual work that Future Lab is doing?

Our Future Lab as part of the design department is a great tool for us to find out more about markets and peoples’ preferences, needs and wants in the future and what direction it could be heading to.

How will men shave in 2020? And do they still shave? Spending time on finding out about what is coming by analysing social and technology trends makes it easier to plan and steer new projects and upstream roadmaps that we set up for the next three to four years.

The Future Lab also makes it easier to connect to the other P&G brands, designers can create images, animations, stories and conceptual models of future ideas more tangibly – a great advantage to other disciplines, which often only have their words to describe what is coming.

Why is the Braun Prize so important to Braun?

The BraunPrize is a statement of values. It communicates the commitment of Braun to support the highest quality of conceptual design thinking and product design. This competition has been running since 1968, and this continuity is special. No other company has been supporting design education over such a long time, at least not that I know of.

As a worldwide competition it gives design students and young designers, every other year, the chance to become internationally exposed, supported and connected – to help jumpstart their career.

It creates a stage for young talents who take on responsibility and try to find solutions for today’s challenges and problems. And everyone has the chance to win, no matter if you are in China, Africa, Europe or Australia. So, please, young design talents, we are looking forward to receiving your entries next year for the 2011 BraunPrize! 

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